CSCL 1909W 001

FRESHMAN SEMINAR

THE POETICS OF NARRATIVE IN FILM AND LITERATURE

 

THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA, TWIN CITIES

FALL 2005

 

CLASS INFO  
Instructor: Hisham Bizri [Mazhar Al-Zo'by will cover Oct. 11 - Nov. 8] Course hours: T 9:45-11:25 & TH 9:45-10:35
Voice: (612) 625-8460 Course location: Bell Museum Film Auditorium
Email: hbizri@umn.edu Course url: hishambizri.com/teaching/umn/fall05/poeticsfilm/
Office hours: T&TH 12-1 & by appointment (102 Folwell Hall) CSCL office: 350 Folwell Hall

COURSE DESCRIPTION
There is a long history of adapting novels into film and the reasons vary from the desire to bring literature to the masses and elevate cinema's cultural position, the fulfillment of the Hollywood studio pipeline (screenwriters, script girls, and technicians), and the desire of film auteurs to shed new insights into society through the use of the film medium. These social, industrial, and intellectual needs have shaped much of the debate concerning film adaptations. More importantly however is the philosophical polemic such an endeavor continues to posit. What is poetics? Do we get different meaning from novels than we get from films? Do we perceive each medium differently, which then affects our understanding? Do means of expression therefore express different things or do film and literature express an ideal form (Plato) that transcends their materiality? How does film form embody the thought and feeling of the "concretized form" of the novel?

We will take a comparative approach by looking at the poetics of films and literature from different countries: US, France, Japan, Egypt, France, and Mexico. For example, what is the process in which a Mexican filmmaker, Artur Rupstein, and a Cairene filmmaker, Salah Abu-Seif, translate/transform the same novel by Nagib Mahfouz in film? What are the specific elements in their respective cultures (one Christian, the other Islamic) that influence their decisions to add or subtract from Mahfouz, translate light into shadow or first person into voice over? In this seminar we will study these questions among others by looking at films and their corresponding literatures in the US, Europe, Japan, and the Third World. For example, we will look at Murnau's Faust , Welles' Falstaff , Bresson's The Gentle Woman , and Abu-Seif's The Beginning and the End as well as the version directed by Mexican filmmaker Arturo Rupstein, and read Goethe, Shakespeare, Dostoevsky, Mahfouz, and selected essays, scripts, and interviews.The course also examines how film and literature differ across cultures in forging the consciousness of a people. Mahfouz's novels and films attempt to forge a national culture in Egypt that is quite different from its role in the Mexican context. How do notions of Arabness, for instance, develop in contrast to notions of Mexican identity, just before and after the Free Officers revolt in Egypt and the different dictatorships in Mexico? Finally, we will look closely at how the notion of poetics has been defined in the West and its function is creating a view of culture that arises out of differences and conflict: the c ultured vs. the non-cultured, the civilized vs. the barbaric, the progressive vs. the backwards, and the rational vs. the irrational, that could imply that other places outside the West have been lacking in culture which has lead to colonialism, for instance. How does the East on the other hand understand and create culture outside the sphere of colonialism?

COURSE OBJECTIVES
The different readings and viewing are meant to give the student a rigorous understanding of how narrative is built in film and literature and the ensuing poetics. Our goals here would be to:

    1.    Deepen the student's understanding of narrative across media and nation states
    2.   
Expand the student's notion of what narrative is and provide them the tools to understand and enjoy "difficult" narratives
   3.    
Introduce narrative traditions in different cultures allowing the student an opportunity to explore significant cultural, social, and philosophical issues through the poetics of film and literature
    4.   
How do filmmakers and audiences view and interpret film and literature across nations and periods, e.g., Mexico and Egypt, 16 th century England and the Soviet Union, modern France and 19 th century Russia, Imperial Japan and Medieval Japan
    5.   
How have colonial politics impacted upon understandings of culture in the West and the East?

