TCF 440 Section 001: Sem In American Cinema

Spring 2012

3 Credit Hours
Primary Instructor: Dr. Jeremy Butler
Core Designation: Writing
Syllabus subject to change.
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Course Description

Study of selected topics in United States film. Writing proficiency is required for a passing grade in this course.


From the Student Records System

No prerequisites found.

TCF 112, or permission of instructor.

Student Learning Outcomes

The student will learn the three major critical methods applied to the American cinema: genre study, the auteur "theory," and the star "system." We will begin with the film noir, director Howard Hawks and actor Humphrey Bogart, and then, during the second half of the semester, turn our attention to the melodrama, director Douglas Sirk, and actress Lana Turner.

Our focus will shift back and forth from the primary texts (the films themselves) to the writings on them. The latter will eventually lead us into considerations of feminism, Marxism, structuralism and semiotics.

Exams and Assignments

The student's grade will depend upon four separate components:

  1. An analytical exercise. Worth 15 points.
  2. Three directed papers--assigned over the course of the first two months. These four-page (1200 word minimum) papers will respond to questions handed out in class and will deal with specific topics covered during a particular week. Questions will be handed out on a Wednesday and will be due the following week (see below for dates). At least one of these papers will be graded and returned before midterm. Each paper is worth 15 points for a total of 45 points.

    Please see the handout, Notes on Writing Film Analyses, for tips on preparing these papers.

    These papers must be word processed and will be graded on the basis of conceptual rigor and fluency of writing style (i.e., grammar, spelling, etc.). Writing proficiency is required for a passing grade in this course. You are not expected to do extra research for these papers, but any references to sources other than yourself must be properly footnoted--see Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers or a similar style book. This includes references to Websites and the course readings. Also, Diana Hacker, author of Research and Documentation in the Electronic Age, provides a Website with numerous tips on documenting sources. And the Citation Machine can partially automate the formatting of citations.

    To quote or paraphrase without proper citation constitutes academic misconduct.

    The paper grading will include suggestions for improving your writing. Students who are concerned about their writing style are urged to come in during office hours to discuss their work in more detail. In addition, style guides will be available in the instructor's office--as well as in the reference room of the main library. And the UA Writing Center is available to help, too: room 322 Lloyd Hall.

  3. One ten-page (3000 word minimum) research paper. This paper will take one film and analyze it in the context of its genre, director, or major star--using the principles learned in class. The film chosen may not be a film noir or a melodrama, directed by Howard Hawks or Douglas Sirk, or star Humphrey Bogart or Lana Turner. This paper is worth 30 points and will be due midnight on Wednesday of exam week, 4:45 p.m., via eLearning/TurnItIn.

    As with the directed papers, this project must be word-processed and will be graded based on conceptual rigor and fluency of writing style. This paper should involve outside research. Any use of outside sources must be properly footnoted. A bibliography and a filmography (that is, the credits for the film analyzed) must be provided. (One online source for credits is the Internet Movie Database: .)

  4. Two exams--worth 5 points each. No early exams will be given.

Additional Requirements for Graduate Students

Beyond the requirements for undergraduates, grad students' directed papers should be five pages (1500 words) instead of four, and the final paper should be 13 pages instead of 10. Also, grad students may be required to lead a class discussion.

Extra Credit Opportunities

Students may earn 3 extra credit points by providing frames for Shot Logger. You must submit your Shot Logger files to Dr. Butler by the Friday of Study Week.

Policy on Missed Exams & Coursework

Make-up tests/exams will be given at the discretion of the instructor. No tests/exams will be given before their scheduled dates.

Grading Policy

Grades will be posted on eLearning.

Grading scale:

A+ 97-100   C+ 77-79    F  59 and below
A  93-96    C  73-76
A- 90-92    C- 70-72
B+ 87-89    D+ 67-69
B  83-86    D  63-66
B- 80-82    D- 60-62

Outline of Topics

Required Texts

UA Supply Store Textbook Information


Required course readings -- in addition to the textbooks -- are available at Supe Store, in C&IS Reading Room and on Electronic Reserve.

In order of assignment.

