Archive for August, 2009


Proposal for an IUP Film Studies Center

August 30, 2009

Dear Colleagues.  What follows is a proposal for a Center for Film Studies at IUP that I have submitted to Dr. Atwater.  He has told me about his admiration for the plan several times, and several collaborators listed on the document have said they’re eager to work on it as well.  I think this Center would provide a great way for us to set up inter-disciplinary programs for a specific semester or longer.  Through exploring some of the grant possibilities listed, we could invite speakers to campus, bring film programs, organize symposiums for students from various disciplines, or some combination of these. 

Please look over this document if you have a chance and let everyone looking at this blog know your programming ideas.  Then, let’s get together so we can plan courses and events that will give our students a richer experience in a number of areas.


Indiana University of Pennsylvania


Proposal for Establishing

The IUP Film Studies Institute

October 2008


Institutional Background –


IUP, the fifth largest university in Pennsylvania, is one of the nation’s best.  For more than fifteen years, IUP has won national recognition for both quality and affordability.  Recognition of IUP for its high academic standards and competitive costs can be found in leading publications:  Arco’s Dollarwise Guide to American Colleges; Barron’s 300; Best Buys in College Education, by Edward Fiske, education editor in the New York Times; Changing Times; Kiplinger’s Personal Finance; Money Magazine’s Money Guide; Consumer’s Digest’s Top 100 College Values, and Two Hundred Most Selective Colleges: The Definitive Guide to America’s First-Choice Schools.  IUP regularly places its students in rigorous and prestigious internship programs all over the world, from the New York Stock Exchange, to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to the European Union Parliament.  IUP’s global partnerships offer exchange opportunities in all disciplines in every corner of the world. 


IUP aspires to become a national role model as a mid-size university that has a carefully crafted doctoral mission but still emphasizes undergraduate education, combining the best features of the major research universities and the teaching institutions.  IUP does not forsake the importance of undergraduate teaching in relation to professional research and publication. 


Besides being an internationally respected institution, IUP has a history of quality service to the citizens of Pennsylvania.  IUP’s current enrollment is approximately 14,000 students, more than 70 percent from the Western Pennsylvania region. The student body at IUP represents every county in Pennsylvania, as well as 47 states and more than 100 foreign countries.


The Institute for Film Studies—The Vision


For many years, IUP has been excellently positioned to offer great programming in film studies as yet not exploited.  First, within the university, we offer courses in film studies, film making, and related creative work in a number of departments:  English, History, Communications/Media, Art, French and German, Religion and Philosophy, Theater, Sociology, the Honors College, the Women’s Studies Program, and the African American Cultural Center.  Currently, the English Department Program for Majors Committee is completing work on a Concentration in Film Studies for undergrads and several graduate students are either writing or preparing dissertations that focus either entirely or partially on film.  Ph.D. recipient Heather Duda, now teaching at Ohio’s Rio Grande College, has just published her dissertation, Monster Hunters: Mad Men or Men of God, with MacFarland Press.


In addition, Indiana is the childhood home of famed actor Jimmy Stewart, whose outstanding career covered six decades and numerous genres as he worked with some of the greatest film directors ever in some of their most outstanding productions.  Through the Jimmy Stewart Museum, the community has gained international recognition and attracted several of Stewart’s former colleagues to share their memories with the community.  Over the years, the IUP English Department has frequently collaborated with the Museum, usually by providing discussion leaders for showings at film series in the Museum’s excellent small theater.  But the potential for what the Museum and University could achieve together has barely been explored.  Next spring (2009), the English Department will finally offer its first course focusing on the films of Jimmy Stewart.


Jimmy Stewart’s career thus provides Indiana and IUP with limitless material for study and promotion.  The broad range of Stewart’s films provide a picture of American culture and society in relation to many crucial decades throughout the turbulent twentieth century, marking changes in genres, film styles, and many areas of American life.  The same issues could naturally be explored by offering courses focusing on the careers of any number of actors, directors, or genres.  But Stewart’s integral association with Indiana makes his work the most logical choice as the basis for film studies at IUP, and it would be hard to find a figure whose body of work offers more rich opportunities.


