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Assignments

All assignments are due on time; I accept no late essays or late quizzes. Please note that without an officially documented medical emergency, there will be no make-up exams or incompletes. To obtain this document in an alternative format and request accommodations, please contact the Disability Services Coordinator, 770-961-3719, disabilityservices@mail.clayton.edu 

Completion and submission of all assignments are your own responsibility. Your active participation and willingness to keep pace with all assignments are essential to your success in the course.

Attendance (5%) & Participation (10%) (15%)

Attendance and Participation are mandatory. See the Grades page for details.

Quizzes (20%)

We will have short weekly quizzes on your readings and films throughout the semester. These quizzes may consist of clip-analysis, multiple choice, and/or short answer questions. No blue books are needed, but always bring two pens and two pencils.

Exams (40%)

There are no formal written papers for this course, but we will have four exams--one at the end of each section. Please note three important rules about online tests:

Final Exam (15%)

Our comprehensive final exam may consist of clip-analysis, multiple choice, ture/false, matching, short answer, and/or essay questions.

Graduate Film Analysis Paper

Graduate papers require original thought and critical thinking—not a compilation of someone else’s ideas. So for our class, you will perform in an 8-10 page paper your own "close reading" analysis of a single film, demonstrating your mastery of the critical skills and concepts you are learning in this course. The paper is due at the beginning of class on the date indicated on the Schedule.

For examples of how to write film analyses, examine the sample analyses in your textbooks and in Timothy Corrigan's book, A Short Guide to Writing About Film. See my Comments Guide for a key to understanding my comments on your papers and for suggestions on how to write your very best work.

How to Complete the Assignment in Three Steps

STEP ONE: Select your film to analyze

You may propose a film, or I can help you select a film based on your proposed topic. This film should be made by African Americans or, at the very least, it should be about African Americans. You should not need to watch the film you analyze more than 4 or 5 times. I recommend that you begin watching as soon as possible familiarize yourself with the film(s).

STEP TWO: Analyze and take notes
on the following characteristics of your selected film

1) Form and Meaning

    a) Take notes on major motifs, parallels, repetitions and variations in the film--those structuring devices that occur in terms of plot and character. What outstanding motifs and parallels emerge? What traits do the characters have? How does the film encourage us to feel about and understand them?

    b) Having noted these, you should come to some interpretation of what the film is about, paying attention to its explicit, implicit, and symptomatic meanings.


2) Narrative and Narration (for your benefit only)

    a) Characterize the range and depth of narration as the film progresses, noting whether the film's narration is generally restricted or omniscient, objective or subjective. Be sure to note when exceptions to the prevailing modes of narration occur and why they're significant.

    b) Segment the film into sections. What are the major unified blocks of action in each film? (Fade-outs and fade-ins will typically punctuate each block of action, though films sometimes use other transitional edits such as cuts, wipes, or dissolves here.) What events transpire in each block, and what new information do we obtain about each character? What kinds of manipulations do you find in the relations between plot and story?
    Note: The information from this segmentation is to help you only; it should not figure prominently in your written analysis. As always, be careful to avoid plot summary in your paper.


3) Film Techniques
Analyze the film techniques of mise-en-scène, camerawork, editing, and sound that best exemplify your paper's thesis.

    a) Assume that the film you analyze is aesthetically unified and coherent. That is, assume that all the individual elements in the film are there for a reason & that they logically contribute both to the structures and to the implicit meaning you find in the film.

    b) Note in detail how the filmmakers' technical choices express & support your implicit meaning and theoretical interpretations.

STEP THREE: Theorize the Film

1) Select at least one reading from our class that best informs the thesis for your paper. You do not need to include every one of the selected author's arguments in your paper, but you must refer to at least one significant aspect of the article as it informs your argument. For example, if Amiri Baraka's critque of Spike Lee relates significantly to your assigned readings above and to your own arguments about your film but his other analyses do not, then you do not need to discuss them all--just what's releant. But be careful not to select so specifically from the article that you misrepresent arguments as something other than what the author said. For examples of how to walk this line, note how all of our assigned authors this semester have successfully balanced this art of citation and analysis. Build from there, but again, be sure it's relevant to your argument. Never quote without reason. I am happy to answer questions about additional readings that you propose if you'd like.

2) Select through your own research at least one interview with the director of your film and at least one scholarly article written by or about the director of your film or, if no article on the director exists, about the film itself. You are looking for a discussion of the filmmaker's style, thematic and/or technical choices, approaches to filmmaking, approaches to film history, etc.--NOT a promotional advertisement for the film or gossip about the film's stars and crew. Thus, this interview/writing must be chosen from a scholarly, professional journal (e.g., Film Quarterly, Journal of Film and Video, Howard Journal of Communication, etc.). It may NOT be from more popular sources (e.g., Variety, Premiere, Ebony, People, etc.), but in some cases substantive interviews in "borderline" periodicals such as Film Comment, The Village Voice, Salon and other selected online journals, etc. may qualify. If you are unsure whether your journal qualifies as a scholarly periodical or your interview as a substantive text, be sure to check with a librarian or with me before you write your paper.