  1. Jim Kitses, Horizons West (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1969) 6-27.
  2. Edward Buscombe, "The Idea of Genre in the American Cinema," Screen, 11.2 (1970): 33-45.
  3. Richard Collins, "Genre: A Reply to Ed Buscombe," Movies and Methods, ed. Bill Nichols (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976) 157-163.
  4. Alain Silver and James Ursini, eds., Film Noir Reader (New York: Limelight, 1996).
  5. Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions 1929-1968 (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1973) 52-56, 109-110.
  6. Jim Hillier and Peter Wollen, eds., Howard Hawks American Artist (London: British Film Institute, 1996).
  7. Robert Sklar, City Boys: Cagney, Bogart, Garfield (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992).
  8. Molly Haskell, "The Woman's Film," in From Reverence to Rape: The Treatment of Women in the Movies (New York: Penguin, 1974) 153-188.
  9. Christine Gledhill, "The Melodrama Field: An Investigation," Home is Where the Heart Is: Studies in Melodrama and Woman's Film, ed. Christine Gledhill (London: British Film Institute, 1987) 5-39.
  10. Thomas Elsaesser, "Tales of Sound and Fury: Observations on the Family Melodrama," Home is Where the Heart Is: Studies in Melodrama and Woman's Film, ed. Christine Gledhill (London: British Film Institute, 1987) 43-69.
  11. Jeremy G. Butler, "Television and Zero-Degree Style" in Television Style (New York: Routledge, 2010), 55-120.
  12. Jeremy G. Butler, "'I'm Not a Doctor, But I Play One on TV': Characters, Actors, and Acting in Television Soap Opera," Cinema Journal 30.4 (1991): 75-91.
  13. Lucy Fischer, "Three-Way Mirror: Imitation of Life," Imitation of Life: Douglas Sirk, Director ed. Lucy Fischer (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press) 3-28.
  14. Paul Willemen, "Distanciation and Douglas Sirk," Imitation of Life: Douglas Sirk, Director, 268-272.
  15. Recommended, not required: Thomas Doherty, "Douglas Sirk: Magnificent Obsession," The Chronicle Review, 49, no. 12 (November 15, 2002), p. B16. Available online.
  16. Richard Dyer, "Four Films of Lana Turner," Movie 25: 30-52.

Note: The above listings follow the guidelines for footnotes specified in Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers, fifth edition (NY: Modern Language Association, 1999). Citations in a bibliography use a slightly different format. You must use the MLA or another recognized style guide when creating citations in your papers. For the MLA guidelines for Web or other online citations, click here.

Other Course Materials

All films will be shown on DVD and Blu-Ray disc in class. There will be no other class screenings of the programs, but copies of most films will be placed on reserve in the CIS Reading Room. Also, many titles are available through NetFlix, and two or three of them are included in the audio-visual section of the Gorgas Library.

Credits are available from the Internet Movie Database. Follow the links below to find credits.


Attendance Policy

Each absence beyond four for the semester will result in one point being deducted from your final total. (Up to five points may be deducted.)

Policy on Academic Misconduct

All students in attendance at the University of Alabama are expected to be honorable and to observe standards of conduct appropriate to a community of scholars. The University expects from its students a higher standard of conduct than the minimum required to avoid discipline. Academic misconduct includes all acts of dishonesty in any academically related matter and any knowing or intentional help or attempt to help, or conspiracy to help, another student.

The Academic Misconduct Disciplinary Policy will be followed in the event of academic misconduct.

Cell-Phone Policy

Cell phones must be turned off.Cell phones must be turned off during classtime--especially during screenings. Text messaging is not permitted during class. Any use of cell phones during exams will be considered academic misconduct.

Disability Statement

If you are registered with the Office of Disability Services, please make an appointment with me as soon as possible to discuss any course accommodations that may be necessary. If you have a disability, but have not contacted the Office of Disability Services, please call 348-4285 or visit 133-B Martha Parham Hall East to register for services. Students who may need course adaptations because of a disability are welcome to make an appointment to see me during office hours. Students with disabilities must be registered with the Office of Disability Services, 133-B Martha Parham Hall East, before receiving academic adjustments.

GPA Requirements

College of Communication & Information Sciences majors must earn a "C" or better in all required and elective courses in their major. A "C" or better is required in all external courses required by the major whether they serve as a prerequisite to a major course or are simply required by the major. This means a "C" of any kind.

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