Film Genre: The Musical
Spring 2008
CRN 12473

Lecture, Mondays & Wednesdays, 1:30 to 2:45 p.m.
323 General Classroom Building

Screening Lab, Mondays 3:30 to 5:20 p.m.
406 Arts & Humanities

Mr. Bryan Cardinale-Powell
Room 817-A, One Park Place

Office Hours:
Mondays & Wednesdays, 3 to 5 p.m., or by appointment

Course Description:
Many consider film musicals somewhat peculiar—unusual spectacles best relegated to the dustbin of Hollywood history. Others think of musicals more generously as the kind of movies aimed at children or other viewers in search of simple-minded pleasures. Few appear willing to take cinematic song and dance seriously. This course is designed to challenge those preconceptions. There is much to learn about the intersection of aesthetic, cultural, and ideological values in American society through the careful analysis of musical “entertainments” and their appeal.

The course will begin with a look at the logic and utility of genre as an analytical tool: what does a genre look like and how is genre related to wider cultural concerns? Elements of this theoretical framework will then be tested throughout the semester as we examine a variety of film musicals from the 1930s through today: which generic characteristics fluctuate over time and why?

Along the way, course readings will support our critical engagement with film musicals in two primary ways. First, the readings will help us better appreciate the historical trajectory of film musicals by providing important background information on the impact of industrial, technological, and social forces on the genre. Second, the readings will sharpen our analytical skills by providing examples of the many ways in which film musicals can be thoughtfully investigated.

Course Objectives:
Upon successful completion of this course, the student should be able to demonstrate the following:
  • familiarity with the concept of genre and some of the theoretical debate surrounding the formulation and utility of such a concept;
  • the ability to identify and discuss in detail a variety of thematic and textual characteristics associated with film musicals;
  • an awareness of the historical development of the film musical genre;
  • the ability to apply his or her knowledge by writing an insightful essay on a topic related to film musicals.
Required Texts:
  • Coursepack. Available for purchase from The Printshop on Decatur Street. You must place your order for the coursepack online here.
As deemed necessary by the instructor, additional readings may be assigned during the term. Any additional readings either will be distributed in class or electronically via email. More information will be provided as necessary.

Readings assigned for this course were selected to complement class activities and screenings. Therefore,
reading assignments should be completed before attending class.

Course Requirements:
In addition to the assigned readings mentioned above, student requirements for this course include the following:
  • Attendance and participation in classroom activities/discussions
  • Screening responses
  • Close Reading Essay
  • Term Paper
  • Final Exam
Attendance and Participation: Each student is entitled to two unexcused absences, but keep in mind that failure to attend class is the best way to fail class. Your attendance in class and at screenings is expected and will be monitored.

Screening responses: Wednesday classes will open with a discussion of the week’s screening. To supplement this discussion, students should submit to the instructor, via email, a one to two page response to each film no later than 6 p.m. Tuesday following the screening.

Close Reading Essay: Students will complete a 4-7 page essay which analyzes one particular film text in depth.

Term Paper: Each student will complete a 7-10 page essay written on an approved topic related to the study of film musicals. We will discuss ideas for topics in class, a first draft will be required, and students will present findings to the class in 5-7 minute presentations at the end of the semester.

Final Exam: The final exam for the class will require students to use examples from class readings and screenings in response to essay prompts.

Throughout the semester, class-related information will be communicated via email. To ensure that this works as smoothly as possible, please be sure you have access to your email account, and that you check that account regularly. If you’d rather use a different email address for class-related correspondence, please let the instructor know by the end of the first week of classes.

Plagiarism, cheating, and/or academic dishonesty in any form will not be tolerated in this course. Please refer to the Policy on Academic Honesty available online here for further details.

Students will earn final grades based on the following formula:

10% Attendance/Participation
10% Screening Responses
30% Close Reading Essay
30% Term paper
20% Final exam

Assignment scores and calculated totals will correspond to letter grades according to the following scale:
94-100 A 75-78 C+
90-93 A- 72-74 C
86-89 B+ 68-71 C-
83-85 B 60-67 D
79-82 B- 0-59 F

Withdrawal Policy:
All undergraduates are allowed to withdraw with a grade of "W" a maximum of six times in their entire career at Georgia State. Students who exceed the limit will automatically receive a grade of "WF" which will count as an "F" for GPA calculations. Hardship withdrawals, withdrawals at other institutions or withdrawals after the midpoint will not count against the limit. Withdrawals after the semester midpoint are automatically given a grade of "WF."

To avoid withdrawals, a student is encouraged to attend class regularly and complete every assignment on time. Students should seek the instructor via e-mail or during office hours to discuss any problems with the course. A student who does not perform well in class and/or on assignments and exams will be sent an e-mail by the instructor seeking a meeting to discuss any problem(s) the student is having with the course. The purpose of the meeting will be to remedy the problem(s) and allow the student to find ways to succeed in this course.

The department of communication's Undergraduate Studies Office will also be notified of apparent student underperformance, and an advisor will be available to provide confidential mentorship or to put you in contact with other university resources that can help you navigate this class. At any time in the semester a student can seek an appointment for an advisement session with the Undergraduate Studies Office by sending an e-mail to or by going to 640 One Park Place.

March 3rd is the last day students can withdraw from this class and receive a grade of W. If you choose to withdraw from this course, please be sure to follow the Registrar’s procedure to make sure your withdrawal is official before the deadline, otherwise you will receive an F for the course.

Make-up exams and grades of Incomplete (I) are reserved for verifiable hardships.

They’re your grades. You earn them.

Please feel free to contact me at any time during the semester to discuss your classroom performance. However, I will not disclose any grades via email.