The logic for establishing such a course, which should be offered at least once a year at IUP, also provides the basis for establishing a Film Studies Institute.  Film is far more than entertainment: it is also an art form and a business.  Most importantly, it is a highly visible cultural element, accessible to millions around the globe on a daily basis.  Therefore, scholars look at film not merely for purposes of praising or condemning any given work, though we are certainly interested in defining what we find to be most valuable.  But, more significantly, films provide excellent tools for understanding the cultures that produced them:  their histories, goals, values, fears, attitudes, and beliefs.  In other words, by studying how film communicates and how it reached the screen, we can gain a better understanding of who we are.  In this way, film studies is an interdisciplinary form.


Building the Film Studies Institute in a way that will bring greatest benefits to IUP and the community will require developing a structure involving faculty from around campus to regularly cooperate in developing coursework and extra-curricular programming that will fully exploit the interdisciplinary possibilities of film studies.  It will also require finding consistent institutional support from organizations and individuals beyond the campus and community.  The rest of this proposal will present plans for achieving these goals.  


The idea for IUP’s Film Studies Institute is that its Board of Directors will include members from the Departments of English, Art, History, Communications/Media, Political Science, Theater, Religious Studies, Philosophy, Sociology, Domestic Sciences, Geography, and Anthropology.  It should ideally also include representatives from the programs and Centers of Women’s Studies, Middle Eastern Studies, African-American Studies, Asian Studies, and the Honors College.  Together, these Board members choose an academic focus for a semester or academic year, such as “faith in America”, “American labor”, “family and community”, “political ideology”, or “questions of war and peace”.  Having selected a topic, the Board members can then discuss scheduling events including film series, guest artists, and other possibilities listed below.  A film series related to IUP’s freshman common reader may be devised in order to involve more faculty and students campus-wide.


Events should provide both artistic and academic enrichment to our campus and region and increase Indiana’s and IUP’s attractiveness as a location for understanding film (and American) history and culture.


Film studies is a popular concentration for both graduate and undergraduate students, and its status on campus makes it a logical choice as a basis for a major inter-disciplinary program.  Not only are film studies programs flourishing at various institutions around the country, but the IUP English Department is now set to officially define a Film Studies track for undergraduates with specific advising for interested students.  The IUP Center for Film Studies has brought artists to campus such as producer Marie Cantin, writer/director Michael Miner, underground filmmaker Nick Zedd, documentary filmmaker Maria Smarz-Koszanowicz, and experimental filmmaker John Alan Gibel.  Each of these artists has met with hundreds of students in a variety of classes across campus, providing ideas for creative work as well as practical career information.  Several of them have also presented their work to the general public at the Indiana Theater where they also took time for audience discussions.


The Center for Film Studies has also worked with Tim Harley, Director of the Jimmy Stewart Museum, to provide discussion series in which several faculty members have used their expertise to discuss Stewart’s films with the general public.  Through the Center for American Studies, we hope to increase the popularity of these events by combining them with greater opportunities for scholarship and broadening their appeal.


IUP President Tony Atwater has also provided impetus to the Center’s activities by supporting a film colloquium on the Western as part of his pre-inauguration activities in September 2005.  For these events, we screened the first silent films shown in Indiana in possibly more than eighty years with live musical accompaniment, performed by pianist Sebastian Burch of Kent State University.  Vanderbilt scholar Sam Girgus and National Public Radio Film Commentator Pat Donnelly also provided their insights. 


In addition to scholarship, IUP has also produced filmmakers such as Don Swanson, John Trevellini, and Lori Felker.  With increasing motivation from professors such as Allen Partridge in Communications/Media, and others, a greater number of students are developing talent and skills to move on in this area.  A growing number of students in the Theater Department will be working to produce film scripts as well.






Current Status of Film Studies at IUP


Like many universities, IUP currently offers a wide variety of courses that either focus directly on the academic study of film, teach aspects of filmmaking, or incorporate film within a course devoted to composition, literature, or other topics.  Some examples of these follow.


