21L.011 - The Film Experience
Prof. David Thorburn
PDF version of required reading list
PDF version of general requirements

21L. 011 is a HASS-D/Communication-Intensive subject. CI requirements will be satisfied by:
1)   A minimum of 20 pages of writing, in four separate assignments
2)   Revision and resubmission of at least one of the assignments
3)   An oral component as described below

Primary goals: This course is an introductory survey of classic films. Emphasis falls equally on cultural and on artistic matters: on films as anthropological and historical artifacts that articulate the values and assumptions of particular societies and eras and on films as works of art.  The course aims to sharpen students' analytic skills, to give them a sense of the history and cultural significance of movies, and to improve their writing.

Format: Two lectures (Tuesdays 4-5 and 7-8 pm in 3-270) and one recitation section each week (Thursdays 3-4 or 4-5 pm in 2-146 or 2-105; 4-5 pm in 2-139). A screening of the required film will follow the Tuesday evening lecture.  Video copies of all required films may be borrowed from the Film  Office, 14N-428, to help students prepare for exams and papers. 

ReadingThe primary text is A History of Narrative Film by David A. Cook, 4th Edition (2004). Copies are at the MIT Coop. Reading assignments from this text should generally be done before or shortly after the Tuesday lecture listing this material. Some supplementary readings will be assigned; copies of these will either be distributed to all members of the class, or posted on the course website.

Writing requirements: The course satisfies the criteria for communication intensive subjects in the humanities, arts, and social sciences. Students are required to write a short (1-2 page) response to some aspect of the material in the first two weeks, and three short essays , totaling a minimum of 20 double-spaced typed pages, devoted to films studied during the term.

All students must revise and resubmit at least one of their first two essays, and they are encouraged but not required to revise both. Only the grade received on the revised version of the paper will count toward the final grade in the term. Revisions must be submitted within one week of the date on which essays are returned.      

Late papers: Essays submitted within seven days of the due date will be graded without penalty but will be ineligible for revision and may not receive written comments from the instructor. Papers will not be accepted beyond the seven-day grace period.

Paper topics: A list of suggested topics for each of the essays will be available on the course web site. Students may depart from these suggestions, but the alternative must be approved by their recitation instructor.
Oral expression: A central goal of the recitation hour in the course is to strengthen students’ powers of oral expression. Attendance at recitation is mandatory.  Every student is expected to participate actively in discussion and to give at least one short presentation to the class. This presentation will may be part of a group project, in which two or three students will work as a team to lead class discussion of a particular film or a topic relevant to the course.

Exams: a 30-minute quiz, a one-hour test, both given in class; and a three-hour final, given during the exam period. The quiz will consist of short identification items. Both tests will include essay questions as well as an identification segment. Material covered in lectures and in the assigned reading will supply most of the identification questions.

Grades: Grades will be calculated as follows:
Tests: 40% (5% for the quiz, 15% for the midterm, 20% for the final)
Essays: 50% (15%, 15%, 20%)
Oral Expression: 10% (5% presentation; 5% recitation participation).