This reading will help you make a more informed argument about the director's film; you may wish to quote it to support your analysis of the film, to argue for or against the director's theories of filmmaking, etc. Be judicious with your quotations, though; excessive, lengthy quotations will preempt your own analysis, which is what this paper is about.

To conduct this research, you should start by checking online search engines such as GALILEO, The Film Literature Index (only current through 2001 online, but the printed volumes in libraries are current), the MLA database (via GALILEO), FIAF, etc. You may find full texts of these articles online, but don't count on it; be sure to allow time to actually go to a library for your research. (Emory's Woodruff Library is the best around and Georgia University System students may use it, but you will need an ARCHE card from our library before you go.)

4) Analyze and theorize your film in light of these readings.

STEP FOUR: Organize and write your essay

This is a formal paper. You should clearly organize and write your paper within your 8-10 page limit, following these guidelines:

1) Introduction: State a thesis that offers your interpretation of the film's implicit meaning and briefly assert how the film's formal, theoretical, historial, and/or stylistic components contribute to and shape that meaning. Be very clear about your argument/thesis and how you will support it with the theoretical and interview readings you have studied above. Your paper's title should reflect your theme; feel free to be clever or witty with your title.

2) The Body of the Paper: Discuss your interpretation of the film in light of the theoretical research you have conducted. Always be sure that your examples selected from the film clearly support your arguments.

3) Conclusion: Conclude your arguments, perhaps with an eye toward future research that could be conducted in this area. Do not simply rephrase the introduction, since that is not a conclusion.

    Cautions and requirements for this section of your paper:

    a) Your primary task in this assignment is to demonstrate your knowledge of African American film and your sensitivity to visual and aural techniques as they relate to the film's overall form and meaning. You must demonstrate your mastery of the material by thoroughly employing the terms we've learned in relation to the body of work we have studied. The film is your primary text; the readings should inform your thoughts about the film, but they should not be the endpoint of your paper. This is your theoretical/critical research paper, not a report about what others think of the film. You should use your own brain to think about the film and the readings; start by considering whether you agree or disagree with their arguments as they relate to the film, and proceed from there. Then formulate your own thoughts and interpretations for the film, and write about them.

    b) NO PLOT SUMMARY is necessary for this assignment. Get right to your analysis, theories, and interpretation of the film, referring to plot elements only to illustrate and/or situate your examples within the film.

    c) Do not catalogue all of the techniques and theoretical points that you noted as you watched the film. Discuss ONLY those techniques and theories that are outstanding and that contribute significantly to the meaning of the film. For example, if a given element is apparent in your film but it does not relate to your primary thesis, do not include it. (Be sure that those given elements aren't so prevalent that they undermine your arguments, of course.)

3) Conclusion. Use your final paragraph(s) to bring to a close your analysis of the film's outstanding stylistic systems and theoretical points. However, do not simply repeat your introduction. Rather, restate your thesis in a conclusive (as opposed to introductory) manner and discuss its broader implications--including any symptomatic meaning(s) you find to be significant--while summarizing the theoretical and stylistic evidence you have marshaled in support of your arguments.

Suggestions and requirements for this assignment

* Get to work on this assignment as soon as you can. Watching a film 4-5 times at the last minute will not yield as productive a film analysis nor, consequently, as high a grade.

* Draft an outline of your paper within the week that you first watch the film. (It's due the next week.) It should include your interpretation of the film's implicit meaning(s) and theories, the outstanding techniques you plan to emphasize, and the specific examples you will use to advance your argument. Don't worry about precision now; you can amend as you go.

* You are responsible for knowing and correctly phrasing the cast and crew names. For example: "Lisa (Grace Kelly) and Jeff (James Stewart) investigate..." These include the characters' names, the actors who play them, and the major creative talents involved in the film. This information is available in the credits of the film, at www.imdb.com, in my online comments guide, and in your textbooks: FA, VG, and SGWF. 

* Submit this assignment on paper and via email attachment. Be sure to number all pages, and to follow the course policies for format (12-point font, 1" margin, double-spaced, stapled, extra credit for double-sided papers, etc.). Do not artificially shrink your paper length via font size, margins, etc.; you will lose points for page overages if you do.

* Write in active voice. Avoid passive voice and awkward constructions such as "we see," "we get," "this is done to show," etc. by using those terms! You must demonstrate your comprehension of and fluency with our terminology. For suggestions and correct phrasing, be sure to re-read both guides to writing about film and the online comments guide.

* I strongly encourage you to take a rough draft of your paper to The Center for Academic Assistance in the Library, particularly if your journal entries frequently earned comments of "PV," "AWK," or other grammatical and organizational errors. The CAA will help you write a more coherent, clear, and concise essay--really.

* A detailed proposal (outline + the thesis paragraph) for your paper is due toward the end of term, and your final paper is due by the date on the Schedule. If you would like to discuss your paper in person *after* you have read through my returned comments, please feel free to make an appointment with me for office hours.