History of French Cinema: Politics and Aesthetics

140D :  French Literature in English Translation
Spring 2024
Class No: 21402
Damon R. Young
3:30 PM - 4:59 PM

Cinema is often said to begin in the Grand Café in Paris in 1895, with the Lumière brothers’ projection of Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory. Since then, French-language cinema has played a key role in defining the artistic possibilities of the medium. In this course, we will watch and analyze a range of films, both well-known and less known, from within France and the larger French-speaking world, spanning narrative, experimental, and documentary forms, as well as films that challenge these distinctions. Each screening will be accompanied by critical and theoretical readings that explore the relation between film form, the production of meaning, the circulation of cultural fantasy, and the politics of representation. How do films “think”? What kinds of worlds do they not only document, but imagine and make possible? While developing a robust language for the analysis of film form, we will approach cinema as one of the key cultural technologies that has shaped our contemporary ways of imagining race, class, gender, and sexuality, the nation and its colonial and postcolonial legacies, and the affective life of the individual: love, family, friendship, and life under capitalism. To this end, we will read a number of works of philosophy and critical theory, all in English translation. The lectures and discussions are complemented by a weekly screening, which you must be able to attend to enroll in the course.

This course fulfills a major requirement for the French sequence [not sure which field]. The course is cross-listed as FILM 145 and is taught in English. There are no prerequisites but priority enrollment will be given to declared French majors. French majors must complete viewing, reading, and writing in French for major credit.