The Film As Social And Intellectual History
- Film & History: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Film and Television Studies
- Center for the Study of Film and History
- Volume 2, Number 3, February 1973
- pp. 9-10
- Additional Information
interests of scholars who, many years from now, will still be able to exploit this extraordinary film archive. HISTORY THROUGH FILM Printed below and on thefollowingpages is the third in a series ofsyllabi of "history throughfilm " courses currently being taught in American universities. The contributors have been asked to supply an introductory statement describing their approach, the goals they have in view and whatever insights they might already have into the "history throughfilm" experience. In subsequent issues ofFilm & Histoiy, the series will be continued with other historians and other schools contributing. Ifyou teach a similar course or have similar experiences thatyou would like to share with others, the editors invite you to contribute. The Film As Social And Intellectual History By Stuart Samuels University ofPennsylvania Our course in The Film as Social and Intellectual History is divided into two semesters. In the first semester (Fall) we chose 25 undergraduate students who had a commitment to both the study ofhistory and a prior knowledge of film. As we received over 1 00 applications, we selected our students after a series of interviews. They ranged from sophomores to seniors, from mayors in fine arts, communications, history, sociology to economics and psychology. During the first semester the aim is for these students to gain an intensive knowledge of film history and its relationship to society in America, France, England, Germany and Russia. The students read generally in the major works offilm history (Jacobs, Leyda, Kracauer, Knight, Bazin, etc.). They also study the theoretical works on the sociology ofknowledge (Mannheim, Merton, Sartre, et.) as well as some general surveys ofEuropean, American and Russian history. After these initial works the students choose two areas of special interest and write a detailed research paper that is presented to the whole seminar. The special areas would be, for example, German film in Weimar Period, film in the McCarthy period, the view ofclass in French and British film, ethnic stereotypes in Hollywood, etc—or genre studies—the cartoon, Western, gangster, horror, science fiction film, etc. The aim is to make students familiar with the larger trends offilm history and be able to relate film to a specific historical period or country. During the first semester we don't have regular scheduled film showings, but we use the facilities ofthe Museum ofModern Art film library, local film societies, and some private collections. The second semester course is on quite another scale. It is open to juniors, seniors, and graduate students. In the first year we had an enrollment of400 students. This year our enrollment "settled" at 450. (Penn has an undergraduate body of 9,000 students). The course is divided into three sections. First, there are the lectures which are given twice a week. The lectures sketch out the general relationship of film as a cultural product to society and social change. The readings — Mast, Knight, Jacobs,-are geared to the lectures. The heart of the course is in the second part — the films. Our course has a budget of$6,000, which is included in the history department budget. Most ofthis money is for film rentals (approximately 120 feature films). We felt that students in our course must see them in a chronological order and in clusters of genres or national groupings. So we show films everyday — sometimes two a day - at 4:00 to 7:00 in a large film auditorium on the campus (seating 500). Students in the course are given film passes to let them in. Other students must contribute a donation to defer other expenses ofthe course. The films are shown once, preceded by a short introduction, and sometimes followed by a discussion in special cases (see film list). But the discussion ofthe films are kept to the lectures ~ where certain films are discussed in detail — and the students run discussion sections. The discussion section (30 in number) is the third aspect ofthe course. They are led by the 20 to 25 students who participated in the film seminars first semester. These students are given a credit for the teaching. There are weekly meetings ofall discussion leaders with the lectures and all problems with the course are discussed at these seminars. The sections (average...