Entertaining Social Change|
Fall 2021 not offered
ENGL 309, FGSS 315|
|Course Cluster and Certificates: Social, Cultural, and Critical Theory Certificate|
"Our problem," Tom Frank writes," is that we have a fixed idea of what power is, of how power works, and of how power is to be resisted." This is especially true of "entertainment" as a transformative power. Our aim will be to advance critical entertainment studies. A thread that connects all of our texts will be: How has the systemic critique of social contradictions been popularized as fascinating in modern times? A related concern: What are the seductions and violence built into "enjoyment"--"enjoyment" that reproduces "Americans"? We will "entertain" the diverse strategies that progressive songwriters/performers, radical historians (working with cartoonists), and mainly moviemakers have developed to entertain Americans--to teach, persuade, provoke, seduce, and move them through laughter, tears, and not least of all ideas--so that Americans will be more inclined to "entertain" social critique that inspires social change. We will consider the popularizing (and sometimes the selling) of social critique in several genres: graphic history (Howard Zinn, Paul Buhle); songs/song lyrics of folk-protest singers (such as Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, and Phil Ochs), of folk-rock stars (such as Jackson Browne, Ani DiFranco, and Father John Misty), and of the developers of hip-hop (such as Gil Scott-Heron, Public Enemy, and NWA); and politically-edgy comedy (Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert). We will devote most of our attention to movies ("Straight Outta Compton," "The People Speak," "Malcolm X," "Medium Cool," "Network," "El Norte," "Smoke Signals," "Before the Flood," "The Black Panthers: Vanguard of the Revolution," "Salt of the Earth," "Matewan," "99 Homes," "The Wolf of Wall Street," "The Big Short"). And we will place special emphasis on self-reflexive movies about "entertainment" and about labor/social movement organizing.
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|Course Format: Seminar||Grading Mode: |
||Fulfills a Major Requirement for: (AMST)(ENGL)(ENGL-Literature)(FGSS)
Our class will meet live each week via ZOOM on Tuesdays from 1:20 to 2:40 PM. Before each meeting I'll send the class a one-hour Teaching Video I'll "produce"--this is required reading--and in that Teaching Video I'll outline pertinent background and some critical stakes of the movie we'll soon be discussing together. In the Teaching Video I'll also unpack just a few scenes from the weekly movie (but we'll be unpacking a great deal when we meet). The syllabus will be scaled-down somewhat and will now focus on movies: one movie per week and sometimes brief readings (some are journalism, some are book chapters or excerpts, all are theoretically provocative). They'll help illuminate contemporary events (short readings will include some "Concept Files" on cultural theory that I've composed for you). The one complete book we'll read is the classic AUTOBIOGRAPHY of MALCOLM X (1965) and we'll place this in dialogue with Spike Lee's movie MALCOLM X (1992). Each student will write a weekly two-page double-spaced Critical Engagement: Movie and Teaching Video essay focused on the movie, the Teaching Video, and brief readings (there are no long essays and no final exam). Thus students will receive a lot of feedback on the development of their writing and critical thinking. Also, each student will team up with one or more students--two times or more--to raise questions and facilitate our collective unpacking of movie scenes and/or reading. It's possible that I may have a Teaching Assistant who will confer with the students who are formulating/raising questions about the movie and facilitating our collective unpacking in our live meeting. Our meeting from 1:20-2:40 will concentrate on student discussion. Our advanced seminar is more of a "concept album" than a "greatest hits" course: the movies will be in critical conversation with and will build on one another, and the concerns they raise will shed light on what's happening right now. We're in for a critical blast.
|Examinations and Assignments: |
Most movies will be streamed with no fee. In very few instances, students will have to access to Netflix or rent (small fee) access to another platform to stream a film.
|Additional Requirements and/or Comments: |
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