In the English Department, the Program for Majors committee is currently constructing a new undergraduate curriculum that will offer an official Concentration in Film Studies as one option within the major.  This concentration will consist of four courses:  Introduction to Film Studies (a retitling of the current Art of the Film); Film History (a new course that will replace the existing Advanced Film); Film Theory; and Major Figures in Film.  Other concentrations within the new program will offer relevant courses as well such as Gays and Lesbians in Film and International Film.  In addition, students in the Department’s senior Honors course often elect to work on individual projects that focus on film studies or include them in some fashion. 

As mentioned above, the Department’s graduate program is offering an increasing number of film courses as well, and a growing number of doctoral students are choosing to focus on film studies in their dissertations.  With the visit of novelist/filmmaker Philippe Claudel in Fall 2008, students in Dr. Slater’s graduate and undergraduate sections will have the opportunity to work together as each class will be studying Claudel’s work.  The wiki-site established by French Professor Dr. Marie Olson-Thomas will make it easy for them to share ideas and research and work on collaborative projects.  Other web resources such as IUP’s sites make these types of collaborations within or across disciplines increasingly possible.  In the future, the Institute for Film Studies will be able to facilitate inter-disciplinary, cross-disciplinary, and even inter-institutional collaborations more effectively as professors meet in advance to decide how they wish to use the Institute’s resources and how its activities will relate to their teaching.


In addition to the courses mentioned above, IUP English instructors incorporate film studies into a number of other composition and literature courses as well.  Examples of these include sixteen different courses designed by Professor Rosalee Stillwell.  Some of these include


ENGL 101:      Studying the Hero’s Journey: Its Archetypes in World Cinema;

Thinking About African American Film Classics;

ENGL 121:      From Book to Film;

The Narrative I/Eye in Coming-of-Age Literature and Film;

ENGL 202:      Representations of Gender in Popular Culture: The Auditory, Visual, and Written Record;

Advertising, Visual Culture, and Teenage World Culture


Other English instructors who either have or plan to use film studies in their composition and literature courses include Elaine Ware, Jo-Anne Kerr, Judith Villa, Jennifer Woolston, Barbara Kraszewski, Marlen Harrison, Ronald Emerick, Gay Chow, and Michael T. Williamson.  In addition, professors Wendy Carse and Reena Dube regularly teach the department’s film studies classes and Drs. Carse, Villa, Stillwell, Slater, and Kraszewski offer Senior Synthesis Film Studies Courses (see attached emails).  Finally, besides Dr. Slater, Drs. Ronald Shafer, Christopher Orchard, and Jim Cahalan have also taught film studies courses on the graduate level.


In History, Dr. Paul Arpaia incorporates film studies into his courses on Italy and Nazism and will be reviving the Department’s long dormant Film as History course in 2009.  Dr. Arpaia is working to coordinate this course with courses in other majors such as English, Anthropology, and Sociology.


In Sociology, Dr. Robert Heasley uses film studies in his Senior Synthesis course, Men and Masculinities, and also incorporates films from the Indiana LGBT Film Festival into his SOC 251 course: Sexuality.  Dr. James Dougherty has worked in film production, producing documentaries, writing scripts, and editing film. 


The Department of Communications Media offers several courses relevant to film and moving image production.  These include


COMM 201:    Internet and Multimedia;

COMM 249:    Basic Audio Recording Techniques;

COMM 251:    Television Production;

COMM 303:    Scriptiwriting;

COMM 305:    Electronic Media Programming and Sales;

COMM 325:    Women in Media;

COMM 340:    Advanced Communication Graphics;

COMM 345:    Television Criticism;

COMM 351:    Advanced Video Production;

COMM 380:    The History of African Americans in Film;

COMM 440:    Multimedia Production;

COMM 445:    Applications and Techniques of Motion Pictures;

COMM 447:    Animation;

COMM 460:    Emerging Trends in Communication Technology.


Goals –


1)  To use film studies as a basis for understanding the richness and diversity of American history and culture by incorporating the study of film into the work of several academic majors, programs, and centers..


