ENGL468A - Power, Masculinity, and Authorship in the Gangster Film

This course examines the genre of the gangster film, with particular attention to the way these narratives of crime, ambition, ethnic belonging, male identity, and urban modernity relate to questions of censorship and regulation of film violence.  We will survey the different periods in the development of the genre, beginning with silent films about urban crime, ranging through the 1930s films about Prohibition and crime that define the genre and the “new Hollywood” films of the 1970s that revise and rework the classic gangster paradigms, and ending with some recent efforts to update the genre.  Topics to be addressed include the relationship between the gangster film and the Production Code; the treatment of gender roles in the genre; the genre as a meditation on capitalism and its limits.  Films to be discussed include Scarface, Little Caesar, Public Enemy, Marked Woman, Angels with Dirty Faces, White Heat, Bonnie and Clyde, The Godfather, The Godfather, Part II, Goodfellas, New Jack City, The Town, Gomorra.  Format: discussion; weekly film viewing done independently. Textbook: The Gangster Film Reader, eds. Alain Silver and James Ursini.  Requirements: viewing journal, class presentation, short paper, research paper, final exam.

Please note: students taking this class should be familiar with the basic vocabulary of film analysis; students without that background should not enroll.


One English course in literature and one college-level film course, or permission of the department.