English 4110/5110 Literary Criticism

MW 3:30-4:45PM, Arts & Sciences 353, Fall 2013

In Class Activities

1. Film Analysis

Before we examine psychoanalytic film theory, we're going to study film technique. Today, you will

  1. divide into groups,
  2. review the assigned film element from the Film Analysis handout,
  3. watch A Trip to the Moon, and
  4. interpret how the film technique functions in A Trip to the Moon.

Here are the film element groups:

  1. mise en scène: the staging of the film
  2. characterization
  3. cinematography: film stock, lighting, and the camera
  4. editing
  5. graphics and sound
  6. narrative

2. Psychoanalysis and Surrealism

Before we examine psychoanalytic film theory, we're going to study the psychoanalytic theories of Sigmund Freud and Jacques Lacan and analyze how those ideas are incorporated in a surrealist film. Today, you will

  1. divide into groups,
  2. define key Freudian concepts by explaining two significant passages from the article,
  3. interpret how the Freudian concepts function in Luis Buñuel's Un Chien Andalou(or if your group's Freudian idea is not present in the film, an example from another film of your choosing)
  4. and analyze any applicable film techniques (mise en scène, characterization, cinematography, editing, graphics and sound, narrative)

Here are the article groups:

  1. "Repression"
  2. "The Unconscious" and "The Structure of the Unconscious"
  3. "Mourning and Melancholia" (Catherine Bowlin article summary)
  4. "Negation"
  5. "The Instincts"
  6. "The Theory of Dreams" (Caroline Quick article summary)
  7. "The Oedipus Complex" and "The Origins of Culture"

    Article Summaries

The two scheduled discussion board responses serve three purposes:

  1. to practice responding to psychoanalytical and filmic ideas,
  2. to share initial understandings of the article to the discussion board the weekend before in-class discussion, and
  3. to practice informal presentation skills and direct class discussion.

Summarize the article's argument for approaching film, quote and explain at least two significant passages, define key terms, and include questions that the theorist would ask of film.


Sign Up

Sign up for two responses, one in slots 1-15 and one in slots 16-30. If two students sign up for a single article, you may choose to collaboratively write about and present on that essay.




Presentation Date


F, 8-23
M, 8-26

Freud, "Repression," "Unconscious," "Mourning," "Negation,"

1 Catherine Bowlin

Freud, "Structure," "Instincts," "Dreams," "Oedipus " "Origins"

2 Caroline Quick
W, 8-28

Lacan, "Letter"

3 Owen Clark

Lacan, "Mirror"

4 Benton Meadows
F, 8-30
W, 9-4


5 Tess Lyle


6 Brittany Rampy
F, 9-6
M, 9-9


7 Katie Barfield
W, 9-11

Metz, "Story"

8 Jodee Westbrooks
F, 9-13
M, 9-16


9 Olivia Meeks

Metz, "Imaginary"

10 Tina Ng
11 Rachel Smith


F, 9-20

M, 9-23

Doane, "Voice"

12 Taylor Green
13 Megan Dent


14 Allison Blanchard
F, 9-27
M, 9-30

Indick, "Analyzing the Movie Dream"

15 Alina Venick
Mary Bendin

Fuery, "The Limits of Knowledge"

16 Rachel Smith
F, 10-4
M, 10-7

Creed, "Uncanny..."

17 Olivia Meeks

Creed, "Monstrous..."

18 Benton Meadows
F, 10-11
W, 10-16


19 Catherine Bowlin


20 Tina Ng
F, 10-25
M, 10-28


21 Owen Clark
22 Allison Blanchard


23 Brittany Rampy
24 Caroline Quick
Mary Bendin
F, 11-1
W, 11-6

Lebeau, "Daddy's..."

25 Jodee Westbrooks

Lebeau, "Feminin..."

26 Taylor Green
F, 11-8
W, 11-13

De Lauretis

27 Katie Barfield
28 Alina Venick

Doane, "Masquerade"

29 Tess Lyle
30 Megan Dent

Scene Analysis and Presentation

The scene analysis and presentation assignment has four goals:

  1. the rigorous psychoanalysis of a film scene in terms of both content and formal technique (how the scene is shot, lit, edited, and so forth, drawing on at least three film techniques exemplified in the Film Analysis handout, the as well as what the scene says about the psyche of the character[s]),
  2. the focused discussion of psychoanalytic film theory and interpretation outside of class,
  3. the collaborative process of writing, as opposed to the solitary writing practice we English majors are all so well-used to, and
  4. the formal presentation of the main ideas of the collaborative paper, without simply reading the essay.


Sign Up

Date Film Student
W, 9-18

The 400 Blows

Benton Meadows
Jodee Westbrooks
W, 9-25

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Owen Clark
Caroline Quick
W, 10-2


W, 10-9

The Shining

Graduate Presentation
Graduate Presentation
M, 10-21

Mulholland Dr.

