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Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 1

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Janice Hladki


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 405

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23942

Office Hours: Thursdays 11:00-1:00 or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This course gives attention to the explosion of work by artists who produce film and video art outside of dominant institutions. “Alternative” refers to cultural work that engages critically with questions about social and cultural relations and provides alternatives to market-driven developments in contemporary media. The focus is on cultural production in the Canadian context.

A rich range of visual work is screened and discussed. We will examine the strategies that the artists use to invite spectators into their work and the ways that alternative film and video are situated in broader media contexts. We will consider how the films and videos are sites and practices where identities are asserted, contested, and negotiated. We will look at how filmmakers and videographers, who have developed film and video art in Canada, pursue autobiographical investigations; interrogate commercial developments; experiment with documentary approaches; develop video and short film techniques; and examine social relations of gender, race, sexuality, class, and disability. The material raises questions about such issues as belonging, the body and body-image norms, memory, nation, the environment, Indigenous representation, local/global relations, and cultural colonialism.

Through an introduction to the films and videos of several important contemporary working artists, we will consider how these cultural producers re-imagine authoritative perspectives of form and content. We will examine readings that explore a history of thought about alternative film and video art.


Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Theatre & Film 3N03/ CMST 3UU3 courseware pack

Method of Assessment:

Assignments and Evaluations:

Participation: Attendance                        10%

In-class Test # 1                                      25%  (Week 5: Tuesday, Oct 7)

In-class Test # 2                                      25%  (Week 9: Tuesday, Nov 4)

Response Paper                                     5%    (Submitted in class, Week 11, Tuesday, Nov 18)

Final Exam                                              35%  (scheduled by the Registrar’s Office)

Please note: You will receive feedback on the test to meet the University regulations (10% of grades by Fri Nov 7).

Missed or Late Assignments; Extensions:

Students are expected to hand in all assignments on time. Extensions or other accommodations will be determined by the instructor and will only be considered if supported by appropriate documentation. Please note that late penalties will not be waived except in exceptional circumstances and on an individual basis. In accordance with University regulations, documentation is required for circumstances of health or emergency. Computer or printer problems, conflicting due dates, and a busy schedule are not considered suitable reasons for extensions.

**Please refer to the protocols regarding “Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work” (

If you use the McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF) on-line, self-reporting tool for minor medical situations lasting up to 5 days, you may request relief for missed academic work worth less than 30% of the final grade. You may submit a maximum of one Academic Work Missed request per term. *Contact me immediately after completing the form. Please note that the academic regulation states: “it is the prerogative of the instructor of the course to determine the appropriate relief for missed term work in his/her course.” Please note that grade percentages cannot be transferred onto one of the other course requirements.

If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office (Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation.

**In all cases, it is YOUR responsibility to follow up with the instructor immediately to see if an extension or other accommodation will be granted, and what form it will take. There are NO automatic extensions or accommodations.

In-Class Tests #1 and #2: If you miss a test, it cannot be made up without official documentation for your absence. For each of the tests, I will schedule ONE time for a make-up test. If you do not attend at that time, then I will determine another assignment (e.g. a short essay) worth the same amount.

Response Paper:

-I will accept papers in person only, in class, in hard copy format. Do not slip an essay under my door. Please be advised that I cannot accept assignments submitted via email.

-A paper is considered late if it is not handed directly to the course instructor in the scheduled class.

-Papers should not be handed into either the School of the Arts or Communication Studies and Multimedia offices.

-Please contact me if you are submitting a late paper.

-Students are advised to budget enough time to accommodate for unforeseen last-minute difficulties such as computer or printer failure. *Since computer problems are not considered suitable reasons for extensions, I strongly advise you to save your work regularly and to back-up all versions of your response paper. Email yourself a copy of the file.

-Late papers will be penalized 1% per day or part day, seven days a week to a maximum of two weeks, in order to be fair to those students who submit their work according to the set deadlines. The response paper is due on Week 11, Nov 18. No paper will be accepted after the last class, Week 13, Dec 2, and a grade of zero will be assigned.

-Ensure that you keep copies of all submitted work. If the paper is lost, you are responsible for providing a copy.

Note-Taking and Critical Analysis:

Take notes on your readings, the lectures, screenings of the films and videos, and post-screening discussions. Keep a record of your critical understandings. This record will assist you with assignments and with participation in class discussions. The establishment of note-taking practices and a written vocabulary of your understandings will contribute to the development of critical analysis skills.

Participation (10%):

This course includes experimental cultural work. It is important for the classroom to be a space of openness to the material studied and one of mutual respect regarding different points of view.

