ENG 238S

Course Aims

The overall aims of the course are to lead you (1) to think carefully and in detail about specific fantasy and science fiction films, in terms of their individual cinematic qualities and total content (beyond plot) (2) to discuss, through these specific films, the ways in which popular film genres are constructed and evolve (3) to demonstrate, through these specific films, the relationships between popular genre films and the social and political contexts within which they operate.

The assignments are intended (i) to make sure that you are keeping up with the film viewing, the Course Reader materials, and thinking about the films in some of the ways suggested in class (ii) to encourage you to explore in more depth, on your own, some of the issues and theories brought up in class and in the Course Reader selections (iii) to lead you towards thinking and writing, with some insight and specifically in relation to science fiction and fantasy films, about film genres, film as popular culture, and films in relation to their social and political times.

TEST #1 (50 minutes of writing time) is to ensure that you are keeping up with the work of the course as in (i) above. Films covered will be The Princess Bride, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds, 2001; Independence Day will also be included in its aspects related to War of the Worlds.

The test will be divided into 3 sections. Section A (20 minutes) will involve the screening of 3 film clips; you will be asked to choose one and to write on how its details (of narrative content, lighting, camera angles, gesture, focus, movement, etc.) are significant in relation to the overall film from which it comes. This tests your ability to "read" a film for significance: to understand why filmmakers use the elements that they do. Section B (20 minutes) will involve a listing of 9 items--important characters (e.g., Lucy), locations (e.g., the Cliffs of Insanity), objects (e.g., The Arabian Nights book), dialogue lines (e.g., "Blood is the life"), songs, etc.--from the films; you will be asked to choose 5, to identify them by film and director, and to write on each one of the 5 (i.e., for about 4 minutes per item) in terms of its significance in the film from which it comes. Remember that significance involves much more than plot; it includes thematic ideas, relation to contexts, etc. This tests your knowledge of the films and your understanding of them beyond the level of plot. Section C (10 minutes) will list 3 items from the Course Reader (e.g., Sontag's outline of basic science fiction film plots) and ask you to choose one and briefly to outline and discuss it. This tests whether you have been keeping up with the readings.

You will probably find that you have too much to say for 50 minutes; this is a good sign! It is better to be rushed than to find that you have nothing to say. Try to write concisely; and, for every question, make the most important points first. Time yourself so as to make sure that you finish all Sections; you cannot get marks for a Section not done. This test is in part about coverage, and in part about ability to select key information from a body of knowledge.

If you miss the test, you must submit--within one week of the missed test--acceptable medical (or equivalent) documentation, on the appropriate Faculty form (available from your college registrar's office), if you wish to be eligible to write a make-up test. The make-up test will be held at a time TBA, within 2-3 weeks of the missed test.

TEST #2 will be identical in format to Test #1 but will be on the rest of the films and readings on the course. The same documentation rules apply, for a missed Test #2, as for Test #1.

PLEASE NOTE THAT BOTH TEST #1 and TEST #2 WILL BE WRITTEN ON A FRIDAY MORNING during what is normally (9-11 am) the course screening time. This is to give us sufficient time to include film clips on the tests; since showing the clips takes around 20 minutes, we would have little writing time left if the tests were held in a 50-minute Tuesday or Thursday time slot.

THE ESSAY (c. 2000 words) OPTION is for those who want to spend some time pursuing an issue or idea that especially interests them, in relation to one or two films, instead of writing Test #2. It is geared above all to (ii) in the second paragraph on p. 1. You must choose your topic from a course list which will be distributed in class a few weeks into the term. Remember that if the essay is not submitted by 5 pm on the specified deadline date you will have to write Test #2; there will be no essay deadline extensions.

Hand in the essay directly to the instructor (not to a TA), on or before the specified due date. The instructor will be at both classes and the Friday screening, as usual, that week, and will have her usual office hours. If you cannot find the instructor when you are handing in the essay, hand it in to the secretaries in UC 173. The secretaries will date-stamp the essay and put it in the instructor's mail box. On the Tuesday following the essay due date a list will be posted on the doors of both UC 277 and Innis 231 of those from whom an essay has been received and who are therefore exempt from writing Test #2.

THE FINAL EXAMINATION (2 hours; during the Faculty examination period) will ask you to demonstrate, at the course's end, your ability to put together the films and the issues raised in class and in the Course Reader in discussion of questions such as genre evolution, the advantages or disadvantages of genre differentiation, how social change has affected science fiction/fantasy films, and so on. It is geared above all to (iii) in the second paragraph on p. 1.

Probably (but not definitely) there will be 3 Sections, with choice in each Section; but although there will be mainly essay-type questions, the first Section will be divided into two parts, one for those who wrote Test #2 (choice of essay-type topics) and one for those who did not ( a compulsory question probably near-identical in format to Section B of Test #2). This is to make sure that no one chooses an essay instead of Test #2 simply because s/he doesn't want to know the films and Reader selections for Test #2! The examination will include questions on Course Reader selections.

Once the final examination has been set, the details of its format will be announced in class.