English 199 -- Winter 2000. 204 Chapman, T-Th, 2-4 p.m.

Professor Julia Lesage. Office Hours: 357 PLC, Wed. 8-11 a.m. x63979.

email: jlesage@oregon.uoregon.edu

Web Site  http://blackboard.uoregon.edu/


Readings are from a course pack. Multiple copies of the course pack are on reserve. The packet is also at THE COPY SHOP on 13th street, three blocks west of campus.


The course is organized around making the issue of positive and negative images more textured and complex. Many of you will have already studied course material related to gender. You are probably able to spot demeaning images of women when you come across them. However, different viewers may disagree about which images are demeaning, even while watching the same film or TV program. For example, when you watch television, ask which roles and shows offer "positive" depictions of women. Confusingly, in thinking about women in film and television, we often find that an image or plot may be both positive and negative for women at the same time.

In addition, the class will deal with another important contradiction around the issue of positive vs. negative images. That is, members of underrepresented groups in a culture often seek as a goal more "positive images" of themselves as they intervene politically and try to influence their representation and participation in the mass media. But positive images themselves can also be stereotypical and lifeless, and perhaps even feed into limiting attitudes toward the group. An example of this would be a film about Stephen Hawking as a genius who is a severely disabled man. Although Hawking is indisputably admirable, the film might imply that the exceptionally talented person with a disability is the one whom we should respect and take seriously in the community. What about the rest of the people with disabilities? What kind of recognition do they deserve? And, in relation to this course, what are some of the gender issues that people with disabilities might commonly face? The fact that I cannot find a feature fiction film to show that deals with the gender issues that a woman with a severe disability faces indicates the degree to which multiple forms of oppression make people doubly underrepresented and thus even more invisible to the mainstream eye.


Each week we will see a film on Thursday, and discuss it the following Tuesday. On the Tuesday of the discussion, there will be a quiz, the teacher’s leading the discussion of the reading, and a team of students leading a discussion for approximately an hour.  There will be a course web site, and the students will make postings to the Discussion Board there once a week.  Student writing includes a five page paper, a take-home midterm, and an in-class final, with the questions handed out a week in advance.  Each of these aspects of the course will be explained in greater detail below and in additional class handouts.


Week 1, Jan. 6: Topic--positive images vs. subversive actors

class=MsoBlockText Thursday: course procedure explained, first half of BANANAS IS MY BUSINESS shown.

Readings: "The Lady in the Tutti-Frutti Hat: Carmen Miranda, a Spectacle of Ethnicity" by Shari Roberts, CINEMA JOURNAL 32:3 (Spring 1993), pp. 3-23.

"Positive Images: Screening Women's Films" by Linda Artel and Susan Wengraf," JUMP CUT 18 (1978), pp. 30-31.

"There's More to a Positive Image than Meets the Eye" by Diane Waldman, JUMP CUT 18 (1978), pp. 31-32.

Week 2, Jan. 11 -13:

Tuesday: rest of film shown; teacher's presentation of the readings on positive images and Carmen Miranda, and discussion of the film.

Thursday: Topic--family life


Readings: "Looking at Gender Representation in Film, TV, and Ads" by Julia Lesage, an outline.

"Notes on Melodrama and the Family under Capitalism" by Chuck Kleinhans, from JUMP CUT 17 (1977), pp. 27-29.

Students must enroll in the course web site and make their first posting to Discussion Board there.

Week 3: Jan. 18-20:

Tuesday: quiz, teacher's presentation of readings. Team presentation on LITTLE WOMEN, topic of women and family, and discussion of this film and others on family life and how they present women and girls.

Thursday: Topic--women adventurers


2 Readings: "Missing in Action: Notes on Dorothy Arzner" by Beverle Houston, WIDE ANGLE 6:3 (1993), pp. 25-31.

"Dorothy Arzner's Trousers" by Jane Gaines, JUMP CUT 37 (1992), pp. 88-97.

"Odd Couple" by Judith Mayne, DIRECTED BY DOROTHY ARZNER (Bloomington: IN Univ. Press, 1994), pp. 112-130.

Discussion Board Assignment, found at Discussion Board site.

Week 4, Jan. 25-27:

Tuesday: quiz, teacher's presentation of readings. Team presentation on women and adventure in film, the issue of 'strong women' in society, and discussion of CHRISTOPHER STRONG.

