Syllabus (subject to change)

HUMS 250 04 Spring 2017               Dr. W. Gardner Campbell
Reading Film                                        Anderson 205/828-1172/
Hibbs 403/TR 3:30-4:45                   Office hrs. TR 2:00-3:15 & by appt.

Graduate Assistant: Ms. Annie Persons, Hibbs 247 Office Hours T 2-3 & by appt.

This course is dedicated to Dr. Thomas Leitch, Professor of English, University of Delaware

Course Goals:  To learn how to analyze film precisely and insightfully, and to consider technical, aesthetic, social, and cultural aspects of film production.

Textbook: Sidney Lumet, Making Movies – and our class-authored distributed textbook (see below).

Syllabus (subject to change)

1/17                 Introduction, Citizen Kane

1/19                 Citizen Kane, film production

1/24                 Citizen Kane, film form, narrative (Lumet 28-48)

1/26                 Citizen Kane, genre (Lumet 3-27)

1/31-2/2           Citizen Kane, mise-en-scene (Lumet 49-74, 94-104)

2/7-9                Out of the Past, cinematography (Lumet 75-93)

2/14                 Editing (Lumet 148-169)

2/16                 Class does not meet

2/21                 Editing

2/23                 Sound (Lumet 170-192)

2/28                 Review for midterm

3/2                   Midterm Exam

3/4-3/12           SPRING BREAK

3/14-16             Vertigo

3/21-23             Devil in a Blue Dress (Lumet 59-74)

3/28-30             Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet 105-147, 193-218)

4/4-6                Class Choice

4/11                 American Graffiti

4/13                 American Graffiti/Dazed and Confused

4/18                 Dazed and Confused

4/20                 Quadrophenia

4/25                 Quadrophenia/Fast Times At Ridgemont High

4/27                 Fast Times At Ridgemont High 

5/2                   Conclusion

FINAL EXAM:            5/11 1:00-3:50 p.m.       


**A midterm and a final (cumulative) exam.

**Frequent brief quizzes.

**Twice-weekly substantive posts to the class electronic discussion forum (credit/no credit). Class forum is at

**A portfolio of your seven best forum posts, submitted for a grade.

**A film analysis project (described below), published to your Rampages site. If you don’t already have a Rampages site, please set one up at

GRADING:  Papers, exams, and class participation are graded on a 100-point scale.  Letter grade equivalents are as follows:

A+        98-100          B+     87-89           C+    77-79        D+    67-69          F  59 and below

A           93-97            B       83-86           C       73-76       D      63-66

A-         90-92             B-      80-82           C-      70-72      D-     60-62

Weighting for each assignment:

Electronic forum participation     10%            Quizzes                           10%           Midterm    20%

E-forum portfolio                       10%            Film analysis project       25%           Final exam 25%


ATTENDANCE:  You are responsible for all material covered in class lectures, discussions, and group activities, including film screenings.  Except in extraordinary circumstances, no reading quiz may be made up.  Regular attendance is wise.

A Note on Film Screenings: I will try to arrange screenings outside of class whenever possible. All films are also in Cabell Library on 4-hour reserve and may be viewed there. If a film was originally released widescreen, you must see it in its original aspect ratio. All widescreen films in Cabell Library are in the original aspect ratio when that is available.

Schedule of Film Screenings TBD

HONOR CODE:  VCU’s Honor Code is in effect for this course.


  1. I will do my best to start class on time; please be prompt.
  2. In all course interactions, both face-to-face and electronically: passion encouraged, civility required.
  3. Many of the materials in this class—films, books, lectures, discussions—concern issues and topics including but not limited to race, gender, sexuality, religion, and politics. In particular, some films and books include depictions of violence and/or sexuality that some readers/viewers may find objectionable or offensive. I will do my best to treat these matters discreetly and with the highest standards of professional good conduct. In turn, I expect you to help me create a community in which these challenging and potentially uncomfortable issues can be discussed in a mature, sensitive, and tolerant manner.

The Film Analysis Project (a distributed textbook project)

I will prepare, and post to YouTube, two clips from each of the movies I’ve assigned for the semester. Your assignment is to pick one of those clips and analyze it in terms of one of the following categories:

  • Mise-en-scene (to include two or more of the following: setting, lighting, costume and makeup, acting)
  • Cinematography (to include two or more of the following: tonality; perspective/lens choices; camera distance; camera angle; mobile framing such as panning, tilting, tracking, craning)
  • Editing
  • Sound

This work is to be done individually, and posted to your Rampages site. The format is as follows:

Film title

Embedded clip

Vital statistics (year of release, director, cinematographer, editor, music)

Analysis (the analysis should be around 800 words, the equivalent of a four-page paper.

Rationale for this project: Since the advent of YouTube, the Critical Commons (, and the continued expansion of the WWW, materials illustrating the basics of reading films are widely and freely available. Yet focused analytical engagement with particular scenes from particular films is lacking. Such analytical engagement will demonstrate and reinforce your learning in this course. The best work will be an admirable educational resource for future students.