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Undergraduate English Courses

354:360 Film Noir

01  TTH6  CAC  14141  FLITTERMAN-LEWIS  MU-301
      TH 7,8                FILM SCREENING        MU-301

Film Noir
This course will consider the film noir- the hard-boiled detective thriller- in terms of gender, power, and sexuality. Whether it is seen as a genre (with a specific set of conventions regarding iconography, character types, plot motifs, and narrative organization) or a cycle of films (marked by a distinctive nocturnal visual style and a thematics of chaos and cynicism amplified by dramatic texutal effects), the single defining constant in the film noir is the female character, the femme fatale. The noir woman is encoded as threatening, dangerous and even deadly to the hero, no matter what specific action is developed in the narrative. Whether this takes the form of external social menace through murder and deceit, or psychological terror in which her very presence is threatening to the male, the femme fatale is primarily defined by her desireable but dangerous sexuality. Obviously, this suggests definitions of masculinity as well, and makes what is traditionally considered a "masculine" genre a privileged site for the examination of complex gender relations. We will view such classic film noirs as Double Indemnity, Gilda, The Maltese Falcon, Mildred Pierce, and Lady from Shanghai (among others) from the triple perspective of relations of gender, power and sexuality.
Attendance at both lectures and weekly screenings is required; a midterm, a final, and a term paper.