Teaching in the 21st Century: Adapting Writing Pedagogies to the College Curriculum

By Alice Robertson; Barbara Smith | Go to book overview

family through the decades; women's studies could view film representations of women; religious studies could view films as they represent beliefs and changing beliefs; psychology could study films for Freud's impact on this century; political science could study films for the evolution of political beliefs and the impact of political beliefs in certain eras—to provide just a few suggestions. The instructor, armed with a film encyclopedia, can introduce an element that he or she may have been unsure how to introduce: encountering and negotiating with a popular medium which has shaped ideas and beliefs.

Undoubtedly, there is much yet to be said about, written about, and experimented with in the teaching of film, and teaching with film. I have only made that proverbial scratch on the surface. But this scratch is an important one. Teaching with film has often been confined to the literature department as though it is a hothouse plant. Bringing it out into the curriculum liberates a powerful medium which, for better and worse, has helped shape our sociopolitical identities, beliefs, and ideals. In composition classes, and in many other classes, in which underprepared students will be increasingly challenged to question and defy hegemonic discourses, commercial film is an ideal text.


NOTES
1
The table of contents of J.M.L. Peters' Teaching about Film (1961) clearly indicates how film study adopted literary terms: “Understanding Film Language, ” “Critical Assimilation of Film Content.” James Monaco's How to Read A Film (1977), wide-ranging and thought-provoking, also considers the film as a literary object, revealed by such chapters as “The Language of Film: Signs and Syntax” and “Film Theory: Form and Function.” Writing About Literature, by Margaret B. Bryan and Boyd H. Davis (1975), devotes only one section of the work to film study. The authors stress the difference between film and literature, but direct students to analyze the setting, the events, the shooting and editing, and the characters. Timothy Corrigan's A Short Guide to Writing About Film (1989) remarks upon “enthusiastic students” who then write “confused and disappointing papers” (ix). But his directions of writing essays about films encourage students to read a film by analyzing narratives, character, point of view, and mise-en-scène. In later chapters, he also suggests studying history of film and its genres, as well as applying theories of formalism.
2
Erika Lindemann, A Rhetoric for Writing Teachers, 3rd ed. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1982), 95.

-27-

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