course shell:

online syllabus:

office hours:

603c pray harrold hall

Tuesday 3:15–5:15

Thursday 3:15–3:45, 9:10–9:30

(email for appointments)


Literature 400:

Narrative in Literature and Film

Fall 2017

Dr. Abby Coykendall

Title: Society of the Spectacle Cover 1967 - Description:  J.R. Eyerman's Photograph of Cinema Crowd with 3D Glasses

Section # 16444

Tuesday & Thursday 2-3:15pm

Pray-Harrold Hall 318

Literature 400: Narrative in Film and Literature

Whether retailing horror flicks or romantic comedies, the mainstream film and print industries attempt to appeal universally to the desires of everyone. But who is that elusive “everyone”? And how can either cinema or literature gratify the innermost, deepest-darkest desires of such an infinitely interchangeable and anonymous set of people as that en masse? As technologies of popular fantasy, films and novels are the foremost vehicles used to mirror, as well as to escape from, everyday life. Mass-produced and widely distributed, they conjure not only that which slips unnoticed from conventional and thereby supposedly “realistic” accounts of experience, but also that which persists as all-too formulaic in the cultural imagination, potentially (re)producing reality itself from a limited repertoire of scripts and scenarios always familiar yet otherwise long past. In this course, we will investigate an array of emblematic films as time capsules of their social, historical, and aesthetic contexts. Of particular interest will be the ways in which filmic and fictional narratives influence the (re)construction of identity, whether subjective or social, and how these narratives inflect the stories that we tell of the self, of the nation, and of the larger global community.

Course Objectives:

Ultimately, by the end of the term, you will be better able to

* Identify the narrative techniques that distinguish film from literature;

* Understand how film and literature work in tandem to instill or counteract national, sexual, racial, ethnic, classist, or gendered ideologies;

* Investigate how film, both in its adaptation of literature and in its formal structure, goes hand in hand with other art forms to reflect and even generate anew our cultural heritage

* Explore the mutual intercourse between so-called high art and popular culture, coming to recognize the benefits and limitations of each;

* Inquire how filmic and literary narratives change over time in distinct cultural contexts;

* Enhance verbal, visual, and cultural literacy by interpreting film with the same critical acumen traditionally applied to literature alone.


Course Texts and Materials:

Some required materials, and many supplemental materials, are available in the course shell (, printable and viewable from any campus computer. The books below can be purchased at the EMU Bookstore in the Student Center. You must get the correct edition—confirm the volume, edition, and especially the ISBN numbers (a fingerprint of sorts for the book).

Title: Cover Critical Media StudiesTitle: Cover Ways of SeeingTitle: Fight Club

** Critical Media Studies: An Introduction, 2nd Ed., ed. Brian L. Ott and Robert L. Mack (Wiley-Blackwell, 2014; ISBN#1118553977)

** John Berger, Ways of Seeing (Penguin 1995; ISBN# 0140135154)

** Chuck Palahniuk, Fight Club (Holt, 1999; ISBN# 0805062971)

You will need to watch the films on your own outside of class in a timely fashion (roughly once per week); otherwise, you will not be able to participate in the class discussions. The most convenient way to access films is through a service like Netflix ( or Amazon Prime ( Films marked with asterisks (**) on the schedule below are on reserve at the circulation desk of the Halle library, which also has computers available to watch DVDs (bring your own earphones). Make sure to watch the library versions of the films well in advance since they may be in demand the day of or day before class

Instructor Availability:

I will be delighted to discuss any course-related questions, interests, or concerns during my office hours, as well as at any time through email ( Emails with straightforward questions usually receive a reply within a few hours to a day; those with thornier issues usually receive a reply within a week. Please limit inquiries to those that I alone can answer so that I can give the more pressing issues of other students the attention that they deserve. If, for example, you are unsure about a due date, consult the syllabus, the handouts in the course shell, or the peers in your group, and then email only if the confusion persists. The first visit to my office hours with a course-related inquiry, such as to get guidance on homework, discuss readings lately covered, or brainstorm essay ideas, will be worth extra credit.

Course Itinerary:

Typically, we will watch a pair of films in tandem—a classic film one week and a more contemporary film the next—to assess shifts in the cultural imagination over time. See the schedule below for the viewing and reading activities due for each week.

All of these must be completed by the first class of the week, generally a Tuesday. On that day, I will give you an overview of the materials; on Thursdays, the class will instead be structured around the interactive class discussions stemming from your groupwork. These assignments will help to diversify the issues highlighted during class, the students bringing those issues to our attention, and the skills that they use to do so.

