Film and the “American Century”
The United States may no longer “bestride the globe” as it did in the “American” 20th
century, but few would deny the continuing impact of U.S. culture around the world, from Apple apps to video
games, TV shows, pop music, and of course movies. Indeed, “Hollywood’s” (by which I mean the
U.S. film industry in general) ups and downs have often closely followed the
oscillation of U.S. economic and geopolitical power over the last century, and
at the same time, American movies have been one of the most important vehicles
for national cultural definition (and redefinition) as well as an essential
frame of reference for how other countries perceive “US.”
Yet Hollywood’s influence has never been a one way street: immigrants dominated the early
decades of the industry in the United States, and a wave of film people
escaping Nazi Europe helped define and establish several emerging genres in
mid-century American film, including most-famously “film noir,” a movie “style”
which first emerged out of German Expressionism and the interwar French film
industry. Meanwhile, iconic American genres such as the gangster film and the Western were reinterpreted overseas
and then returned to the United States in the 1950s and 60s as French New Wave
and the “spaghetti Western,” and this process has continued up to the present,
for example with the recent impact of Indian “Bollywood” themes and styles.
Through a close analysis of several iconic U.S. films, genres and directors within their socio-cultural
and political contexts, this class will explore the multidirectional, national
and international influences of Hollywood in the 20th century.
Course Requirements: Besides keeping up with the regular required readings for the
class (about 5-10 pages per week with short written summaries of same and/or
in-class exercises/quizzes) and actively engaging in class discussion, students
will do a ten-minute scene or film analysis presentation (a list of potential
topics) will be provided) and complete the 10-12-page Hausarbeit/Term Paper by doing a film review/contextual analysis of
two films/genres and/or directors.
MA MuM ab 1. Semester. Präsentation und Hausarbeit (MA MuM: Modul 1, 5 LP). Besonders empfohlen für Austauschstudenten (Präsentation und Hausarbeit, 6 ECTS).
This class should be particularly useful for all MuM students who want to augment their cultural understanding of U.S. films in preparation for dubbing and sub-titling work, but it is also a good vehicle to practice your
general media knowledge and text-production skills.