ENGL329D - Special Topics in Film Studies: Early Cinema

This course will introduce students to the study of early cinema, beginning with the various nineteenth-century antecedents to motion pictures (the illustrated lecture, chronophotography, stage magic, etc.), continuing into the period of novelty that characterized cinema’s first decade (1890-1900), and concluding with the stylistic and industrial transformations of the medium that took place before the feature-length film became predominant in the mid-1910s. The course will provide an overview of key debates in the historiography of early cinema (intertextuality, attractions/narrative integration, fiction/nonfiction). We also will consider the “afterlives” of early cinema, which range from the appropriation of this period by various avant-gardes, from Surrealism to the present. A final question that will occupy us is what early cinema has to tell us about contemporary examples of media emergence; in other words, what are the (dis)continuities between early cinema and digital media?


Two lower-level English courses, at least one in literature; or permission of department