The study of literature and writing is essential to a liberal arts education. Introductory courses in the English department, with their emphasis on analytical skills, close reading, and literary theory, prepare students to become active interpreters of the world rather than passive consumers of the interpretations of others. Period courses offer students an opportunity to look at the world through other eyes, to imagine their way into modes of thought and understanding very different from those of our own age. Courses in modern and contemporary literature help students articulate and clarify their own responses to the world in which they live. Creative writing courses and workshops challenge students to investigate and explore their place in literary traditions. Skills that are emphasized in all these courses--interpretation, analysis, the ability to look at the world from different perspectives, the ability to articulate feelings and ideas clearly and forcefully--are becoming increasingly rare, and therefore increasingly valuable.

In this introductory course, we will explore the three primary areas of film study: film history and its social contexts from earliest beginnings to today; film art and the close analysis of film images; and film theory, the viewing of films as both a cultural product and a received text. This is not a course in film production but in film viewing, in the sense of how we see and interpret what happens on the movie screen. Our study of film history is chronological, ranging from early innovators like Melies and Griffith, through influential European movements like German Expressionism, Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave, to recognized auteurs like Hitchcock, Welles and Lynch.