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FILM 4320: Women & Film

Instructor: Dr. Virginia Bonner

vbonner@clayton.edu :-)
678-466-4713 :-\

Web Address:


Office hours: By email, phone, Teams, & in person in Music 105
Fall 2024
3-0-3 credit hours
FILM 2100 and ENGL 1102 with a C or higher
Lectures: CRN 82510 TR 11:15am-12:30pm in UC 272


On your own on Streaming, DVD, and Library Reserve

Course Objectives

Welcome to Women and Film! In this course, we will explore the role of women in the cinema as on-screen representations, spectators, and filmmakers. We will also survey some of the most influential writings in the field of feminist film theory. The course will approach these various representations of women in film in several distinct but interrelated phases.

The first, introductory section of the course will explore depictions of women and gender norms in mainstream films from the "Golden Age" of Hollywood Cinema (1930s-1950s), such as those directed by Alfred Hitchcock, Dorothy Arzner, and Howard Hawks. During this portion of the class, we will begin to map a variety of theoretical arguments about topics such as audience spectatorship, the interplay of desire and identification, and the construction of sexual difference. The films during this section will serve as a testing ground for the theories we're learning.

The second section of the course will shift radically in tone to study selected representations of women as reconsidered by international feminist female filmmakers like Michele Citron, Trinh Minh-ha, Marzieh Meshkini, Tracey Moffatt, and others. These films will be more recent (1970s-2000s) and will draw from more independent, experimental works. During this portion of the class, the films will serve as our primary texts of analysis, with supplemental readings.

In the third, fourth, and fifth sections, we will closely analyze various mainstream and independent films in light of the previous two course sections. These films will range from the 1960s through today, by directors as varied as Jane Campion, Deepa Mehta, Cheryl Dunye, Gina Prince-Bythewood, Agnès Varda, Céline Sciamma, and others.

Course Format

We will watch one or more films per week, since these films are really the heart of our course. Generally we'll first have an introductory lecture and/or discussion of the readings, which will be followed by a film screened on your own. Then we'll discuss the film in light of the assigned readings. Readings throughout the semester will include historical texts, theoretical criticism, and director interviews. There is no term paper or writing except for exam essay questions, but you will be responsible for thoughtful discussion responses to our weekly films and readings. Graduate students will also complete a formal term paper. Excellent writing skills and thorough command of the film terminology you learned in FILM 2100 are expected in all of your writing.

Always arrive five minutes early to class lectures, not only because we will start promptly but also because late arrivals are extremely disruptive. If you must arrive late, always use the back door to enter the room quietly and then sit quietly on the aisle; do not step over people to get to a favorite seat, since this blocks the view of the screen for others. Do not text, eat loud foods, sleep, answer cell phones, operate computers, check email, work on other projects, talk with classmates, or leave the room for food or other non-emergencies during class lectures; these are a time for serious study of our film texts so you should be taking copious notes to prepare for your quizzes, class discussions, and exams. You may wish to bring a penlight to classes to help you take notes in the dark. Anyone behaving disruptively during class will be asked to leave.

Film Screenings

Please note that the film screenings are mandatory, as this material will be the subject matter of our weekly quizzes and our exams. If you do not plan to view the films, you should take the course another time when you can devote the time necessary to succeed. We will view additional excerpts from selected films during class lectures.

You do not need to purchase these films. Most of our assigned films are available for free via streaming hyperlinks posted on D2L, and most are also on DVD reserve in the CSU library. Note that some of our films are rare feminist films that have limited distribution, and are therefore not available streaming; these titles are only available via DVD rental and a few are only available via DVD Library Reserve. Unless our syllabus indicates otherwise, do NOT watch our films via YouTube segments or other streaming websites; the poor video and audio quality makes this is a terrible way to study movies!

Note: Many of the films in this series contain violence, profanity, drug usage, and/or frank sexual content. These films are intended for mature audiences and are not suitable for children under 17 who are unaccompanied by an adult. If you are disturbed by R-rated and unrated film content, you should take another elective course.

Required Texts (Available at the campus bookstore or Amazon.com)

1.    Thornham, Sue, ed. Feminist Film Theory: A Reader, NY University Press, 1999. ISBN: 0814782442 (FFT)
Also available in online format from CSU library at https://ebookcentral.proquest.com/lib/claytonstate/detail.action?docID=6141753

2.    Women and Film Coursepack Reader, edited by Virginia Bonner (CPK)

3.    Readings online via PDF

Optional Texts

1.    Kaplan, E. Ann, ed. Feminism & Film. Oxford UP, 2000. ISBN: 0198782349 (F&F)

2.    Bordwell, David and Kristin Thompson. Film Art: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill. (FA)

Course textbooks & most films are available on reserve the library.

Disability Services

Disability Services Statement:  Individuals with disabilities who need to request accommodations should contact the Disability Resource Center, Edgewater Hall, Suite 255; 678-466-5445; DisabilityResourceCenter@clayton.edu

Note: If you have added this course during the schedule change period and/or were not present for the syllabus review the first day of class, you are required to meet with me the following week to review course requirements and policies.