2)  To build on strong basis for film studies already established at IUP and the important connections to American film in Indiana, PA and Western Pennsylvania as a whole.


3)  To provide an interdisciplinary organization that will draw on a wide variety of interests and resources to add vitality and diversity to its efforts.


4)  To enhance the scholarly and creative activities of IUP undergraduates and graduate students in a variety of disciplines.


5)  To provide both artistic and academic enrichment to our campus and region and increase Indiana’s and IUP’s attractiveness as a location for understanding film (and American) history and culture.


Board of Directors –


The Film Studies Institute will have a Board of Directors who will work to accumulate both financial and material resources and plan events.  The following administrators and faculty members have all been involved in Center for Film Studies Activities or teaching film studies at IUP and would make excellent Board members, pending their agreement:


Director, Women’s Studies Center

Dr. Paul Arpaia, Department of History

Dr. Gaudet Baghat, Director, Center for Middle Eastern Studies

Dr. Sherill Begres, Department of Philosophy

Ms. Barbara A. Blackledge, Theater Department

Dr. Wendy Carse, Department of English

Dr. Stuart Chandler, Department of Religious Studies

Dr. James Dougherty, Department of Sociology

Dr. Reena Dube, Department of English

Dr. Janet Goebels, Director, Robert C. Cook Honors College

Mr. Tim Harley, Director, Jimmy Stewart Museum

Dr. Robert Heasley, Department of Sociology

Dr. Harvey Holtz, Department of Sociology

Dr. Allen R. Partridge, Communications Media Department

Dr. Carolyn Princes, Director, African-American Studies Center

Dr. Marveta Ryan-Sams, Director, Pan-African Studies Program

Dr. Thomas J. Slater, Department of English

Dr. Theresa Smith, Department of Religious Studies

Dr. Jay Start, Communications Media Department

Dr. Rosalee Stillwell, Department of English

Ms. Jennifer Woolston, Department of English

Dr. Lingyan Yang, Department of English, Asian Studies Program

Proposed Activities –


Grant Writing:  Support for filmmaking and film studies opportunities at a university level is available from a number of foundations across the country.  The Board of Directors will need to work to develop the foresight for planning activities so that grants can be solicited and obtained.  Getting release time for one or two faculty members to apply for grants, or hiring one or two staff members to do, would be tremendously beneficial to the Institute’s success.  (See attached lists of possible grant sources.)


Guest Artists/Scholars:  An achievable goal for the Film Studies Institute will be to invite guest artists and scholars to IUP to provide commentary for the screening of at least one film, including an audience discussion, and meet with students from a variety of departments.  Guest scholars might include Sam Girgus of Vanderbilt, David Bordwell of Wisconsin, or associates of the American Film Institute.  Guest artists could include producer Marie Canton, writer/director Michael Miner, both of whom have previously shown and discussed their work at IUP, or other filmmakers working in a variety of forms and from a variety of cultural backgrounds such as those already brought by the Center for Film Studies. 


Film Series/Festival/Conference:  The auditoriums and theaters at IUP, the Jimmy Stewart Museum, and downtown will be valuable for hosting events that can be a basis for the Center’s activities.  A film festival combined with a conference could annually draw hundreds of students and scholars to Indiana.  Filmmakers looking to promote new productions might be enticed to come share their work and discuss movies with audiences to include the general public.  Media from Pittsburgh and throughout the region could be used to increase exposure for both the filmmaker and the event.

            Film series might be a more important aspect of the Center’s activities.  These could be scheduled throughout the course of a semester or over several consecutive days.  Artists and scholars to provide introductions to the films and lead discussions could come from IUP, other regional campuses, or from greater distances by special invitation.  A focus on regularly scheduled film series will provide opportunities for all the academic interests represented on the Center’s Board to shape its programs and also provide faculty across campus multiple opportunities to incorporate the Center’s activities into their teaching. 

            Conferences could also attract students and scholars by sponsoring essay competitions and promising publication and cash awards to the best work.  This publication could occur through an established academic journal such as the IUP Department of English’s Studies in the Humanities or through an annual publication or web site established by the Museum. 


