Contact a Humanities Office or Academic unit.
Find your course outlines.


Academic Year: Fall/Winter 2014/2015

Term: 2

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Prof. Carla Melo



Phone: 905-525-9140 x

Office Hours: Friday 4:50-5:50pm

Course Objectives:

  • Identify key issues related to filmic representation and reception;
  • Demonstrate familiarity with major critical lenses that are deployed in film studies;
  • Demonstrate substantial development in their analytical skills and basic knowledge of how to conduct ethical and effective research;
  • Construct compelling arguments based on analysis of class materials;
  • Develop oral argumentation skills.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Required Text_________________________________________________­­­­­­­­__________

Theatre & Film 4E03 Courseware

Required Screenings_________________________________________________­­­­­­­­____

The films are central to the course. *It is the responsibility of the student to screen the films outside of and before the Monday class time each week. You will also need to review them for essay preparation.

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.

Method of Assessment:

Participation                                                                                                                       15%

Journal (minimum of 8 online weekly submissions)                                                     10%

Short reflection paper                                                                                                         15%

Presentation                                                                                                                        25%

Research Paper                                                                                                                  35%

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:

UNIT ONE: Introduction to Theories of Representation and Reception_______         

Week 1- Jan. 9: Introduction

            Discussion of opening scenes from: (in-class viewing)

            Tarkovsky, Andrei. The Sacrifice. (1988). Sweden. 101 min.

            Welles, Orson. Touch of Evil. (1958). USA. 101 min.

            Win Wenders. Wings of Desire. (1987). Germany. 128 min.


Week 2 - Jan.16: The Idea of Representation                 

            Jhalley, Sut. Stuart Hall: Representation and the Media. (1997). England. 55 min.    

            Sturken, Marita, & Cartwright, Lisa. “Images, Power and Politics.” Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Ed. Sturken, Marita & Lisa Cartwright. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009. 9-48.

            Hall, Stuart. (1997). “Discourse, Power and the Subject.” Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: SAGE Publications, 1997. 41—64. (Read at least up to pg. 56)


Week 3 - Jan 23: Spectatorship: Viewer x Subject

            Scott, Ridley. Thelma And Louise. (1991). USA. 130 min.

            Columpar, Corinn “The Gaze As Theoretical Touchstone: The Intersection of Film Studies, Feminist Theory, and Postcolonial Theory.” Women's Studies Quarterly 30, 1/2. (2002): 25-44.

***(Read only 25-27 on the concept of the “Male Gaze”)

            Jenkins, Henry. “Reception Theory and Audience Research: The Mystery of the Vampire’s Kiss.” Reinventing Film Studies. Ed. Gledhill, Christine & L. Williams. London: Arnold, 2000. 165-173.        

            Grossberg, Lawrence. “Is There a Fan in the House?: The Affective Sensibility of Fandom.” Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media. Ed. Lewis, Lisa A. London: Routledge, 1992. 50-65.

            Vares, Tina. Action Heroes and Female Viewers: What Women Have to Say. Reel Knockouts: Violent Women in the Movies. McCaughey, Martha & Neal King. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001. 219—243. Read: 219-229.

UNIT 2: Intersectionality in Representation & Reception_______________________

Week 4 - Jan. 30: “Third world” feminism, Lesbian Desire and [trans] nationalism

            Deepa Mehta. Fire. (Indo-Canadian)104 min. (Also available online: Call number: XX (2568900.1)

            Gairola, Raul. “Burning with Shame: Desire and South Asian Patriarchy, from Spivak's Can the Subaltern Speak? to Deepa Mehta's ‘Fire’ " Comparative Literature 54. 4 (2002), 307-324

            Stam, Robert, & Shohat, Ella Habiba. “Film Theory and Spectatorship in the Age of the ‘Posts’.” Ed. Gledhill, Christine & L. Williams. Reinventing Film Studies London: Arnold, 2000. 381-401.


Week 5 - Feb. 6: Festival: Us X/And Nature

            Baichwal, Jennifer. Manufactured Landscapes. (2006). Canada. 90 min.

            Riedelsheimer, Thomas. Rivers and Tides. (2004). USA. 90 min.          


Week 6 - Feb. 13: Challenging Anglo/Eurocentric Discourses: Minorities & Self-Representation

            Introductory clip: Shum, Mina Double Happiness. (1994). Canada. 87 min.

            Officer, Charles. Nurse. Fighter. Boy. (2008) Canada. 93 min.   

            Gittings, Christopher E. “Multicultural Fields of Vision.” Canadian National Cinema. London:   Routledge, 2002. 231-262.  ***Read ONLY: 231-233 and 255-262           

            Two journal entries DUE.


Week 7- Feb 20:      MIDTERM RECESS


Week 8 - Feb. 27: Self-representation & Multiple Audiences

            Introductory clip: Eyre, Chris. Smoke Signals (1998) USA. 89 min.

            Kunuk, Zacharias. Atanarjuat: The Fast Runner. (2001). Canada. 172 min.