The theoretical works may prove daunting to read, but you do not need to master every single concept that the author unfolds. Focus on the big picture, tracing three or four of the key arguments, honing in on specific ideas most of interest to you, and drawing connections between those ideas and the films that we will be discussing for the week. The more conversant you become in the course materials over the span of each section, the easier it will be to write essay exam at its conclusion.


There will be informal homework assignments due each week to ensure ongoing preparation for and participation in class. Depending on your group number, you will be composing discussion questions, applying the theory to the films, presenting quotations from journal articles relating to the films, or writing responses doing a close analysis of some aspect of the film.

The groupwork is simply a way to organize which set of students do which assignment (and with which materials) each week, thus diversifying the topics highlighted in class discussion, the people responsible for bringing those issues to our attention, as well as the skills used to do so. Most classes will consist of interactive discussions stemming from the groupwork. However, there is no “groupwork” properly speaking; that is, collaboration with peers on the same assignment. You will not need to meet with peers outside of class, only contact them on occasion by email to make sure that you are not covering the same text or topic.

* NOTE: All homework must be posted in the course shell by Tuesday’s class.

Group Assignments:

The groupwork is simply a way to organize which set of students does which assignments with which materials each week. It will not require collaborating with peers on the same assignment or meeting with them outside of class.

Group 1

Last name begins with A–Bl


Group 5

Last name begins with Me–P

Group 2

Last name begins with Bo–C


 Group 6

 Last name begins with R–S

Group 3

Last name begins with D–K


 Group 7

 Last name begins with T–Z

Group 4

Last name begins with J–Md





Nothing is more vital for success in this course than keeping up with, and actively engaging in, the reading assignments and class discussions each day. The more actively that you participate, the more that the course content can reflect your unique needs and interests. As with any university course, homework will take around two hours to complete for every unit of class or, in other words, twelve hours per week.


Participation (in-class responses, homework, & quizzes)


Exam One (self-designed essay question tying together most section materials)


Exam Two (self-designed essay question tying together most section materials)


Five-Page Film Analysis Essay (on two course films or a course film adaptation)


This class is meant to be a welcoming educational experience for all students, including those who may have various challenges or disabilities that impact learning. If you find yourself having difficulty participating and/or demonstrating knowledge in this course, please feel free to contact me to discuss accommodations, even if you currently lack a Disability Resource Center (DRC) accommodation letter. You can also contact the DRC directly to talk about accommodations (487-2470; 240K Student Center;

Grading Scale:






























Because this course primarily consists of reading and discussion—rather than facts, figures, or memorization—regular attendance is crucial. Failure to participate regularly in class makes achieving course objectives difficult and, eventually, impossible. Reserve absences for illnesses, car troubles, or other unforeseen emergencies preventing you from coming to class, and make sure not to exhaust your allowable absences too early in the term.

Attendance will be taken both before and after the break, and tracked weekly for you in the course shell. Anyone who misses FIVE classes for any reason will have their final grade reduced by a full mark (for example, lowered from A to B, or B to C), and any student who misses SIX or more classes will become ineligible to pass.

When you must be absent, contact other students in your group to get copies of notes or determine what you missed. Unforeseen changes to the schedule will be sent to the class as a whole by email, and any missed homework is simply due upon your return, although you may need to do a critical response instead of discussion questions or quotations, per the “Weekly Assignments” instructions below.

Note that you are never required to explain why you are absent. I will always assume that you have an excellent reason to miss class. Health issues and the like are private matters that you have no obligation to share or explain and may well prefer to keep confidential.


The most essential information—due dates, assignment instructions, clarification of issues—is given at the beginning of class, so it is important to come on time. Make sure to leave early just in case you encounter any problems along the way (traffic jams, slow buses, no parking).

When you must be late, it is your responsibility to sign the attendance sheet to avoid being marked absent. Arriving well into the period, or exiting well before its conclusion, counts as half an absence. One such partial absence rounds down (thus not factoring at all), but two such on two separate occasions combine together into a single absence—your maximum number for the term.

You may at times have understandable reasons to be late; however, habitual lateness routinely interfering with your learning or disrupting class activities will eventually compound into half or full absence(s) and therefore potentially impact your final grade.

Classroom Etiquette:

It is important to be mindful of your peers during class time, listening to them with the same respect and attention that you hope to receive when you yourself speak. Once class begins, do not distract your peers by walking in or out of the room, unless there is a genuine emergency. If you have a medical condition requiring you to leave the room occasionally, definitely bring an accommodation letter attesting as such; otherwise, conduct ALL personal business during the break or outside of class time.

