Genre Film
Spring 2009, CRN 31135

Screening: Mondays, 2:30 to 5 p.m.
CCA, Room B
Discussion: Wednesdays 2:30 to 3:45 p.m.
CCA, Room B

Mr. Bryan Cardinale-Powell
CCA, 2
nd Floor

Office Hours:
Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or by appointment

Course Description:
Many consider genre films too commercial for serious analysis. The crass appeal of these films to the lowest common denominator of popular culture has long hindered efforts to fully appreciate these movies despite their popularity and commercial success. Instead, they’ve been treated as commodities: from the perspective of studio executives, the genre film’s predictability helps organize production schedules and hedges against financial losses; for fans genre films are a point of commonality, a collection of shared consumer experiences. On the other hand, this class should demonstrate that for students of film there is much to learn about the intersection of aesthetic, cultural, and ideological values in American society through the careful analysis of genre films and their appeal.

The course will begin with a look at the industrial conditions of post World War II Hollywood filmmaking and how those conditions maintained the tradition of genre filmmaking. We will also explore 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 genre films from the late 1940s through the 1960s: which generic characteristics fluctuate over time and why? Our focus will remain on three important genre traditions: the woman’s film, science fiction, and the western.

Along the way, course readings will support our critical engagement with genre films in two primary ways. First, the readings will help us better appreciate the historical trajectory of film genre by providing important background information on the impact of industrial, technological, and social forces on the genre films. Second, the readings will sharpen our analytical skills by providing examples of the many ways in which genre films 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 a variety of genres popular in post World War II Hollywood;
  • an awareness of the historical development of film genres;
  • the ability to apply his or her knowledge by writing an insightful essay on a topic related to film genre.

Required Texts:
  • Grant, Barry Keith. Film Genre Reader III.
  • Maltby, Richard. Hollywood Cinema, 2nd Ed.
  • Neale, Steve. Genre and Hollywood.

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 & Classroom Journal
  • Genre Festival Press Packet
  • Midterm Exam
  • 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 and classroom journal: Wednesday classes will open with a discussion of the week’s screening. To supplement this discussion, students should submit to the online classroom discussion group a short response to each film no later than 6 p.m. Tuesday following the screening. Also, a class reporter rotation will be set up during our first class meeting. For each remaining class meeting, the assigned class reporter will take notes of the day’s activities and post a written account online no later than the day following class.

Genre Festival Press Packet: Students will work in groups to select one representative genre film for each of the three genres we will study in class. Along with this selection, the group will produce a press packet to be distributed to the class. This packet will provide information about the genre and the selected film. More details for this project will be discussed in class.

Midterm Exam: The midterm exam will consist of a variety of short essay questions.

Term Paper:
Each student will complete a 7-10 page essay written on an approved topic related to the study of film genre. 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 Oklahoma City University 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. For further details, please refer to the Policy on Academic Honesty on page 40 of the 2008-09 undergraduate catalog available online here. Sanctions for violations of academic honesty are at the discretion of the instructor and can be severe.

Students will earn final grades based on the following formula:

10% Attendance/Participation
10% Screening Responses & Classroom Journals
20% Genre Festival Press Packet
20% Midterm exam
20% 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

Make-up work and late assignments may only be accepted with the advance permission of the instructor, and such permission will be granted only in cases of verifiable hardship.

An incomplete (I) will only be granted according to the university policies published on page 46 of the 2008-09 undergraduate catalog.

If you need an accommodation due to a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act, please contact the Student Health and Disabilities Service Office immediately at (405) 208-5991 or (405) 208-5090. Advance notice is required for many accommodations.

If you have any questions, 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.

They’re your grades. You earn them.