Theory On Film

Summer 2009. IDS 3300-101: Seminar I
LLA 223, MTWR 10:20-12:20

slavoj zizek

jacques lacan

judith butler

jacques derrida

slavoj zizek

Dr. Derek Stanovsky

Office: LLA 125 Office Phone: 262-2441
Office Hours: TBA
E-mail: stanovskydj@appstate.edu
Home page: www.appstate.edu/~stanovskyd

Course Description:

This course offers an introduction to contemporary poststructuralist theory through film. The principle texts for the class will be feature-length documentary films on some major theorists. Along the way, we will be reading and writing about the films and discussing the ways in which these theories have been translated into the medium of film. We will also read a little theory too. In addition to writing and talking about these films, you will also be asked to produce and present your own YouTube video about theory on film. There are no prerequisites. S/CD


Course Requirements:

The most important requirements for this course are regular class attendance, preparation, and participation. Keeping this in mind, the formal grading requirements are:

Class Participation & Presentations: 25%
Two Film Reviews: 25% each
Final YouTube Video Presentation: 25%

The class participation and presentation portion of your grade will be based on regular class attendance and participation as well as on your in-class presentation of your critical film reviews. One absence is allowed during the semester. Each additional absence will lower your class participation grade by one letter grade. More than four absences and/or failure to complete any of the graded assignments detailed below are grounds for failing the course.

You will write two reviews of films from this class. These will be substantive, critical reviews dealing with the form and content of the film and theorist in question. Late papers will be docked one-third of a letter grade for each day late.

There will be a final project and presentation consisting of a screening and discussion of your own original short (5-10 minute) YouTube video on Theory on Film.

With regard to papers and all other assignments for this course, you are expected to know and follow the current ASU code of academic integrity.

Course Schedule:

T 7/7 Introductions: Me. You. Zizek.
W 7/8 The Zizek Effect. Zizek! (video in class).
R 7/9 'You May!' and Resistance Is Surrender. Zizek@Google (video in class).
M 7/13 Class in the Belk Library Digital Media Studio, 355.
T 7/14 Jacques Lacan Speaks (video in class).
W 7/15 "The agency of the letter in the unconscious." "The Mirror Stage." Lacan in 1 Minute & Lacan Hour: Part 2 (videos in class).
R 7/16 Class in the Belk Library Digital Media Studio, 355.
M 7/20 First Film Review Due. Class discussion and presentations. Judith Butler: Philosophical Encounters of the Third Kind (video in class).
T 7/21 "Gender Trouble." Interview. (HW Vids: Diego, Alex)
W 7/22 Review. Obituary. Derrida (video in class).
R 7/23 Eagleton, "Post-Structuralism" (127-34). Différance.
M 7/27 Second Film Review Due. Class discussion and presentations. Pervert's Guide to Cinema, Part I (video in class).
T 7/28 Part II; Children of Men; 300.
W 7/29 Part III; Q&A with Director.
R 7/30 Class in the Belk Library Digital Media Studio, 355 at Noon.
M 8/3 Video Work.
T 8/4 Video Work.
W 8/5 Video Work.
R 8/6 Final YouTube Video Presentations: Diego. Alex.

First Film Review: Write a 300-600 word essay on one of the following topics:

  1. Zizek writes: "‘The superficial opposition between pleasure and duty is overcome in two different ways. Totalitarian power goes even further than traditional authoritarian power. What it says, in effect, is not, Do your duty, I don’t care whether you like it or not,’ but: ‘You must do your duty, and you must enjoy doing it.’ (This is how totalitarian democracy works: it is not enough for the people to follow their leader, they must love him.) Duty becomes pleasure." How might this insight apply to the two very different documentaries on Zizek and Lacan? Do Zizek's writings and public performances correspond to the requirement that we enjoy our theory, while Lacan presents a more traditional authoritarian approach, or not? Explain and give an argument for your view using specific examples from the films in support of your argument.
  2. What is Real in these documentaries? Explain and use Lacan’s notions of the Real, the Imaginary, and the Symbolic to discuss how these documentaries either capture, or fail to capture, the reality of these two theorists. Explain and give an argument for your view using examples from the films.
  3. Choose a topic of your own dealing with either or both of the documentaries on Zizek and Lacan. However, you must talk with your professor about your topic before you begin writing.

Second Film Review: Write a 400-700 word essay on one of the following topics:

  1. Discuss Judith Butler's notions of "subversive repetition" and "performativity" in her interview in the context of the Cindy Sherman exhibit shown in the documentary. What parallels can you draw from this discussion with the situation of documentary film making more generally. Explain and give an argument for your view.
  2. How might Derrida's notion of différance be used to discuss film? What differences make a difference in the language of film and how might these be different from those in spoken and written language? Explain and give an argument for your view using examples from the Derrida documentary in support of your argument.
  3. Choose a topic of your own dealing with either or both of the documentaries on Butler and Derrida. However, you must talk with your professor about your topic before you begin writing.

Final YouTube Project:

You will create and post a short YouTube video (5-10 minutes) and present it to the class for discussion. Your topic is: "The Language of Film." You will make use of one of the theorists discussed this semester in a short, creative and informative video. Your video should have a thesis dealing with the relationship between that theory and the language of film. Your video should provide an argument for that thesis through the creative use of visual, spoken, and written texts.