Thursday: Topic--negative portrayals


Readings: "Housekeeping in Hollywood: the Case of CRAIG'S WIFE" by Kathleen McHugh, SCREEN 35:2 (Summer 1994), pp. 123-135.

"The Hegemonic Female Fantasy in AN UNMARRIED WOMAN and CRAIG'S WIFE" by Julia Lesage, FILM READER No. 5 (1982), pp. 83-94.

Discussion Board Assignment, found at Discussion Board site.

Week 5, Feb.1-3:

Tuesday: quiz, teacher's presentation of readings. Team presentation on negative portrayals of women in film and television, the social effect of that, and discussion of CHRISTOPHER STRONG.

Thursday: Topic--women's vengeance


Readings: "Feminist or Tendentious: Marleen Gorris' A QUESTION OF SILENCE" by Mary C. Gentile, FILM FEMINISMS (Westport CT: Greenwood, 1985), pp. 153-165.

"A QUESTION OF SILENCE" by Jeanette Murphy in FILMS FOR WOMEN, ed. Charlotte Brundson (London: British Film Institute, 1986), pp. 99-108.

"Converting Melodrama to Manifesto: A QUESTION OF SILENCE," by Kathleen McHugh, AMERICAN DOMESTICITY (NY: Oxford, 1999), 169-175.

Discussion Board Assignment, found at Discussion Board site.

Week 6, Feb. 8-10:

Tuesday: quiz, teacher's presentation of readings. Team presentation on women and vengeance in film, other films on the topic, the issue of women's vengeance in society, and discussion of A QUESTION OF SILENCE.

Questions for take home midterm passed out.

Thursday: Topic--women together


Reading "Hardware and Hardbodies, What Do Women Want? A Reading of THELMA AND LOUISE" by Sharon Willis, from FILM THEORY GOES TO THE MOVIES, eds. Jim Collins, et al (NY: Routledge, 1993), pp. 120-128, 276-278.

Discussion Board Assignment, found at Discussion Board site.

Week 7, Feb. 15-17 .

Tuesday: Take-home midterm exam due at beginning of class, typed, double space. Teacher will lead discussion of film and reading.

Thursday: Topic--lesbians in mainstream film and TV


Readings: "Women in Love: PERSONAL BEST" by Linda Williams, JUMP CUT 27 (1982), pp. 1, 11-12.

"Lesbian/Feminist Audience for PERSONAL BEST" by Chris Straayer, JUMP CUT 29 (1984), pp. 40-44.

Discussion Board Assignment, found at Discussion Board site.

Week 8, Feb. 22-23:

Tuesday: quiz, teacher's presentation of readings. Team presentation on lesbians in film, other films on lesbians, the issue of lesbian representations in society, and discussion of PERSONAL BEST.

Thursday: Topic--African American women in film


Readings: "Blues for Mr. Spielberg" by Michelle Wallace, INVISIBILITY BLUES (NY: Verso, 1990), pp. 67-76.

"THE COLOR PURPLE: Black Women's Responses" by Jacqueline Bobo, JUMP CUT 33 (1988), pp. 43-51.

Discussion Board Assignment, found at Discussion Board site.

Week 9, Feb. 29-March 2:

Tuesday: quiz, teacher's presentation of readings. Team presentation on African American women in film, controversy around this film and novel, and discussion of the film, THE COLOR PURPLE.

Thursday: Topic--documentaries by women

Films: selected documentaries by women

Readings: "Women's Fragmented Consciousness in Feminist Experimental Video" by Julia Lesage, from FEMINISM AND DOCUMENTARY, eds. Diane Waldman and Janet Walker (Minneapolis: U of MN Press, 1999), pp. 309-337.

"Feminist Documentary: Aesthetics and Politics" by Julia Lesage, from SHOW US LIFE: TOWARD A HISTORY AND AESTHETICS OF THE COMMITTED DOCUMENTARY, ed. Thomas Waugh (Metuchen NJ: Scarecrow Press, 1984), pp. 223-251.

Discussion Board Assignment, found at Discussion Board site.

Week 10, March 7-9:

Tuesday: quiz, teacher's presentation of readings. Team presentation on women-made documentaries and discussion films seen in class.



