Basics of Film & Television

This course offers an introduction to basic concepts of film and television analysis. It operates on the philosophy that the better we understand how film and television texts work, the more intelligently we will be able to consume them, which is an invaluable skill to have in our media-rich world.

During the semester’s first half we will focus on analyzing the narrative and stylistic properties of film and TV. This is called formal or textual analysis, and it means that we will explore the aesthetic components of texts and discuss how creators manipulate these elements for emotional and intellectual ends. We will broaden the scope in the second half by considering how media historians, critics, and theorists build upon formal analysis in explicating how cinematic and televisual texts function within larger industrial, cultural, and aesthetic contexts. [Syllabus]

Screening War (University Seminar)

The military/war/combat genre is a trans-media genre that has been popular for centuries, if not millennia (consider Homer’s epic Iliad, authored in the 9th or 8th century BCE). This seminar examines the major cinematic, televisual, and computational representations of real and fictional American military interventions produced in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. In particular, we will analyze how “militainment”—a neologism for military entertainment—has been crafted to give consumers access to a variety of stories, values, and ideas that we typically associate with war and with its warriors. The class will pay particular attention to the manner in which post-Vietnam texts are constructed to produce narrative, visual, and ludic pleasures, contextualize what these pleasures mean for their historical moments of production, and critically interrogate the discourses about who should (or should not) wield lethal military power, and to what end. [Syllabus]

Critical Approaches to Television

This course offers an introductory survey of the primary critical approaches used to analyze television, and thus serves as a foundation for other TV-specific courses within FTT’s Television Studies concentration. Through an examination of pioneering and contemporary studies of television, we will explore how television has been analyzed as a communication medium, a technological apparatus, a commercial industry, and a cultural forum. We will also consider approaches that focus on how television shapes our identities and values. While examining methods developed to study TV production, reception, and texts, we will explore such concepts as publicness, liveness, quality, art, and representation. In addition to discussing how television was analyzed in the past, we will consider how both television and TV studies have changed as a result of globalization, industrial convergence, and participatory culture. [Syllabus]

Video Essays

This upper-division undergraduate and graduate level course introduces students to “essayistic” approaches to media analysis and production. As the title signals, this class explores the sometimes experimental and sometimes playful “video essay” mode of expression (genre?) with the goal of understanding how media makers and artists utilize sounds and images for fictional and non-fictional ends. By emphasizing the multiple points of connection that exist between media theory and praxis, this course aims to help students understand how to author compelling arguments and how to craft evocative, impressionistic sequences using this unique form of storytelling and expression. [Syllabus]

South Bend Stories

South Bend Stories is a non-fiction, media-making course that draws its inspiration from the city of South Bend and the greater Michiana region. Students will develop their personal voices as they engage in small-scale collaborative storytelling projects with classmates and with community partners. Most of these projects will be short documentary films. However, students may also produce photo essays, conduct audio-based histories, and craft non-narrative or avant-garde documentary projects that highlight the daily lives, cultural events, natural and built spaces, and social issues of South Bend. [Syllabus]

Interactive Storytelling

This course provides an introduction to the history and study of digital games, new media theory, and the global interactive entertainment industry. The class is intended for advanced FTT students who are conversant with the techniques and concerns of media criticism generally. The class will also give students the opportunity to try their hand at designing their own games. Accordingly, the class has two major components: one dedicated to the critical analysis of games, and the other to the creative choices that go into successful game design. The former is organized along historic and thematic lines; the latter is organized procedurally so students can work together on their game projects. By understanding the technological and cultural history of games, and by working together to create our own interactive rule systems, we will better appreciate how games function as popular interactive and cultural texts, and how they influence and reflect contemporary society. [Syllabus]