Humphrey Bogart and Peter Lorre in "The Maltese Falcon," 1941
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Writing Seminar:  America Noir

T-Th, 1:30 - 2:50, Th 6:30 - 9:00 (film viewing), Dalrymple 38

Instructor:  John Sheehy

Office Hours

Course Description

In this course we will explore one of the most enduring and flexible film genres Hollywood has produced--film noir--and, in doing so, we will explore some of the most enduring themes in American film: lust, sin, crime, greed, redemption and how to live in a major American metropolis. We will also see some of the best movies--old and new--yet made in America: "A Touch of Evil", "The Maltese Falcon", "Double Indemnity", "Chinatown", "U-Turn", "The Last Seduction", "Red Rock West" and others. We will approach these films with as fresh an eye as possible, striving always to see them as if for the first time; but we will inform our viewing with a range of critical and theoretical approaches to film, attempting to place our personal responses to the films in a context that makes them meaningful.


Frances McDormand, "Blood Simple"On Writing

Our approach to writing this semester will be informed by two simple ideas, often recited but even oftener forgotten: first, that writing is an act of communication between the writer and his or her audience; second, that writing is a process , not a product . Consider the first idea: a writer must always know his or her audience -- and the best way to learn to know them is to talk to them. So in this class all of your writing will be read by a number of people, and all of those people will be asked to respond to it . Now, consider the second idea: we often think of a paper (or a dissertation, or a novel) as the product of some brief and fevered inspiration; we also often assume that other people's words somehow explode onto paper, in perfect order and making perfect sense, the first time they sit down to write -- and we call ourselves talentless (or at least uninspired) because ours do not. Nothing could be further from the truth: writing is a process of thought, and that process requires revision. So in this class you will be asked to rethink each of your papers several times in light of the comments you receive from your readers, and you will be given the chance to make all of your writing as good as you can make it.

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