Participation in the class process is one of the indicators of your academic performance and potential demonstration of understanding the course material. It is also a practice of collaboration with your peers, as we discuss questions, ideas, and analyses. The expectations regarding participation include: regular attendance, viewing and reading the assigned materials, contributing to class discussion, respectful listening, and engaging with others’ comments to further our understandings of the materials and thematics.

1) Weekly Discussion

This activity is not graded. However, each week, you will be asked to respond to the material screened with the intent to discuss and analyze. You will participate individually and/or in groups. Students are encouraged to participate in order to clarify ideas and to become comfortable in developing points of view.

2) Attendance (10%)

For 10 weeks of the course (Weeks 2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12), I will take a record of your attendance. Week 5 will not be counted on the day of the In-Class Test #1. An attendance/sign-in sheet will be passed around towards the end of class. Each of the 10 weeks is graded at 1 mark for a total of 10 marks.

In-Class Test #1 (25%) Wk 5, Tues Oct 7:

The test is written in class, and it is 60 min long. It consists of short answers in point form that involve interpretation and understanding about the films and videos screened – in relation to course ideas as presented in lectures and readings. Further details will be discussed in class, prior to the test.

In-Class Test #2 (25%) Wk 9, Tues Nov 4:

The test is written in class, and it is 60 min long. It consists of short essay answers that involve interpretation and understanding about the readings and the films/videos – in relation to course ideas. Further details will be discussed in class, prior to the test.

Response Paper (5%) DUE Wk 11, Tues Nov 18:


Length: 1 page minimum. 2 pages maximum. (double spaced).

Avoid writing more or less than the required length.

Simply write your name, student number, and course code on one line at the top of the page.

Use 12pt Times New Roman font.

Use regular margins (no more or less than 1 inch).


If you complete this assignment on the due date and do so according to the form, noted above, and the focus required, as stated below, you will automatically receive the 5%. Unless you do not follow the requirements, you will not receive extensive commentary on this assignment. Completion of the response paper according to the requirements demonstrates your thoughtful engagement with the video art work and a commitment to explore and examine the material in the course.


You are to submit a discussion/analysis of ONE of the three video art works in the exhibition This is Me. This is Also Me, at the McMaster Museum of Art. When you view the videos, keep a record of your ideas to assist you in the development of your response paper. You will need to view all three videos, and then you can select which ONE work you wish to discuss. You are to demonstrate a thoughtful engagement with the work by analyzing how it engages meanings that are significant in relation to course ideas/issues/problematics. The paper is neither a summary of the visual text nor a description of why you “like” or “dislike” the work. The assignment is a scholarly paper that provides a sustained discussion of the video art work in relation to course ideas.

This is a short paper, so I strongly advise you to focus closely on a particular idea/issue/problematic. You cannot address everything there is to say about the artist’s work. Be selective and keep to the point. Review your paper to edit out tangential and/or irrelevant material. 

You are not required to refer to literature for this paper, but you can do so if you wish. If you choose to reference a reading (or another film/video), you will need to provide a reference list at the end of the paper. The reference list includes only those secondary sources cited in the paper and not materials you may have read to develop your thinking. With respect to documentation, I do not have a particular requirement. That is, you may use Chicago, MLA, or APA, etc.: Use whichever style guide is most familiar to you and that enables you to focus on the substance of your paper. Nevertheless, your paper needs to be consistent with regard to the citation and reference practices, and you need to acknowledge all sources. Make sure that you provide a reference notation according to scholarly citation practices whenever you use an author’s idea, whether you use that idea by directly quoting or by paraphrasing. When paraphrasing, you must re-write the author’s idea in completely different language. Please see the following website for information on how to avoid plagiarism:


You will need approximately 30-40 min to view the three works *between Fri Nov 7 (after the exhibition has opened) and Tues Nov 18 (when the paper is due). The Museum of Art is located beside Mills library. The Museum hours are: Tues/Wed/Fri 1:00-5:00; Thurs 11:00-7:00; Sat 12:00-5:00.

The three works you will view are: 

sum of the parts: what can be named. By Deanna Bowen. (2010; 18 min)

Dance to Miss Chief. By Kent Monkman. (2010; 4:49 min.)

The Nightingale. By Grace Ndiritu. (2004; 7 min)


Please see the commentary above under “Academic Dishonesty Statement” and note the following website for information on how to avoid plagiarism:

*Please be advised that I cannot accept papers via email.

*Please retain a copy of your submitted paper.

