History at the Movies
One Section Available to Choose From:
|Course Dates||Weeks||Meeting Times||Status||Instructor(s)||CRN|
|July 01, 2013 - July 12, 2013||2||M-F 12:45-3:35P||Waitlisted||Daniel Loss||10462|
Can movies help us understand history? Since the earliest days of cinema, filmmakers have looked to the past for inspiration. From cinematic classics like The Battleship Potemkin and Gone With the Wind to more recent hits like The Help, historical films have long captivated and inspired movie-going audiences. Historians have often been skeptical of movies’ ability to present an accurate picture of the past. But in recent years, more and more historians have embraced film for its potential in deepening our understanding of the past.
In this course, we will ask the big questions of history. What forces drive change in politics, society, and culture? Is it possible to get inside the heads of people who lived centuries ago? How can we explain unspeakable acts of evil like the Holocaust? We will seek answers to these questions by watching and discussing an array of different films that use and represent the past. We will consider why historical films remain popular, how movies can be seen as historical documents from the time they were produced, and how films can enhance our understanding of the past in ways that written history cannot. Films treating similar historical moments and phenomena will be juxtaposed to explore the potential of different filmmaking techniques to reveal distinctive insights about the past. In addition to watching the films themselves, we will also read historians’ analyses of particular movies as well as more general explorations of historical films as a genre.
The course will culminate in a final project in which students present a film of their choice and explain how it enriches our understanding of the past.
By the end of the course, students will be able to:
• Recognize historical films as a representation of history complementary to more traditional history-writing with its own strengths and weaknesses
• Analyze historical films with an eye to exploring the ‘arguments’ and theories of history that film can offer
• Draw connections between scholarly and popular writing on historical films with their own viewings to formulate novel analyses
A familiarity with American and European history would be useful but is not required. No background in film studies is necessary.