Promotion and Publications:  The Film Studies Institute should hire a web-site developer and coordinator as soon as possible to begin promoting its program.  The site could be used to promote local film series, visiting film artists, events, and their relationship to course work.  It could also provide a bibliography/filmography of important works relevant to the semester or year’s theme.

            The site could also be the home of a scholarly film journal with submissions reviewed by academics from around the country.  Top conference presentations could be guaranteed publication.


Development of a Research CenterThe Film Studies Institute might also develop a research center based on a collection of DVDs, books, film magazines, and other sources centered around the history and culture of Western Pennsylvania.  In film studies, the research center would focus on materials relating to major film personas from our region such as Jimmy Stewart, Tom Mix, and Gene Kelly.  The IUP Stapleton Library already has a strong collection of Stewart’s work on video and DVD and a steadily growing collection of film books.  The research center, however, should have its own head librarian/curator with a staff who will be capable of organizing and promoting the collection in a way that will make it attractive to visiting scholars.

Other areas of the collection could focus on films and publications devoted to the area’s ethnic and religious heritages, its labor history, and its contributions to corporate development and philanthropy.


The Center will require base funding of course, and the following is a reflection of a number of funding phases, any one of which can and will produce progress toward a fully developed Center. 


Income possibilities are present through grant opportunities from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and other sources; conference registration fees; local and regional business sponsorships.


Senior Syn. ’09 — Film & Philosophy

August 20, 2009

LBTS 499:013 Film & Philosophy

Fall 2009

Tom Slater


Required Text:

Wartenberg, Thomas E.  Thinking on Screen: Film as Philosophy.  New York: Routledge, 2007.


Course Goals:  As a film scholar, I believe that all films are worthy of study, and not simply to discover previously unknown acting gems, excellence in cinematography, or other “hidden” qualities.  Rather, I believe that films are valuable for study because they are the most visible and still one of the most popular forms through which cultures communicate.  In a film, we can find ideas about what a culture during a certain time and place (e.g.:  the Soviet Union in the 1920s; the United States during any period; Italy in the 1950s) considered important.  What issues did they feel had to be addressed and how were they doing so?  What beliefs and values guided their search for answers?  What conceptions of race, class, gender, justice, responsibility are evident in these texts as a result? 

These questions represent just a starting point.   Films also present questions about the nature of reality, spirituality, political concerns, balancing individual and social values, beauty, and social engineering.  In this class, I hope that the films, reading, and assignments I’ve chosen will help you explore these questions for yourself and share your opinions with the rest of us.  While there is no right or wrong to your statements, your written work must show that you have paid attention to the readings, films, and discussions, that you have a fairly logical and accurate understanding of these materials, and that you have presented these ideas in a logical way.  You should also be open to revising your opinions as we work because none of us have the answers to these questions and all of us are hopefully open to continue growing.  Without that ability, we simply stagnate.  So, I hope you enjoy this class very much and that it somehow might contribute to your personal growth for the rest of your lives.


Assignments & Grades:  Attendance, in-class writings, class participation, two-page informal writings, 30%.  The most important aspect of this course is that you need to be involved and show me that you are focused on learning what you can from the texts and discussions.  These assignments are designed to do that.  Through them, you need to show that you have paid attention to the films, done the readings, and worked to develop your own answers to the questions posed.  You should have paper and pen available for all in-class writings and taking notes during discussions.  Your two-page writings done outside of class should be done on computer, printed, and ready at the start of class.  You should also be ready to have your material shared with everyone.  I will use the document projector to do this.


Cell phones and other electronic devices:  Make sure you turn these off, put them away, and do not take them out again during class.  If I discover you texting or using any other communications or recreational device in class during a film or at any other time, I will give you an unexcused absence for the class period.  This will hurt your participation grade.  With a second time, I will give you an F for this 20% of your grade, which will definitely hurt.  A third time will give you a zero for this 20%, which will guarantee your failure.


