WiSe 16/17: “Gendering Genre”: Constructions of Gender in American Genre Cinema
Throughout the history of American cinema, genre films constitute an integral part of popular commercial cinema. Westerns, comedies, musicals and gangster films, horror films and melodramas – to name ... read more
Throughout the history of American cinema, genre films constitute an integral part of popular commercial cinema. Westerns, comedies, musicals and gangster films, horror films and melodramas – to name some of Hollywood's major film genres – were staples of film production and favorites with the audience. During the time of the Hollywood Studio System, from the 1930s to 1950s, genre films, with their formulaic narratives and recurrent visual motifs, were ideally suited to Hollywood’s quasi-industrial, mass-production model of filmmaking, and thus formed the cornerstone of film American production. Genres serve as descriptive labels with which producers advertise to the audience which pleasures can be expected from a certain film, and spectators take pleasure in the repetition and variation of familiar stories, and in having their expectations shaped, satisfied or challenged by the individual film’s use of the genre’s conventions. Scholars of American popular culture use categories of genre to describe recurrent patterns and identify the basic mythological structure with which they articulate and theatricalize central cultural conflicts. Genre analysis investigates conventions and social functions, and how they evolve over time, and also constitutes a framework for the consideration of economic and historical contexts.
The seminar aims to provide an introduction to major American film genres, genre theory and different approaches in genre analysis. Watching and analyzing films and reading texts in theory and analysis, we will get to know different film genres and their characteristic narrative patterns and iconography, and investigate how they reflect changing social and cultural values, and how they evolve formally and aesthetically. Special attention will be paid to genre cinema's representations of gender: on genre-specific representations of masculinity and femininity, as well as gender-specific genre aesthetics and narrative patterns. Reading genre films as cultural texts articulating and negotiating central cultural conflicts and values, among them social regulations of gender and sexual relations, we will investigate some of their typical and untypical images of masculinity and femininity, and how they represent, negotiate and challenge cultural and social gender roles. The seminar provides an introduction to American film history, film analysis and genre theory, as well as to the study of gender in American popular cinema. ----------
Course requirements: Preparation of reading assignments, viewing the assigned films, participation in an expert group, oral presentation, and a term paper. The course will be held in English. close