Disruptive exits can be both mental and physical. Students conspicuously unprepared to discuss the materials for the day, or discovered using laptops or phones for purposes unrelated to the course, may be asked to leave and marked absent.

This course has a NO-LAPTOP, NO-CELL-PHONE POLICY with the sole exception of required course readings. Students consulting cell phones or other devices for other purposes may be asked to leave. Store such devices inside your bag (and put them on silent mode) during class time unless specifically asked to use them to look something up.

Campus Resources & Safety:

The University Writing Center (Halle 115; 487–0694; offers one-to-one writing consulting at any stage of the writing process. You can make appointments or drop in (211 Pray Harrold is the closest satellite).

The Academic Projects Center (116 Halle, offers drop-in consulting on research and technology-related issues. Bring a draft of your writing and the assignment instructions to the consultation.

Call 48–SEEUS (487–338) for the campus escort service, Student Eyes and Ears for University Safety, and sign up for the emergency text-messaging system ( to be notified of any danger afflicting the campus.

Swoop’s Pantry (104 Pierce, 487–4173, offers food assistance to all EMU students.

Academic Integrity:

Understanding and avoiding academic dishonesty, and doing all of the coursework on your own, is imperative. Copying the homework of peers, having someone else do your assignments, submitting essays written for your other classes in this class for double credit, and, of course, plagiarism are all forms of academic dishonesty that will not be tolerated and may prevent you from passing.

Plagiarism, put simply, is taking either the IDEAS or the WORDS of another person and recycling them as if they are your own. You must acknowledge when you are drawing on the thoughts and/or expressions of other people, under any circumstances and without any exception.

For example, if you insert the words of someone else into your own writing, you must credit that person for the passage and place quotation marks on either side: So and so says “X”; when you paraphrase, or describe someone else’s ideas in your own words, you must also give credit, albeit minus the quotation marks: So and so says X. Without these acknowledgements, the unique conceptualization and/or construction of ideas of other people will pass as your own by default, and any writing that thus seems to be your own, without actually being your own, is plagiarizing the original source.

** All instances of academic dishonesty, including plagiarism, will result in an automatic 0% grade for the assignment. Any instances of academic dishonesty in the seminar paper in particular will result in outright failure of the course; so too will any TWO separate instances of academic dishonesty on different assignments, however minor either may be. **

Plagiarism by its very nature leaves a trace. It should never be found in any assignment that you submit. Thus, make absolutely certain that your work is plagiarism-free before turning it in, for there will be no exceptions to this policy.

University Policy:

In addition to the course-specific policies and expectations above, students are responsible for understanding all applicable University guidelines, policies, and procedures. The EMU Student Handbook ( - univ) gives you access to all University policies, support resources, and your rights and responsibilities. Electing not to access the link above does not absolve you of responsibility. Changes may be made to the EMU Student Handbook whenever necessary, and shall be effective when a policy is formally adopted and/or amended.

For questions about any university policy, procedure, practice, or resource, please contact the Office of the Ombuds (Student Center 248; 487–0074, or visit the website (


Schedule for LITR 400: Narrative in Film and Literature (Fall 2017)


Readings are available either in the course shell (, the Critical Media Studies (CMS) anthology, or the required course books. Green asterisks (**) indicate that films are on reserve at the library—simply ask for them at the circulation desk. Homework abbreviations are as follows: DQ (discussion question on the weekly film drawing on the theory) and CRIT (a 3-4 line passage from a journal article relating to the weekly film that you will share with the class—articles must derive from the JSTOR, Project Muse, MLA, or Google Scholar). ** NOTE: All homework must be emailed to by noon on Tuesday, unless otherwise indicated.

Week 1:
Sept 7

Introduction of Students, Course, & Topic, & Conjectural Responses

Week 2:
Sept 12 & 14

Film: Virgin Suicides, dir. Sofia Coppola (1999) **

Theory: John Berger, Ways of Seeing, 1–3 (in course shell); Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

Context: “Introducing Critical Media Studies” (CMS)

Optional theory: Slavoj Žižek, Looking Awry

* Homework: Group 1 & 2 (DQ); Group 3 & 4 (CRIT)

Week 3:
Sept 19 & 21

Film: Rear Window, dir. Alfred Hitchcock (1954) **

Theory: Mary Ann Doane, “Economy of Desire”; Slavoj Žižek, “Gaze of the Other”

Background: Elizabeth Cowie, “Rear Window Ethics

Context: “Feminist Analysis” (CMS)

