Introduction to Film Studies


ENGLISH 2450 section 2

COMMUNICATIONS 2010 section 7

Fall 2019
Monday and Wednesday, 10:30 am - 12:10 pm
Manoogian 226

Web address for this page:
Class materials will be available on Canvas.

Steven Shaviro ( or

5057 Woodward, Room 9309
Office hours: Monday & Wednesday, 12:30 pm - 1:30 pm, and by appointment

This class offers an introduction to the study of film. First, we will look at the film experience as a whole. Then, we will take a detailed look at the major formal elements of film (mise-en-scene, cinematography, editing, and sound). Finally, we will look at at examples of different film genres and forms, and study the influence of new digital technologies on film.

By the end of the course, successful students should be able to:
1. Use a basic vocabulary of film analysis when discussing film texts, as well as other media.
2. Analyze the basic formal elements of cinema (narrative, mise-en-scene, editing, sound, etc.) to identify how they work separately and how they work together as a meaningful whole.

I have not ordered a textbook for this class, because all the available textbooks are excessively expensive. Class screenings and lectures will be supplemented by documents posted on Canvas.

Monday classes will usually be devoted to the screening of full-length feature films. Wednesday classes will consist of lecture and discussion. Attendance, both at the screenings and at the lecture/discussion classes, is mandatory, and will be taken at the start of every class. (The first two class meetings, which are both on Wednesdays, will show shorter films and discuss them in the same class period. The two Monday classes in weeks when there are no Wednesday classes will be devoted to music videos).

The aim of each lecture/discussion will be twofold: to analyze the films that we have seen, and to discuss more general concepts important for the critical understanding of film. In the first half of the semester, we will watch a number of classic films, and through them we will develop the basic concepts of film analysis. In the second half of the class, we will watch recent films, post-2000, and made with relatively new digital technologies. In discussing these, we will consider what has changed, and what has not, in the form and structure of films. We will also watch a number of music videos, as time permits, in order to consider how cinematic forms and techniques can be applied to illustrate and communicate the messages of songs. Though the class does not survey the history of film in any detail, one of its aims is to is to make you more aware of the variety of film art over the past century, by introducing you to older films that you may not have seen before, including silent films, black-and-white films, and films in foreign languages (shown with English subtitles).

Grading will be according to a point system. The maximum is 40 points, which translates to a grade of A (4.0).
37 points = A-
33 points = B+
30 points = B
27 points = B-
23 points = C+
20 points = C.

  1. This class meets 28 times in the course of the semester. You are allowed up to three unexcused absences. You will get a full 2 points for attendance if you have three or less unexcused absences; 1 point for four or five unexcused absences; and 0 points for six or more unexcused absences.
  2. You must write a short account (150 to 200 words each) of each of the 14 films that we watch and discuss in class. These are due every Monday morning, before the screenings on those days. They will be graded pass/fail. (1 point for each pass, 0 points for fail). I will not return these short accounts, aside from notifying you if you fail. You should submit these short accounts at the following web address:
  3. There will be 6 analytic exercises, each of which is worth 4 points. Details for each exercise will be given out in advance. These should be emailed to me directly (rather than sent to the Dropbox address for the short film accounts). The exercises will be due as follows:
    1. Friday, September 20
    2. Friday, October 4
    3. Friday, October 25
    4. Friday, November 8
    5. Friday, November 22
    6. Monday, December 16
  4. Over the course of the semester, you will have three opportunities to hand in short accounts or analytic exercises late, or to redo/revise analytic exercises. (No redos on the short accounts of movies). Once these three opportunities are used, no more late assignments or revisions will be accepted.
  5. There will be no incompletes. Grading is based on the total number of points. Even if you miss some assignments, you may still be able to pass the course if you have enough points overall.
  6. All assignments will be digital only (no hardcopies to hand in). When I give out the assignments, I will explain how to send the papers to me.


August 28
General Introduction
Buster Keaton, Sherlock Junior (1924)

September 4
Silent Film
Robert Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)

September 9-11
The Film Experience
Gyorgi Palfi, Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen (2013)

September 16-18
Elements of Film Form: Mise-en-scene
Josef von Sternberg, The Devil is a Woman (1935)

September 23-25
Elements of Film Form: Cinematography
Alfred Hitchcock, Notorious (1946)

September 30-October 2
Elements of Film Form: Editing
John Ford, Stagecoach (1939)

October 7-9
Elements of Film Form: Sound
Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

October 14-16
Film Genres: Film Noir (1)
Robert Siodmak, Phantom Lady (1944)

October 21-23
Film Genres: Film Noir (2)
Fritz Lang, Scarlet Street (1945)

October 28-30
Film Genres: Neo Film Noir (1)
Nicolas Windig Refn, Drive (2011)

November 4-6
Film Genres: Neo Film Noir (2)
Carlos Lopez Estrada, Blindspotting (2018)

November 11-13
Digital Film (1)
Alex Rivera, Sleep Dealer (2008)

November 18-20
Digital Film (2)
Alfonso Cuaron, Gravity (2013)

November 25
Music Videos

December 2-4
Digital Film (3)
Joseph Kahn, Detention (2011)

December 9
Music Videos

Grade Appeals:
The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences stipulates that course grade appeals must be initiated within 30 days from the time the grade is posted. The English Grade Appeal Form can be obtained at the English Main Office on the 9th Floor of 5057 Woodward or by emailing Royanne Smith at More information on this process, including the limited grounds for appeal, can be found at

Plagiarism is a very serious matter and should be recognized as such. The University has a very strict policy on plagiarism. Always refer to your sources when quoting, paraphrasing, or using the ideas ofother writers. When paraphrasing, place in quotes any phrase of four words or more that comes directly from the source being used.