Attendance:  Excused absences will not hurt your grade as much as unexcused ones.  So, if you must miss a class, make sure you let me know either in advance or as soon as possible afterwards why you had to miss class.  This should be done by the end of the class session at which you return at the latest.  Even with an excused absence, however, you are still responsible for completing your work and getting it to me as soon as possible.  Send it with a classmate or friend or by email attachment.  You are also responsible for knowing what needs to be completed for the class period when you return and having that work ready to hand in when you arrive.  If you need to miss several class sessions for unavoidable reasons, please come explain the situation to me so we can make arrangements for you to make up the work.


Short essays:  #s 1 & 2, 10% each; #3, 20%.  These essays should be approximately four pages long, typed, and double-spaced.  These should also be ready to hand in at the start of the class session on the days they are due.  Each assignment will give you a choice of topics and films to work with.  All the material you will need will be presented in class or available to you in our text book.  So, if you are taking good notes and asking questions about any material you are confused about, you should do fine.  If you don’t take notes about class discussions or material placed on the board, you will have a harder time.  I will be happy to respond to any rough drafts you wish to show me before the essay is due.  This will not guarantee that you receive a good grade.  But it is the best help I can offer.


Major essay, 30%.  This essay should be at least 10 typed double-spaced pages long.  You should choose a film that interests you or a philosophical issue we have discussed to explore in a film or in the work of a specific filmmaker.  Your essay should clearly state the theme and question(s) you are seeking to answer and provide a careful reading of at least one film, looking for the ways in which it relates to some of the issues we have discussed in class.  Therefore, you should use our class study, take note of the questions we address in relation to specific topics and films and how we define the ideas the film is communicating in relation to these as a guide for the study of your film.  You may use secondary sources to help you as long as you clearly document the material, indicating where all materials whether quoted, paraphrased, or briefly summarized come from.   Your essay should have a clear and significant argument supported by the important examples you find in the film.  You should not simply write a plot summary and tack on a conclusion.  You are not writing movie reviews, and movie reviews or trivia will not be useful sources for you.  The topic for your major paper is due on Nov. 11.  However, I will not allow any duplications.  So, if you want to make sure you get your first choice for a topic, feel free to let me know as soon as you wish.


Plagiarism:  In spring semester, I caught a student plagiarizing on an essay with one class session to go.  I gave him a zero on the assignment, which guaranteed his failure in the course.  I will give a zero on any assignment that I find plagiarized.  Depending on the assignment, you may not fail as a result.  But a second offense will earn you an F for the course, regardless of the percentage of the assignment to your grade.


How to Contact Me:  Office, SUT 345; Hrs. MWF, 11:15-1:15 or by appointment. Ph. X7-4879.  Email:


Notice on Film Contents:  Some of the films we study may include contents that some people might find “offensive” in terms of either violence, sexuality, or language.  Such material is part of our culture, and our purpose as film students should be to neither simply praise it nor condemn it but to reach our own conclusions about how it is functioning within the film and how the film is functioning within our culture.  Therefore, I will expect every student to work with such material in a mature manner, and I will not allow students to either refuse to study films they find offensive or choose an alternative film for study.




Aug. 31:  Film: An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge (Robert Enrico, 1962).  In-class writing and discussion.


Sept. 2:  Reading:  pp. 1-31.  Two-page writing due.  Discussion.


Sept. 9:   Film:  Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936).  In-class writing.


Sept. 14:    Reading: pp. 32-54.  Two-page writing due.  Discussion.  Film:  Matewan (John Sayles, 1987)


Sept. 16:  Film: Matewan, pt. 2.  In-class work.  Two-page writing due.  Discussion.


Sept. 21:  Finish discussion as needed.  Film:  The Matrix (Wachowski brothers, 1999).


Sept. 23:  Film: The Matrix, pt. 2.  In-class writing.  Reading:  55-75.  Two-page writing due.  Discussion.


Sept. 28: Film:  Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 2003).


Sept. 30:  Film: Red, pt. 2.  In-class work.  Two-page writing due.  Discussion.


Oct. 5:  Finish discussion if needed.  Film:  Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michael Gondrey, 2004).


