American Studies 274gm: Exploring Ethnicity Through Film

This course explores the complexities of race/ethnicity in America through analyses of films. We shall ask such questions as: What is ethnicity? How is ethnicity shaped, or how does one “become” ethnic?, What is at stake in claims and visual representations about ethnicity; what politics surround ethnic representations and performances?, How is ethnicity actualized and/or performed?, Can there be an “authentic” ethnicity?, and, finally, How are such complexities reflected and/or constructed in film? Towards these ends, the initial weeks of the semester will be devoted to developing a critical vocabulary for speaking about race/ethnicity. We will also (continuously) hone our visual literacy by looking at the ways notions of ethnicity are privileged, constructed, and contested in film via such techniques as editing, sound, lighting, narration, etc. This middle of the course will focus on case studies in film that illuminate the complexities of ethnicity in relation to specific American ethnic groups. The latter weeks of the course will explore broader complexities of ethnicity, such as ethnic hybridity and inter-ethnic relations encompassing political conflict, interracial love and identity, and residential strife.

Concurrent enrollment: WRIT 140.
Fulfills GE Category VI and Diversity.

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