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|Title: ||ENGL 381-01, Tough Guys, Dangerous Dames, and Streets With No Name: American Film Noir, Fall 2008|
|Authors: ||Richards, Rashna|
|Date Issued: ||27-Aug-2008|
|Publisher: ||Rhodes College|
|Series/Report no.: ||Syllabi CRN|
|Abstract: ||A telephone rings in darkness. With only partial lighting from the back of the frame, objects
slowly materialize on a bedside table: an old stand-up telephone, a pouch of tobacco, a dusty
ashtray, an alarm clock balanced on the edge of a book, a newspaper turned to the racing section.
Curtains sway ominously from the night breeze in the background, while in the foreground a
fumbling hand reaches in to grab the ringing telephone. A private detective has been shot dead,
the caller informs, by the crook he was shadowing. No one cares. This is a bleak world--of tough
guys, dangerous dames, and streets with no name. This is the world of American film noir.
In 1946, French critic Nino Frank used the term "film noir" to describe the existential,
expressionist, and erotic crime thrillers being produced by Hollywood at that time. The gritty
look, cynical mood, and scathing tone of films such as John Huston's The Maltese Falcon, Billy
Wilder's Double Indemnity, Edward Dmytryk's Murder, My Sweet, and Otto Preminger's Laura,
he argued, marked the emergence of a new trend in Hollywood cinema, one that undercut
George Bailey's optimism and exposed the dark side of the American dream. Since then, film
noir has been variously regarded as a style, a genre, and a movement, expressive of the fears,
desires, and anxieties of mid-century America.
In this course, we will examine the noir phenomenon, from its beginnings during World War II
to its explosion in postwar America to its recent postmodern revivals. In the first half of the
semester, we will trace its roots in German Expressionism and in hard-boiled detective fiction
and explore how noir films deal with social tensions around urban life, gender roles and sexual identities, race relations, and so on while complicating the success story of postwar America.
During the second half, we will consider why the bleakness and disillusionment pervasive during
World War II continue to resonate in American cinema and analyze how neo-noir films both
honor and parody classic noir.|
|Description: ||This syllabus was submitted to the Office of Academic Affairs by the course instructor.|
|Appears in Collections:||English Department. Syllabi|
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