Film Topics For Essays

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140 - 001 | CCN: 44724

Special Topics in Film: The Film Essay - Cinema, the Minoritized Subject, and the Practice of Writing

Damon Young and Stephen Best

4 Units

Taking as a point of departure James Baldwin’s dazzling work of film criticism, The Devil Finds Work, this course introduces students to some of the best writing on film that describes the encounter with cinema—and with particular films—as formative of the minority subject. How are our experiences of race, gender, and sexuality informed by our encounters with cinema? How do those encounters generate a writing practice that gives an account of those films and speaks about and in some cases back to them? We will read great essays about cinema, by writers including Baldwin, Ralph Ellison, Virginia Woolf, Susan Sontag, Stanley Cavell, Roland Barthes, Tisa Bryant, D.A. Miller, and Kaja Silverman. We will consider how these authors make their arguments, what their close attention to film language allows us to see that we didn’t see before, and—especially—how they interrogate the relationship between film aesthetics and the politics of race, gender, and sexuality. We will approach the essay as a form in its own right, one that rewards close formal analysis. In the last part of the course, we will look at film works that themselves function like essays, offering critical perspectives on race, gender, sexuality, and the phenomenology of cinema. The course includes a weekly screening, held at the Pacific Film Archive on Center St., or in 142 Dwinelle, as indicated. 

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Courses / Undergraduate

Fall 2017

About this Guide

This website provides a guide to conducting research in Film Studies at Yale University, highlighting key resources and crucial search strategies.  There are many special aspects to doing Film Studies research, including:

  • important but unintuitive search terms, such as "motion pictures"
  • techniques for finding videos, reviews and screenplays
  • intersecting topics, such as how a social group is represented on screen (its role in front of the camera) and its position within the film industry (its role behind the camera)
  • major topics (such as financial aspects) that are less prominent in other fields within the arts and humanities
  • cast and crew information
  • and much more

Through this website, I try to give you some ways to crack open Film Studies' numerous subjects.  Most of the pages give examples that you can use as a model for your searches, descriptions of the main resources, and tips on how to use certain databases.

It's important to know that even though the guide focuses on strategies for finding books, often the same or similar approaches will work in article databases.

There are also pages for particular classes, and every month I provide a list of books (and sometimes microfilms, databases and other resources) that the Library acquired the month before.

Questions?  Want to discuss your research needs?  Please contact me!

 Author credit: Please note that much of the content of this subject guide was written by Tobin Nellhaus.

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