Optional theory: Lee Edelman, selection from No Future

* Homework: Group 5 & 6 (DQ); Group 7 & 8 (CRIT)

Week 4:
Sept 26 & 28

Film: Memento, dir. Christopher Nolan (TBA) **

Theory: John Berger, Ways of Seeing, Parts 4–7, Frederic Jameson, “Postmodernism and Consumer Society”

Context: “Marxist Analysis” (CMS)

Optional theory: Stuart Hall, “Encoding/Decoding”

* Homework: Group 3 & 4 (DQ); Group 1 & 2 (CRIT)

Week 5:
Oct 3 & 5

Film: Imitation of Life, dir. Douglas Sirk (1959) **

Theory: bell hooks, “Oppositional Gaze”

Context: “Cultural Analysis” (CMS)

Optional theory: Lauren Berlant, “National Brands, National Body”; W. E. B. DuBois, “Double Consciousness”

* Homework: Group 7 & 8 (DQ); Group (5 & 6 CRIT)

Week 6:
Oct 10 & 12

Film: Sunset Blvd., dir. Billy Wilder (1950) **

Theory: Walter Benjamin, Abridged “Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

Context: “Psychoanalytic Analysis” (CMS)

Optional theory: Horkheimer and Adorno, abridged “Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception”

* Homework: Group 1 & 2 (DQ); Group 3 & 4 (CRIT)

Week 7:
Oct 17 & 19

Film: Sidney Lumet, Dog Day Afternoon (1975) **

Theory: Jean Baudrillard, abridged “Simulacra and Simulations”

Context: “Rhetorical Analysis” (CMS)

Optional criticism: Fredric Jameson, “Class and Allegory” (on Dog Day Afternoon)

* Homework: Group 5 & 6 (DQ); Group 7 & 8 (CRIT)

October 24

Conferences in 603C in lieu of regular class (see the Sign-Up Sheet in the course shell for the Schedule)

October 26

Class Cancelled for Conference (begin reading Fight Club)

Week 9:
Oct. 31 & Nov. 2

Film: Fight Club, dir. David Fincher (1999) **

Literature: Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

Theory: Michael S. Kimmel, “Masculinity as Homophobia

Context: Joseph Boggs, “Film Adaptation”

* Homework: All groups email a discussion question (60 words min.) for your peers to to discuss in class by noon Tuesday, October 31 drawing on either Kimmel or Boggs. See guidance on questions in the course shell.

Week 10:
Nov. 7 & 9

Film: Do the Right Thing, dir. Spike Lee (1989) **

Theory: José Esteban MuĖoz, “‘Chico, what does it feel like to be a problem?’: The Transmission of Brownness,” and W. J. T. Mitchell, “Violence of Public Art”

Context: “Sociological Analysis” (CMS)

Optional criticism: Houston A. Baker, Jr., “Commerce of Culture”

* Homework: Group 3 & 4 (DQ); Group 1 & 2 (CRIT)

Week 11:
Nov. 14 & 16

Film: Dirty Pretty Things, dir. Stephen Frears (2002) **

Theory: Mimi Thi Nguyen, "Grace, the Gift of the Girl in the Photograph"

Optional theory: Michel Foucault, “Panopticon,” Arjun Appadurai, “Here and Now”

* Homework: Group 7 & 8 (DQ); Group 5 & 6 (CRIT)

Week 13:
Nov. 21

No Class: Individual Conferences (see schedule in course shell) ** Note: Introduction and Outline for Five-Page Film Analysis Essay (on two course films or a course film adaptation) due on Dec. 7

November 23

Class Cancelled for Thanksgiving Recess

Week 13:
Nov. 28 & 30

Film: All About My Mother [Todo sobre mi madre], dir. Pedro Almodóvar (1999) **

Theory: Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”

Context: “Queer Analysis” (CMS)

Optional criticism: Film Analysis, “All about My Mother”

* Homework: Group 1 & 2 (DQ); Group 3 & 4 (CRIT)

Week 14:
Dec. 5 & 7

Film: The Crying Game, dir. Neil Jordan (1992) **

Theory: Judith Butler, abridged “Gender Trouble”

Context: “Erotic Analysis” (CMS)

Optional theory: Susan Stryker, “An Introduction to Transgender”

* Homework: Group 5 & 6 (DQ); Group 7 & 8 (CRIT)

December 12

No Class: Individual Conferences (see schedule in course shell) ** Note: the Five-Page Film Analysis Essay (n two course films or a course film adaptation) is due on Dec. 15

December 19

Exam Two (self-designed essay exam tying together section materials)


 [Syllabus last modified September 11, 2017]