ENGLISH 2450 section 10

Fall 2023

Steven Shaviro ( or

This class offers an introduction to the study of film. We will watch a series of movies, old and new; along with interpreting these films, we will also ask larger questions about how movies work. 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). After that, we will take a detailed look at the genre from the 1940s known as film noir, and at its influence on more recent movies. Finally, we will study the influence of new digital technologies on contemporary film.


This class will not meet in person, but will be conducted entirely online, asynchronously. Every week will include the screening of a movie (or in one case of a series of short excerpts), one or more streaming lectures, and written discussion boards on Canvas for you to make comments and ask questions.

We will watch and discuss twelve films in the course of the semester. (One week, we will not see an entire film, but look at sequences from a number of different films). Most of the viewing will involve classic films, starting in the silent era of the early twentieth century and reaching up to the middle twentieth century. Through these films, we will develop the basic concepts of film analysis. Early in the semester, we will also see one recent film that is constructed as a mash-up of images and sounds from older films. The two final films at the end of the semester are more recent ones, by directors still active today. In discussing these, we will consider what has changed over time, and what has not, in the form and structure of the movies. Though the class does not survey the history of film in any detail, one of its aims is to make you more aware of the variety of film art over the past 125 years, by introducing you to older films that you may not have seen before, including two black-and-white silent films, and four black-and-white sound films.

We will watch all the movies online, via streaming. The movies are licensed to the University for student viewing; you will be able to access them for free either through individual library links, or as part of the Swank Digital Collection. There is one exception: Final Cut Ladies and Gentlemen can be streamed for free on Vimeo. For the week that we see short sequences from several films, links will be made available.

Class content will be provided in the form of mini-lectures, consisting of slides accompanied by my voiceovers. Through these lectures, and your comments and responses on the discussion boards, each week we will analyze the film that we have watched, and then use the film as an example in order to discuss more general concepts important for the critical understanding of film.

There will be four analytical writing assignments over the course of the semester: the first on mise-en-scene and cinematography, the second on editing, the third on film noir, and the fourth on putting all these elements together (including commenting on sound).


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.


Your class grade will be based, not only on the analytical writing assignments, but also on your participation in the discussion boards. Individual participation is important; I will expect everyone in the class to make weekly comments on the discussion boards. These can include responses to the films, questions about specific points in the lectures that need further explanation, discussions about further implications, or references to related examples of what we are discussing. I will respond to all serious comments I encourage discussion, comments building on or questioning previous comments. The discussion should remain polite and focused.

Each week’s discussion is worth two points. You will get full credit (two points) for thoughtful participation in the discussion; one point instead of two if your participation is inadequate; and zero points if you fail to participate in the discussion altogether. I strongly encourage keeping up with the semester; you should watch the films and lectures, and post your comments, promptly. In terms of absolute due dates, discussions will be closed after an additional week.

Each of the four analytical writing assignments will be worth eight points overall.

The four analytical writing assignments are due as follows:

  1. October 6 (Mise-en-scène and Cinematography)
  2. October 20 (Editing)
  3. November 20 (Film Noir)
  4. December 13 (Final paper)

Assignments for these analytical exercises will be given out two weeks in advance of the due dates.


1. August 28 - September 1

2. September 5-8

3. September 11-15

4. September 18-22

5. September 25-29

6. October 2-6

7. October 9-13

October 18-20

8. October 23-27

9. October 30-November 3

10. November 6-10

11. November 13-17

November 20-21

12. November 27-December 1

13. December 4-8

December 13 (beginning of exam week)

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 cite your sources when quoting, paraphrasing, or using the ideas of other writers. When paraphrasing, place in quotes any phrase of four words or more that comes directly from the source being used.