History in Film

History in Film

In our “post-text” society, film and television have arguably the most powerful influence on our collective memory (for better or worse), and tend to be commercially popular. Throughout most of the last century, serious scholars scoffed at the initial promise of film as “history written with lightning,” but this jaundiced view has more recently given way to qualified appreciation for film’s ability to convey certain kinds of historical truths. This course does not delve in any significant way into the history of film. Rather, it examines three distinct aspects of the way history is represented in a visual medium: the process of adaptation from text to film; the reaction by the scholarly community to filmmakers’ attempts to produce popular historical dramas; and issues related to the “historically correct” presentation of history on film, in three areas (genres): dramatic, documentary, and experimental films. Matt has taught a version of this course several times at Chautauqua.

The course will feature scenes from many films, some well-known, some not. Here are some examples (the actual list is not yet finalized). Films will range across three categories. (1)"Dramatic" would include Glory, Birth of a Nation, the Pianist, Reds. (2)"Documentary" includes Ken Burns' Civil War series, and a great documentary called Nat Turner, A Troublesome Property. (3)"Experimental" includes some interesting "out there" ones, like Eisenstein's Oktober, and a film about Nicaraguan filibuster William O Walker (entitled Walker). We'll spend some time focusing on the work of Oliver Stone, probably his Vietnam films, maybe also JFK.

We will concentrate on how film can be used to communicate historical truths. We'll spend a lot of time talking about issues connected to the past as represented in textual/visual forms.

Instructor....Matt Young, PhD– History, Dept. of Philosophy and Religion, Marietta College

Day & Time...Fridays, 3:00-5:00 pm
Dates..........Sept. 15, 22, 29, Oct. 6, 13, 20, 27, Nov. 3
Place..........124 Thomas Hall (Click here to see campus map.)
Cost............$30
Limit............90 Participants