Oct. 7:  Film: Sunshine, pt. 2.  In-class writing.  Reading:  76-93.  Two-page writings due.  Discussion.


Oct. 12:  Film:  A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971).


Oct. 14:  Film: Clockwork, pt. 2.  In-class writing.  Two-page writings due.  Discussion.


Oct. 19:  Finish discussion if needed.  Assign short essay #1.  Film:  The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1945).


Oct. 21:  Film:  Man, pt. 2.  In-class writing.  Reading:  94-116.  Two-page writings due.  Discussion.  Short essay #1 due.


Oct. 26:  Film:  The Lives of Others (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck, 2005). 


Oct 28:  Film:  Others, pt. 2.  In-class writing.  Two-page writings due.  In-class work.  Discussion.


Nov. 2:  Finish discussion if needed.  Reading:  117-32.  Two-page writing due.  Films:  Warhol, Brakhage, and other avant-garde.


Nov. 4:  Films:  Further avant-garde works.


Nov. 9:  Major paper topics due.  Films to be included in the course over the remainder of the semester will include Rashomon (Akira Kurasowa,1950); Crimes and Misdemeanors (Woody Allen, 1989), and Waking Life (Richard Linklater, 2001).


In-class writing assignments and discussions in relation to these films will be handled as they have been throughout the semester.


On Nov. 18, I will assign short essay #2.  These will be due on Wed., Dec. 2 along with a rough draft of your major essay.  The rough draft does not need to be complete.  But the more material you can provide, the better I will be able to respond.


For Dec. 14, you should read the final chapter of Wartenberg, pp. 133-42.  This material along with the final films viewed in class will provide the basis for our final exam, which could be an in-class essay.  If so, you will be allowed to use your textbook and notes taken during class during the period.  The time for our final is Wed., Dec. 16 at 3:35.


Grad Course – Fall ’09 – Modernism & the Uncanny

August 20, 2009

ENGL 765/865: Modernity and the Uncanny

Fall 2009

Tom Slater


Required TextsBordwell, David and Kristen Thompson.  Film Art: An Introduction.

Collins, Jo and John Jervis, eds.  Uncanny Modernity: Cultural theories, Modern Anxieties.

Dick, Philip K.  The Man in the High Castle.

Duda, Heather L.  The Monster Hunter in Modern Popular Culture.

The Stories of E. T. A Hoffmann.

King, Stephen.  Gerald’s Game.


Course Goals:  The most important concept for students to learn is that films are texts that require our attention in the same way that literary texts do.  This includes commercial Hollywood cinema, B movies, avant-garde films, and any others that we choose to consider.  The cinema and the sense of the uncanny both have roots deep in the 19th century and grew to prominence at approximately the same time, during the twentieth century.  The uncanny is closely related the concept of the unheimlich, which can be translated as both homely and unhomely.  In other words, the uncanny suggests that while our world and our lives may look and seem familiar, they don’t feel that way.  We can sense that something is wrong, and this uncertainty produces fear. 

Simultaneous with these forces was the growth of modernity.  Modern artists greatly sensed that the world could no longer be defined.  Instead, artists could only look inwards, where the same uncertainty existed.  As in surrealism, all the elements were familiar.  But we couldn’t understand their context or relationships to each other.

In this class, we will look at works of literature and film from throughout the 20th century to try to define them as sites in which the various discourses of modernity produced a sense of the uncanny.  We will ask how that sense is produced and seek answers by learning how film communicates through narrative and stylistic elements and also drawing on our knowledge of how film communicates.  With each text, we will then seek to reach conclusions about what it communicates by considering it within the contexts of its times.  All of these factors should be kept in mind in order to reach conclusions about the works we will study.


Course Assignments:  4 short essays, 10% each.  Short essays should be approximately six-pages long.  If you need more space, that’s fine, as long as the material is important to your argument.  These essays will require you to use materials from readings, films, and class discussions.  The questions will ask you to present your knowledge of material covered in class.  No research required on these.