Brittany Rampy
Catherine Bowlin
W, 10-30

Rear Window

Olivia Meeks
Alina Venick
M, 11-4


Allison Blanchard
Tina Ng
M, 11-11

Ferris Bueller's Day Off

Tess Lyle
Megan Dent
M, 11-18

Ginger & Rosa

Mary Bendin
Rachel Smith
M, 11-25

The Master

Taylor Green
Katie Barfield

Theoretical Paper

We have studied overviews of psychoanalysis and psychoanalytic film theory, primary texts of psychoanalysis, and primary texts of psychoanalytic film theory. While the scene analysis paper and presentation requires you to put theory into practice by psychoanalytically interpreting a film scene's form and content, the theoretical paper calls for you to compare and contrast how two theorists conceptualize an issue or idea in psychoanalysis or psychoanalytic film theory, and concretize the abstract correlation by discussing what the theorists would say about one of our class's films. Where and why do the two theorists' systematic understanding of the issue converge; where and why do they diverge? How would the theorists' respond to a film in our class?


For instance, you could compare and contrast how Freud and Lacan conceive of the unconscious and hypothesize what they might say about Copy Shop's protagonist's unconscious, how Baudry and Metz theorize film's imaginary function and discuss how the imaginary operates in The 400 Blows, or how Penley and Johnson envision the use of the Lacanian gaze in film in general and Film in particular.


You may consider any writer or film on the course up to September 30, not including Tyson or Allen. While your primary focus should be on developing out the two theorists' harmony and distinction, using a class film to illustrate your understanding, you may also, if you wish, set up definitions and frameworks using pertinent overviews by Tyson, Allen, Evans, and No Subject.


Research Paper

While the scene analysis asks undergraduates to psychoanalyze a scene's form and content, the presentation compels graduates to research, evaluate, and teach a scholarly criticism of a film, and the theoretical paper requires all to compare and contrast how two theorists conceive of a psychoanalytical idea, the research paper requires you all to analyze a film or film issue using psychoanalysis and/or psychoanalytic film theory to ground your method and scholarly film criticism to support your interpretation.

  1. Select a film not written about previously (it may be an outside film) or a film issue.
  2. Select three theoretical articles from our course but not written about in the theoretical paper.
  3. Research three critical articles interpreting the film (or three theoretical articles conceptualizing the film issue).

Fine print: you may also use theoretical paper articles written about in the theoretical paper, but they don't count toward the required three; you may use the same theorists from your theoretical paper but you must use different articles; as with the theoretical paper, overviews by Tyson and Allen don't count toward the three. If you are researching a film, then you should have six sources comprised of three theoretical articles from our course reading and three critical articles interpreting the film from scholarly journals and books. If you are researching an issue in film theory, then you should have six sources comprised of three in-class theoretical articles and three outside-class theoretical articles.


Your research paper should 1) make a psychoanalytic interpretation of the film or film issue, 2) exemplify its psychoanalytical methodology by integrating at least three psychoanalytic and/or psychoanalytic film theorist, and 3) support its interpretive claim by incorporating at least three scholarly articles of film criticism (or theory if researching theory).

Graduate Students

In order to prepare for giving conference presentations, graduate students only will compose a 250-word research proposal due on Monday, November 25 and present a 15-minute version of their work-in-progress to the class and answer questions on Monday, December 2, ten days before the final graduate research due date of Thursday, December 12. If warranted, graduate students should incorporate any pertinent ideas developed from the Q&A into their final essay.


Final Exam

Undergraduate students will compose two 5-6 page essays selected from a set of 4-6 questions. We will generate topics as a class on Monday, December 2, and I will create 4-6 questions from those topics on Wednesday, December 4.


Answer two of the six questions below. Do not use an author's work or film in more than one essay; and do not repeat your theoretical or research paper topics. Not all authors' works are appropriate for all essays. Choose works which afford adequate material to address the question at hand. Have a controlling idea, an interpretation, a thesis that bridges the works. Make connections and distinctions among the texts; compare and contrast the works' key ideas. Support your points with textual evidence (pertinent quotations). Organize essays by argument and analysis. You will be graded on your understanding of psychoanalytical film theory and practical interpretation of film as well as your ability to compare and contrast meanings and issues.




Annotated Bibliography and Presentation

Graduates students will research a film, compose an annotated bibliography of at least 10 scholarly sources interpreting the film, and teach one of the articles on the film to the class. The citations in the annotated bibliography should be formatted to MLA style, each annotation should be approximately 100 words long, and the bibliography should conclude with a one page long explanation and evaluation of why the source was selected to be taught to the class.


Sign Up

Date Film Student
W, 9-18

The 400 Blows

W, 10-2


W, 10-9

The Shining

Matt Sweat

M, 10-21

Mulholland Dr.

W, 10-30

Rear Window

M, 11-4


M, 11-11

Ferris Bueller's Day Off


Book Review

While the annotated bibliography and presentation required you to research, evaluate, and teach a work of scholarly criticism on a film, the book review compels you to read and evaluate an entire book of psychoanalytical and/or psychoanalytical film theory. Select a theorist's article from our syllabus, excluding those written about in the theoretical paper, then read either the monograph from which the article was excerpted or another book singly authored by the theorist (subject to professor approval). Write a 9-10 page essay that summarizes the book's overall theoretical claim and then evaluates that methodology. Your essay should both appreciate and interrogate the theory.