Consultation About Assignments:

If you have questions about the assessment of an assignment and you would like to discuss how to do better in future work, you may consult with me (or the teaching assistant) after the tests or response paper has been returned to you. For such consultation, you need to come prepared as follows: 1) reread your assignment taking note of the feedback and 2) bring written notes to the meeting about what in particular you would like to discuss and further understand. With these practices, you develop abilities to better evaluate your own work and to better understand how to make improvements for future projects in your University studies and/or in employment contexts.

Final Exam (35%):

You will be asked to discuss some of the key ideas in the course. Further details will noted in class, closer to the exam. Please note that exams are scheduled by the Registrar’s Office during the exam period and that the schedule cannot be changed.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

This is a self-reporting tool for undergraduate students to report absences DUE TO MINOR MEDICAL SITUATIONS that last up to 5 days and provides the ability to request accommodation for any missed academic work. Please note, this tool cannot be used during any final examination period. You may submit a maximum of 1 Academic Work Missed request per term. It is YOUR responsibility to follow up with your Instructor immediately (NORMALLY WITHIN TWO WORKING DAYS) regarding the nature of the accommodation. If you are absent for reasons other than medical reasons, for more than 5 days, or exceed 1 request per term, you MUST visit your Associate Dean's Office/Faculty Office). You may be required to provide supporting documentation. This form should be filled out immediately when you are about to return to class after your absence.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Week 1: Tues Sept 9.  Course Introduction

Week 2: Tues Sept 16.  Video Art

Week 3: Tues Sept 23.  Cultural Critique in Short Film and Video

Week 4: Tues Sept 30.  Revisionings

Week 5: Tues Oct 7.


 (No Lecture)

Week 6: Tues Oct 14.  Bodies at Risk

Week 7: Tues Oct 21.  Explorations of Memory

Week 8: Tues Oct 28.  Embodied Knowledges

Week 9: Tues Nov 4. 


DISCUSSION OF WRITING RESPONSE DUE WEEK 11, NOV 18. (Including lecture on the material you will be writing about.)

Week 10: Tues Nov 11.  Independent Documentary Feature

Week 11: Tues Nov 18.  Excerpts From Fierce Exhibition

Week 12: Tues Nov 25.  Indigenous Representation and Questions of Identity


Week 13:  Tues Dec 2.  Concluding

Other Course Information:


Tuesdays, during class time. *The films are central to the course, and it is expected that all students will attend the in-class screenings.

Films are housed at the Library Services desk, Mills Memorial Library, and may be borrowed for review and assignment preparation: regular loans are 48 hours for students (films cannot be renewed); films on Course Reserve are 4-hour loans. DVDs can be played on most personal laptops and any iMac computer in the Library (Learning Commons and the 2nd floor). VHS can be played on the TV systems on the 4th floor lobby. These computers and TVs are open access, i.e., first-come first-serve. Students may also book a room in Lyons (L-416) for VHS and DVD using the on-line booking form on the Lyons' home page, If you have any questions about access to the films, please direct them to the staff at the Library Services desk.


Students with disabilities receive accommodations to assist them in their course work, including for example, assistance with note-taking, assignments, and tests and exams. Please contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS), for advice and for arranging accommodations. Appointments can be booked online, in person at the SAS office (MUSC B107), or by phone, ext. 28652. ( Note that students must register annually. All information is treated confidentially. Please consult the following policy, “The McMaster University Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities,” which recognizes that the University has an obligation “to make its services available in a manner that does not discriminate.” StudentsWithDisabilities.pdf.

I am in full support of accommodation arrangements, so please make sure I receive a copy of your CSD accommodation letter, preferably by the second week of classes.


If you have a question about the class or assignments, don’t hesitate to ask for my assistance. But please remember to review the course outline, which provides considerable information about the course. If you wish to speak to me outside of class time, please feel free to drop by during my office hours. I will try to arrange another time with you if these hours do not suit. I prefer to discuss important matters in person and in the exchange of conversation. This includes questions about assignments and evaluations. I am happy to handle brief, logistical questions via email, but I cannot provide an in-depth response. If you have a question that may be helpful to other people in the course, such as a general query about course requirements, I encourage you to ask that question during class time.

If you need to email me (, please note that your email must originate from your official McMaster University email account. See the Faculty of Humanities policy above. I will do my best to respond to email within 48 hours. Messages received Friday to Sunday will be answered no later than Tuesday. Please note that consultation emails need to follow professional protocols: compose your email using professional language and avoid informal language and casual modes of address.