            Raheja, Michelle H. “Reading Nanook's Smile: Visual Sovereignty, Indigenous Revisions of

            Ethnography, and ‘Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner)’.” American Quarterly, 59. 4 (2007): 1159-1185         

            Krupat, Arnold. “Atanarjuat, the Fast Runner and Its Audiences.” Critical Inquiry 33.3 (2007):


            Paper on documentaries DUE


Week 9- March 6:  Female desire, Colonial Gaze & the Disabled Body

            Campion, Jane. The Piano. (1993). Australia/New Zealand. 121 min.

            Thornley, Davinia. “Duel or Duet? Gendered Nationalism in The Piano.” Film Criticism,

            24.3 (2000): 61-76.

            Adele, Deborah Ann. “Separation and Invitation: Maori Representation in The Piano and Once Were Warriors.” trans/forms: Insurgent Voices in Education, 2 (1995/1996). 61-65.

            Molina, Caroline. “Muteness and Mutilation: The Aesthetics of Disability in Jane Campion’s The Piano.” The Body and Physical Difference: Discourses of Disability. Ed. Mitchell, D. T. & S. L. Snyder. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1997. 267-282.


Week 10 - March 13: Sexuality, Race and Drag Subcultures     

            Livingston, Jennie. Paris is Burning. (1990) USA. 71 min.

            Harper, Phillip Brian. "The Subversive Edge": Paris Is Burning, Social Critique, and the Limits of Subjective Agency.” Diacritics, 24.2/3 (1994): 90-103

            hooks, bell. “Is Paris Burning?” Black Looks and Representation. Boston: South End Press, 1992.



Week 11- March 20:  Masculinity

            Denis, Claire. Beau Travail. (1999). France. 90 min.

            Nixon, Sean. “Exhibiting Masculinity.” Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. Ed. Hall, Stuart. London: SAGE Publications, 1997. 304-330.

            Robinson, Sally. “ ‘Emotional Constipation” and the Power of Damned Masculinity: Deliverance and the Paradoxes of Male Liberation.” Masculinity: Bodies, Movies, Culture.

            Ed. Peter Lehman. New York: Routledge, 2001. 133-147.                               


Week 12- March 27:  Precarity & Social Exclusion       

            Merirelles, Fernando. City of God. (2002) Brazil. 130 min.

            Furtado, Jorge. Ilha das flores (1989). Brazil. 13 min. (in-class screening)

            Peixoto, Marta. “Rio’s Favelas in Recent Fiction and Film: Commonplaces of Urban Segregation.” PMLA 122. 1 (2007): 170-178

            Two journal entries DUE.


Week 13- April 3:  Framing the Dystopian Present

            Cuaron, Alfonso. Children of Men (2006). USA. 109 min.

            Brown, Jayna “The Human Project: Utopia, Dystopia and the Black Heroine in Children of Men and 28 Days Later.” Transition 110, (2013): 120-131

            Chaudhuri, Shohini. Unpeopled: Postcolonial Reflections on Terror, Torture and Detention in Children of Men. Postcolonial Cinema Studies. Ed. Ponzanesi, Sandra; Marguerite Walker. New York: Routledge, 2012 191-204

Other Course Information:

Course Description__________________________________________________________

This film studies seminar invites you to critically examine issues of representation and reception in contemporary cinema, both in Canada and abroad.

The notion of “representation” -- as an aesthetic and political practice that is always culturally and historically specific -- will be central to our endeavor. Since the relation between cinema and society is never transparent, our focus will be on developing an understanding of representational strategies in film through various interpretative lenses and on exploring questions in regards to spectators’ mediation and negotiation of filmic representations. Through our viewing and discussions of wide range of contemporary films, we will consider the ways in which cinema embodies central ideologies of our time and represents power relations embeded in identity categories such as gender, race, sexuality, class, disability, and nation.

We will seek to develop understandings of the processes of viewing films by posing the following questions in regards to reception practices:

            How do I/we look at a film? How do I/we see myself/ourselves in its stories, fantasies, and meanings?

             How is it that I/we take up and know how to make sense of the products of culture?

In this sense, we will explore how desire and pleasure are operative in our readings of films with the goal of interrogating the interrelationship of our emotional responses, sensorial pleasures and critical interpretations.

Course Expectations___________________________________________________________

Given that this course has a seminar format, it requires a much greater degree of participation than a regular course. Although this may appear daunting to some, we will seek to create an environment of shared collaboration, curiosity and discovery in which we will feel safe to voice our perspectives while respecting those of others.

Course Etiquette_________________________________________________

Please arrive on time for the seminar. If you have to leave the class early, do so quietly. Refrain from leaving or starting to pack up your things at the end of the class before the class ends, as this is disruptive to other students. Please show consideration for your fellow students by listening attentively during discussions.

Students are required to turn off all personal electronic devices. If you need your cell phone on because you have children or need to remain in contact with someone because of a medical emergency, please inform me at the beginning of the class and please leave the cell phone on vibrate. Students who consult non-course related content on laptops during class will be required to close their laptops for the duration of the class.