COURSE REQUIREMENTS & GRADING

    1.    Mandatory class attendance and participation (20%)
    2.    Readings: between 50-75 pages per week
    3.    Bi-weekly report discussing screened films and readings 1-2 pages (20%)
    4.    In class mid-term exam, 3 essays (25%)
    5.    Take home final paper, 10-12 pages (35%)

REQUIRED READING (available at the U bookstore and reserved at Wilson Library)

RECOMMENDED READING

SCREENINGS (on DVD only)

ASSIGNMENTS (assignments must be completed on time; late assignments are not permitted; topics will be given in class)

    1.    Bi-weekly report discussing screened films and readings, 1-2 pages (20%)
    2.   
In class mid-term exam, 3 essays (25%)
    3.   
Take home final paper, 10-12 pages (35%)

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE

WEEK 1
September 6 & 8

Introduction to the course and concepts

Readings:
Poetics, Aritotle (pp.1-42)
Mimesis, Erich Auerbach (Odysseus's Scar , pp. 3-23)

WEEK 2
September 13 & 15

Readings:
Faust, Goethe (pp. 93-209 -- pages are in German and English so you are reading half the assigned pages)

Anatomy of Criticism, Northrop Frye (Historical Criticism: Theory of Modes, pp. 33-67)

Screenings:
FAUST (F.W. Murnau, 116 minutes, 1926)

WEEK 3
September 20 & 22

Readings:
Faust, Goethe (pp. 209-421)
Mimesis, Erich Auerbach (Miller the Musician, pp. 434-453)

Screenings:
FAUST (Jan Svankmajer, 1994)

WEEK 4
September 27 & 29

Readings:
Othello, William Shakespeare (pp. 113-204)
Mimesis, Erich Auerbach (The Weary Prince, pp. 312-333)

Interviews with Orson Welles (class handouts)

Screenings:
OTHELLO (Orson Welles, 93 minutes, 1952)

WEEK 5
October 4 & 6

Readings:
Othello, William Shakespeare (pp. 205-332)

Screenings:
FILMING OTHELLO

WEEK 6
October 11 & 13

Readings:
The Beginning and the End, Nagib Mahfouz (pp. 13-123)

Screenings:
THE BEGINNING AND THE END (Salah Abouseif, 130 minutes, 1960) -- part 1

WEEK 7
October 18 & 20

Readings:
The Beginning and the End, Nagib Mahfouz (pp. 124-208)
Cruelty of Memory, Edward Said, Al-Ahram Weekly Online,13 - 19 December 2001, Issue No.564 (http://www.library.cornell.edu/colldev/mideast/2sc1.htm)
The Legacy of Salah Abu Seif, Master of Realism in Egyptian Cinema, Ibrahim Al Aris, Aljadid, Vol. 3, No. 15, February 1997 (http://www.aljadid.com/film/0315aris.html)

Screenings:
THE BEGINNING AND THE END (Salah Abouseif, 130 minutes, 1960) -- part 2
THE BEGINNING AND THE END (Arturo Ripstein, 188 minutes, 1993) -- part 1

WEEK 8
October 25 & 27

Readings:
The Beginning and the End, Nagib Mahfouz (pp. 209-310)

Screenings:
THE BEGINNING AND THE END (Arturo Ripstein, 188 minutes, 1993) -- part 2

WEEK 9
November 1 & 3

Readings:
The Beginning and the End, Nagib Mahfouz (pp. 311-412)

MID-TERM EXAM (in class)

WEEK 10
November 9 & 10

Readings:
Ordet, Kaj Munk
Selections from Dreyer in Double Reflection (class handouts)

Screenings:
ORDET (Carl Theodore Dreyer , 126 minutes, 1955)

WEEK 11
November 15 & 17

Readings:
Ordet, Kaj Munk

Screenings:
Selections from
ORDET (Carl Theodore Dreyer , 126 minutes, 1955)

WEEK 12
Novermber 22

Readings:
Notes on the Cinematographe, Robert Bresson
Encountering Directors, Charles Thomas Samuels (New York: G.P. Putnam & Sons, 1972) http://www.mastersofcinema.org/bresson/Words/CTSamuels.html

Novermber 24

NO CLASS -- THANKSGIVING HOLIDAY

WEEK 13
November 30 & December 1

Readings:
A Gentle Creature, Fyodor Dostoevsky (pp. 215 - 262)

Screenings:
A GENTLE CREATURE (Robert Bresson, 88 minutes, 1969)

WEEK 14
December 6 & 8

Readings:
Selections from Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment & The Idiot (class handout)

Screenings:
AU HASARD, BALTHAZAR (Robert Bresson, 95 minutes, 1966)

WEEK 15
December 13 & 15

Readings:
TBA

Screenings:
47 RONIN (Kenji Mizoguchi, 241 minutes, 1941) -- Part 1

WEEK 16
December 19

Final paper is due