Watching a film as a complex psychological experience.

Description

Hugo Münsterberg describes watching a film as a complex psychological experience. What,
according to him, is the nature of that experience? What does Noël Carroll think is the flaw in
Münsterberg’s argument? Is Carroll’s critique convincing? Refer to the films screened & readings below.

Screening: The Musketeers of Pig Alley (D.W. Griffith, 1914, U.S.; 18 mins.)
Screening: Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958, U.S.; 2 hrs., 8 mins.)
Reading: Hugo Münsterberg. “The Psychology of the Photoplay.” Film Theory Reader,
pp. 49-56.
Reading: Carroll, Noël. “Film/Mind Analogies: The Case of Hugo Münsterberg.” Film
Theory Reader, pp. 57-68
Reading: Marc Furstenau. “Introduction: Film Theory – A History of Debates.” Film
Theory Reader, pp. 1-20.
2
Description
Theories of the cinema are as old as the cinema itself. As soon as moving, photographic
images were projected on screens, critics, writers, poets, artists and even filmmakers
themselves began speculating about the new medium, describing its various properties and
effects, and arguing about its value and significance as an art, a technology, and a medium of
mass entertainment. This course will trace the history of the development of these speculations
into a field of “film theory,” considering some of the most significant themes, approaches and
concepts that have been proposed and revised over the past century, looking at the major
arguments and debates about film, as the cinema emerged as a major art form and popular
entertainment.
The course is organised in a roughly chronological order. After considering the nature of
film theory in general as an enterprise, we will trace the development of what is now called
“classical” film theory. Two main positions were developed during the classical period, in the
first half of the twentieth century, generally described as “formalist” and “realist.” Since the
1960s, a “contemporary” form of film theory has developed, which has imported methods from
linguistics, structuralist semiology, literary analysis, as well as other domains, and has focused
on questions of narrative structure, expression and communication, “authorship,” genre, as well
as broader cultural issues such as gender, race, and national cinemas. Film theorists have also
engaged with broader philosophical and aesthetic questions, such as perception, representation,
meaning, and artistic value.
As we trace the history of film theory, we will see how theoretical concepts have been
applied in the analysis and interpretation of key films in the history of cinema. The main theme
that will be developed in the course is the question of cinema as a mass medium and as a
popular art. Our primary case study will be the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock. We will see
several of his most significant films, considering their status as examples of popular
filmmaking that have come to be judged as significant works of art, and which have generated
considerable theoretical interest.
Screenings
All films will be screened in class. You are encouraged to take notes during the screenings. If
you do so with an electronic device, turn the brightness down, and try to sit near the back of the
classroom, to avoid distracting other students.
Readings
The main texts for the course are Marc Furstenau, ed., The Film Theory Reader: Debates and
Arguments, (London and New York: Routledge, 2010) and Irving Singer, Reality Transformed:
Film as Meaning and Technique (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000). Both are available at
Carleton University Bookstore. Several readings are articles from scholarly journals, which are
available on-line through the Carleton University Library Catalogue. Simply search for the
journal title in the catalogue, and you will see a link to the journal, where you will be able to
download a PDF file of the assigned article. These readings are noted in the syllabus as
(Catalogue). A number of other readings will be available through the Carleton University online reserve system, ARES. These readings are noted in the syllabus as (Reserve). A link to
ARES will be provided on the cuLearn page for the course.
9
Fall Term
Week 1—Monday, Sept. 9: Introduction
Screenings: Sortie des usine Lumières / Workers Leaving the Factory (Auguste and Louis
Lumière, 1895, France, 1 min.); L’arrivée d’un train à La Ciotat / The Arrival of a
Train at La Ciotat (Auguste and Louis Lumière, 1896/1897, France, 1 min.; multiple
versions); The Countryman and the Cinematograph (R.W. Paul, U.K., 1901; 19 sec.
extant); Uncle Josh at the Moving Picture Show (Edwin Porter, U.S., 1902; 2 mins.).
Reading: Marc Furstenau. “Introduction: Film Theory – A History of Debates.” Film
Theory Reader, pp. 1-20.
Week 2—Monday, Sept. 16
Screening: The Musketeers of Pig Alley (D.W. Griffith, 1914, U.S.; 18 mins.)
Screening: Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958, U.S.; 2 hrs., 8 mins.)
Reading: Hugo Münsterberg. “The Psychology of the Photoplay.” Film Theory Reader,
pp. 49-56.
Reading: Carroll, Noël. “Film/Mind Analogies: The Case of Hugo Münsterberg.” Film
Theory Reader, pp. 57-68
Reading Report Question: Submission Period 1, Week 2 (Due Fri., Sept. 20, 11:59 p.m.)
Hugo Münsterberg describes watching a film as a complex psychological experience. What,
according to him, is the nature of that experience? What does Noël Carroll think is the flaw in
Münsterberg’s argument? Is Carroll’s critique convincing? Refer to the films screened this week.
Week 3—Monday, Sept. 23
Screening: The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1927, Britain; 1 hr., 27 mins.)
Reading: Béla Balázs. “Visible Man, or The Culture of Film.” Film Theory Reader, pp.
69-79.
Reading: Malcolm Turvey. “Balázs: Realist or Modernist?” Film Theory Reader, pp. 80-
89.
Reading Report Question: Submission Period 1, Week 3 (Due Fri., Sept. 27, 11:59 p.m.)
What, according to Malcolm Turvey, is the distinction between “realist” and “modernist” film
theory? What kind of theory does Turvey say is proposed by Balázs’? Refer to Sherlock Jr., and
any other relevant film or readings from previous weeks.
Week 4—Monday, Sept. 30
Screening: October (Sergei Eisenstein, 1927, U.S.S.R; 1 hr. 43 mins.)
Reading: Sergei Eisenstein. “Methods of Montage,” “Film Language.” Essays in Film
Theory: Film Form. Ed. and trans. Jay Leyda. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1977
[1949], pp. 72-83, 108-21. (Reserve)
Reading Report Question: Submission Period 1, Week 4 (Due Fri., Oct. 4, 11:59 p.m.)
Describe the various “methods of montage” proposed by Eisenstein. How is editing, or “montage,”
understood as the basis of a film “language”? Refer to October, and any other relevant film or
reading from previous weeks.