Course: Film and Literature as Narrative Art

Study of Formal Elements

I explore elements and the narrative devices used to deploy them as explored through six units – Memory: Dis-Membering the Past, Emotion: Sympathetic Characters, New Media: Anxious Realism, Point of View: Narrative Suture, Events: Media History, and Allegory: Trans-National Fiction?. Comparison is introduced by way contrasting narrativizations of each element; contrasting the importance of point of view, for example, Michael Haneke’s 71 Fragments of a Chronologies of Chance offers a nihilistic account of random violence whose narrative is stripped bare while Bret Eason Ellis’s American Psycho introduces the reader a solipsistic narrative of excess where nothing matters outside the mind narrator.

Transnational Perspectives

We analyze film, literature, and other media with transnational reach – its international reach allows important cultural thematics to inform our comparative analysis of narrative. Over the course of the semester, we will cover narratives from America, Cuba, Mexico, Spain, Japan, and Korea, which consider the role of gender, the body, violence, work, and ethnicity. An additional advantage of using genre as a container is that we can use cultural anxieties of contemporary life as a backdrop, which allows students to address formal elements of narrative without first completing a historical survey of the genre.

Course Format and Outcomes

This course has been taught with class sizes of 30-40 students. Discussion is regularly held in small group format to increase participation. Assessment is through daily reading quizzes, and take-home midterm and final.

Students learn tools for analyzing 20th and 21st Century media objects, such as feature-length popular films, art house and experimental films, new media film, global literature, modern and postmodern literature, and young adult fiction, through techniques developed by literary criticism, critical-cultural studies, and the study of visual culture.