Search This Blog

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Politics Through Film in Spring 2016

For the first time in some years, I'm going to teach a regular Political Science section of Politics Through Film (POLS 552 at UofL, but also POLS 399-03) in spring 2016. Since 2010, I've been teaching a version of the course either as the Department's capstone course for senior majors (495) or as an Honors seminar. Through this time, the course has always focused on Global Politics Through Film. However, I intend to tweak the course between now and January to have wider appeal. We will continue to discuss global politics, but we will also discuss some broader political science questions about political behavior, institutions, and ideas.

The film is an elective for the University's Film and Digital Media Studies Minor. Students from that program are welcome. I can check with the HUM personnel to find out if 399 could be substituted.

In any case, long-time readers may recall that I blogged about the earliest incarnation of the course extensively back in fall 2006. However, much has changed since then.

First, course members now view films on their own, outside of class. This means the scheduled amount of class time is reduced and we can devote all of it to discussion of the films and the political implications. Students can view almost every film for about $2.99 from a streaming provider. Many are free on Netflix or from a local library.

Second, the class and the discussion of the films is oriented around four classic narrative archetypes: romance, tragedy, comedy, and satire. Each of these archetypes suggests specific ideas about character, settings, and plot. They also align with particular political science theories and concepts.

Third, the course does not study the same films as it did in 2006. Based on my most recent version of the syllabus, here are the alterations:

Subtractions: Casablanca, Gandhi, Network, Red Dawn, Black Hawk Down, Breaker Morant, Twelve O'Clock High, and the Stephen Colbert appearance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner. They are arranged in the order that I would bring them back. Every version of the course except the most recent one has included Casablanca. There's a decent chance I will bring it back in the future.

Additions: Stranger Than FictionZombieland, The Dark KnightV for VendettaZero Dark Thirty,  and Mad Max: Fury Road. Again, these are arranged in the order of preference. I'll almost surely assign Stranger Than Fiction, but the most recent Mad Max was a student suggestion (I allowed the Honors students to select one class film) and I have not yet fully embraced it for this course.

For one week in the most recent semester, students had their choice of one of four films about Iran: Persepolis, Offside, Argo or Rosewater. Trita Parsi was a guest speaker.

Retained: Wag the Dog, The Quiet American, Saving Private Ryan, The Whale Rider, Dr. Strangelove, Hotel Rwanda and The Great Dictator.  Again, the order matters. I'm virtually certain to assign Wag the Dog, but many students complain about the value of The Great Dictator.

To appeal to a larger audience, I'm considering the study of these films: Idiocracy, Contagion, The Visitor, Thank You for Smoking and Outfoxed.

Obviously, if I added one or more of these films, then others would have to go.

Most of what I blogged about the course back in 2009 remains true:
I think it is a fun class for students and I must increase enrollment before late August for it to remain on the schedule. My pitch: students do not have to take any exams, but will write a couple of short analytical or review papers through the term -- culminating in a longer research paper at the end. I provide extensive feedback and typically allow rewrites of papers in classes at the 500 level. All of the paper assignments tie to film texts.

Visit this blog's homepage.

For 140 character IR and foreign policy talk, follow me on twitter.

Or for basketball, baseball, movies or other stuff, follow this personal twitter account.