Writing Seminars: Hollywood, the Dream Factory

Instruction in writing well-reasoned analyses and academic arguments, with emphasis on the importance of reading, research, and revision. Using examples of nonfiction prose from a variety of academic disciplines, individual sections focus on topics such as vision, globalization, generosity, experts and expertise, the good life, and dissent in American culture.

The title of this course brings together two terms that rest uneasily alongside each other. On one hand, beginning in the late 1910s, the American film industry, or what we now call “Classical Hollywood,” produced works of art – something like dreams – that appealed to audiences around the world. On the other, it did so by way of a tremendously complex and thoroughly managed industry populated by studios – something like factories – of various sizes and strengths. How did Hollywood overcome this tension and maintain its dominance despite a wide array of challenges, both internal (for instance, the coming of sound) and external (for instance, the threat of censorship or the rise of television)? In addressing this question, we will reflect on others that have only become more important as media have ever more fully saturated our daily lives. Are art and commerce fundamentally opposed? Do popular media forms have an ethical obligation to limit the range of their expression for the benefit of society? In what ways does the content of mass media works relate to large-scale events like economic crises and wars? Through readings in disciplines as varied as economics, film history, and political science, as well as through the careful viewing of notable films, we will come to understand what the great critic André Bazin termed “the genius of the system.”

Students who wish to enroll in a section of this seminar should participate in online preregistration, which opens at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, December 12, 2016 and closes promptly at 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 12, 2017.

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MW 2:30pm-3:45pm