Genre and Narrative in the Movies

This is a course from a previous year. View the current courses
Lecture, Open—Fall

A genre is a kind of story, and in this course we will study different kinds of stories told on the screen: comedies and melodramas, Westerns and other forms of epic, horror films and other expressionist genres, crime films and portrayals of everyday life. Genre is sometimes thought of as mere formula, conventional and predictable; but art depends on conventions even when it departs from them—and only by creating expectations can it bring about the unexpected. Genre is sometimes opposed to originality and imagination; but in this course, we will see how much originality and imagination genre can make possible and how some of the best movies have put it to use. We will examine genre in relation to narrative structure, different kinds of story in relation to different ways of telling a story. We will look at Hollywood movies of the studio era—when genre conspicuously flourished—and also at films made at different times and places through to the present day.