Assignments

RJs: Are to be posted online. I will grade these as a whole at the end of the semester, but if you are doing less than ‘B-level’ work, I will contact you sooner with suggestions for improvement. This is serious writing, and should be drafted in word, proofread, and posted. It is less formal than a paper, but should still thoughtfully engage the readings and the films. It is not a “stream of consciousness” journal; your responses may touch on opinions and personal experiences as one source of knowledge, they should be grounded in the readings and films.

Students to Lead Discussions:

Theories: Your goal in leading a discussion of a theoretical reading is to help us understand it using a handout that emphasizes key points from the reading. You are starting the discussion and emphasizing the interconnections between the reading and the films. You do not need to carry the discussion for three hours—your classmates will jump right in! You may use, and probably will want to cite, a short quote, but don’t rely on the quote to make the point for you.

Films: Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Ma Vie En Rose, Totally Fucked Up, High Art, My Own Private Idaho, Boys Don’t Cry, The Brandon Teena Story, But I’m a Cheerleader, Watermelon Woman. Your goal in leading discussion is to bring a relevant additional background about the film and its reception to the class, using a handout, and open the discussion with questions (it is OK to use the RJ for inspiration, but it is helpful to move beyond it as well.) You do not need to carry the discussion for three hours—your classmates will jump right in! Point to at least one key intersection between the readings and the film using a specific scene. You may show a short clip, but don’t rely on the clip to make your point for you.

Midterm Paper, Due March 3- Engaging the Theories:

Choose one of the major theorists that we are reading: Butler, Fanon, Halberstam or Mulvey, and relate the readings (and potentially additionally readings of their work) to one or two of the films for the course. Your 8-10 page paper will analyzes both the story and the aesthetic aspects of the film in relation to the theorist.

You should be sure to use film studies vocabulary and treat the audio and visual content of the film as well as its plot. Please avoid plot summary.

A good thesis might look like this:

“Using the 1993 production Orlando, directed by Sally Potter and based on the novel by Virginia Woolf, I will demonstrate that not only is a female gaze active within mainstream cinema, but that its existence within popular culture is necessary to bring about the changes that Mulvey states are essential to the representation of women in film. This contradicts Laura Mulvey’s assertion that…”

Or you might compare Fanon and Halberstam on the Gaze, or Butler and Fanon on “performativity” or you might want to argue AGAINST a theory, using a film as a text…

For 4/14 Global Presentation:

In groups of 2, choose a global queer film from the suggestions above, or your own research. Prepare a 10-minute presentation that includes a short clip, and addresses how queer representations, stories, and images differ across culture/nation. Be sure to use film studies vocabulary.

Final Paper, Due 4/29

Author/Auteur Study 12-14 pages

  • Su Friedrich
  • Todd Haynes
  • Gus Van Sant
  • Sadie Benning
  • Isaac Julian
  • Marlon Riggs
  • Rose Troche
  • John Cameron Mitchell
  • Tom Kalin
  • Todd Haynes
  • Gregg Araki
  • Lisa Cholodenko
  • Tom Kalin

In this assignment, you will focus on three or four films by one director from the list above and analyze aspects of auteurism in each film.

How do these films bear the unmistakable stamp of the director? Your paper will seek to answer this question by analyzing the themes and styles a director uses to present a unique artistic, intellectual vision.

How do these films fit into or push the boundaries of the larger category of queer cinema?

What binds these films together under the authorship of the director you have chosen? Your thesis should attempt to identify some particular aspect that the films share in common.

Your paper will also display a detailed examination of the films, commenting upon how various aspects of the films (lighting, sound track, dialogue, etc.) illustrate and support the thesis statement.

You should be sure to use film studies vocabulary and treat the audio and visual content of the film as well as its plot. However, make sure that you avoid mere plot summary.

Please cite at least two (3) reputable sources in MLA style in order to help you make your analysis. Examples of reputable sources you might use in your analysis include the following: a scholarly article on the movie(s) of your topic, an interview with the director, a review by a well-respected critic, or an article on a related cultural issue (e.g., postmodern film or art or theory).

A successful paper will contain a strong thesis; have detailed, analyzed evidence from the film to support your argument; and integrate scholarly research.


 

One Response to Assignments

  1. Alex Andorfer says:

    Before one can define Queer Cinema, one must first understand what it means to be Queer. Originally, the term was used in a derogatory manner to describe someone with same-sex attraction. Over time, the word queer has grown to serve as an umbrella term which people with any sexual preference, other than heteronormative, could identify with. In New Queer Cinema, queer is defined as “untethered from ‘conventional’ codes of behaviour,” (Aaron 5). In other words, the term is made for purposes of diversity, rather than exclusion, for those whose attraction and sexual preferences cannot be placed into the neat, clearly-defined categories. Aaron even notes that homosexuality can be limiting in that people who are not heterosexual are not then homosexual by default. Being queer allows for a sexual fluidity and the special, often undefinable, nature of attraction.
    Queer Cinema often deals with queer sexuality, but is not limited to the subjects of gender in terms of untraditional lust, passion and eroticism. Gay, lesbian and queer characters have been represented in the movies throughout film history, and their depiction often does constitute a piece as a work of queer cinema, however, film the explores unconventional other themes can been considered queer as well. Works of cinema that embrace experimental structures can even be categorized as queer. Often, experimental techniques go hand-in-hand with the controversial nature of queerdom in the film’s story line. The bottom line is, that Queer Cinema always embraces, unapologetically, queer subject matter in that deviates from the norm and what is socially acceptable.
    The Karen Carpenter Story is a good example of queer cinema which does not center on the topic of sexuality. Todd Haynes told the story of Karen Carpenter and her battle of anorexia using Barbie Dolls as the characters, rather than actual, living, breathing human beings. Barbie’s body has always been depicted as the perfect female form, so it is not mistake that Haynes chose the doll to represent the image which Karen was surely striving for. Barbie is also hypersexualized and “perfect” in all aspects, from her love life to her career to her friendships, Barbie seems to have it all under control. Using the doll form to portray the downfall of a female celebrity is a unique or “queer” way of looking at Carpenter’s demise. The use of the dolls is both freightening and comical, in an off beat sense. Such a grave subject is cast haunting light.
    Haynes also attacks the nuclear family in his film. Essentially, the dolls of Karen’s family are responsible for her eating disorder and consequent death. They drive her insane, expecting her to perform and live up to their expectations, but fail to understand her loss of self and the distorted image which she holds for her body. The use of dolls shows that Karen’s family turned her into a piece of plastic, dressed-up and lived out by her controlling parents and brother dearest. Straight life, in all its glory, is actually quite cruel. Karen’s illness is merely a threat to the Carpenter’s career and their family image.

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