Major research paper, 60%.  The focus of the major research paper should not be on a film or literary work already scheduled for in-class study.  But you can use our text-book to help you select a film, filmmaker, author, literary work, or theme.  Your essay should present a significant argument, show your own study of the work or works you’ve chosen to focus on, show your knowledge of how text(s), writer(s), or filmmaker(s) use narrative and stylistic elements to communicate about the issue you focus on, and use at least three sources other than the film or our textbooks.  They should be at least 10-pages long.  But make sure you are working to present a strong argument and show a thorough knowledge of your material rather than making an effort to stay to a ten-page limit.


With the short and major essays, I will be happy to read rough drafts of your work at any point.  These do not need to be complete.  But the more material you provide, the more feedback I can give. You might note that I would like to have a research paper topic from you by Oct. 19.  But I will be happy to get them any time before then.  My one restriction is that I will not allow duplications.  So, when you’ve decided on something, you may wish to tell me so you will be certain to be able to work on your first choice of topics. Rough drafts for your research papers will be due by Thanksgiving break.  Final drafts will be due at our final class session, Dec. 14.


How to Contact Me:  Office, SUT 345; Hrs. MWF, 11:15-1:15 or by appointment. Ph. X7-4879.  Email:




8/31  Intro to course.  Film:  The Student of Prague (Henrik Galeen, 1926).


9/14  Readings:  B & T, 1-22, 74-107;  C & J, 1-50.


Viewing on Reserve for 9/14:  Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976).


9/21  Reading:  B & T, 112-53, 162-214, 304-09; C & J, 51-67.  Assign short essay 1.


9/28  Reading:  Stories of Hoffmann; C & J, 68-111; Film: Buffy, the Vampire Slayer, season 1, episode 1.  .Short essay 1 due.


Viewing on Reserve for 10/5: Blade (Stephen Norrington, 1998).


10/5  Reading: B & T, 218-260, 355-70;  Duda, 7-66; 101-41.


10/12  Class visit from Heather Duda.  Film:  Borderline (1930).


10/19  Reading:  King; C & J, 91-111, 113-28.  Assign short essay 2.  Statements of research topics due.


Viewing on Reserve for 9/28:  What Lies Beneath (Robert Zemeckis, 2000); The Others (Alejandro Amenabar, 2001).


10/26  Reading: C & J, 112-27.  Short essay 2 due.


11/2  Film:  Don’t Look Now (Nicholas Roeg, 1974); Reading: 146-80.


11/9  Reading:  Dick; C & J, 181-215.


Viewing on Reserve for 11/16:  V for Vendetta (James McTeigue, 2005).


11/16  Reading:  Duda, 67-100.  Rough drafts of research papers due by the end of this week.  Assign short essay 3.


Viewing on Reserve for 11/30:  Pitch Black  (David Twohy, 2000).


11/30  Reading:  Duda, 142-70.  Short essay 3 due.


12/7  Viewing:  Dexter, season 1, episode 1.


12/14  Reading:  C & J, 216-28; Research essays due.  Assign final essay.


Friday, Dec. 18, 7:15 pm.  Final essay due.


Welcome to IUP Film Studies

August 20, 2009

I’m a film fan, film scholar, and professor in the English Dept. at Indiana U. of Pa, Indiana, PA, hometown of Jimmy Stewart and home of the Jimmy Stewart Museum  I want this blog to be used by students, friends, and colleagues at IUP and elsewhere to share thoughts, ideas, and opportunities for film stuidies and sharing a love of film on campus and off.

So, my first invitation is to all IUP colleagues and students.  I intend to post my course syllabi and related upcoming film events for the IUP community.  I plan to also inform colleagues and students of future teaching and research plans and upcoming opportunities.  I’d like to inform people about new books, essays, and other materials as well.  If there’s something you’re interested and want to discuss more or maybe borrow, let me know.  I’d like to have student groups post their film events and students post their film interests as well. 

Finally, this should be a place where faculty can post their syllabi and future course plans as well for either film/media production or film scholarship courses.  Maybe we can do more to work together, share resources, bring guest film makers and scholars to campus, and coordinate our courses so students can get greater depth in their work.  IUP should be a place where students want to come for film studies.  Let’s make it that way.