Discussion Board Assignment, found at Discussion Board site.


A list of questions will be passed out a week before the exam. The students will write on two of the questions. Students can bring their readings and notes from the entire term to class to refer to. Peer evaluations will be handed in during the final exam period.


TEAMS: Students will be placed into one of seven teams the first day of class, and they will stay in the same team throughout the term. By the second day of class, they will have chosen a name for their team--based on names of a woman movie star, screenwriter, or director. The teams will each lead one day of the Tuesday class discussion on film, other films on the same subject, and the larger topic for the week and its social implications. They may show clips to discuss the film we saw on Thursday or other relevant films or TV shows.

Every team will get a folder with the names of its members and a calendar for the term on the front. Each day I will pass out the folders, which will contain any quizzes that need to be returned that day, and I will collect the folders during class. The calendar on the front is for your team to keep track of your own attendance. If you are going to be absent, you must contact either your team members or myself before class. Because the team score on the quizzes is almost always higher than that of the team's highest scoring individual member, if someone on your team is absent, they will be unable to contribute to the group quiz and your team will most likely perform worse than it otherwise would have. In addition to whatever other criteria you develop as a group, keep attendance in mind when you evaluate each other at the end of the term.

WEEKLY QUIZ: There will be a brief quiz to check on the readings each Tuesday at the beginning of class. The quiz will have two grades, each equal in value. First, individuals will take the quiz and hand it in. Then the team will discuss the questions and take the exam collectively and hand that paper in. Each student gets a team grade and an individual grade for the quiz.

TEAM PRESENTATIONS: One team presents the class discussion each week. The students from a specific team will present the discussion on Tuesdays. They will each speak and give a specific presentation. By the end of the week, each member will hand in a five page paper based on the research s/he did for the presentation and what s/he said. The individual grade will be based on effectiveness in presentation and in leading discussion, and on the paper written as a follow up.

In the classroom presentation, scenes from the film can be reshown so that key issues or questions are raised for class discussion, applying the readings to the film seen on Thursday. An analysis of a single character in the film should be prepared by one or more of the team members and read to the class as a discussion starter. Also, one or two team member should address the larger issue that is the topic for the week, indicate briefly how other films or tv programs deal with that topic, and bring in clips or initiate discussion with specific questions or ideas for the class to consider. The team may want to pass out a list of films or television shows related to the week's topic that they recommend classmates see on their own.

I will pass out a list of possible ways to make a presentation and also some hints on how to get discussion moving. I will also be available, especially by email or in office hours to help team members prepare their collective and individual presentations. I can also help a team edit together a little videotape of clips they may want to show in class, or they can tell me the clips to select from the laser disc to reshow to the class on Tuesday. If a team needs my help, they should come to me in advance of the class period itself. We can all work together so that the teams make the best possible presentation.

The team grade for the presentation will be based on how effective the team is in getting the class to consider the main ideas in the reading, the main aesthetic and gender issues that the film raises, and some of the larger considerations related to the week's topic.

During the discussion, I will explain difficult points, if necessary, or summarize some debates that have occurred in film criticism around these topics or films. If it seems useful, I will write out notes to distribute to the class as a follow up.



On certain weeks, noted in the Assignments sheet, you are required to make a Discussion Board posting.

Here is how it goes: I will post one or two discussion Threads, related to the week's reading.  The Team making a presentation about the film we saw and other related films will also post several Threads that you can reply to. You will post at least one "substantive" Reply to one of those Threads. Or you can start a new and thoughtful Thread of your own for others to reply to.

You will be graded on your Reply in terms of its quality. And it must be posted in the week in which it was assigned, before the next Monday that we have class. Late postings will not be accepted.

See subsection below on Grading Postings for how I estimate the quality of the postings and decide what is "substantial" and what is "trivial." You may comment as often as you like to other students or me in Discussion Board. But you must make at least one "substantial" posting for the weeks in which Discussion Board is an assignment. I will decide what I think is your most substantial postings and give you a letter grade on that.

In general, it is important not to write too long, but to offer more information than a mere opinion. Five or six sentences makes a good length paragraph; to write a whole computer screen means you running long; two whole computer screens seems almost too long to expect a Discussion Board reader to pay attention to. The readers want to read what the others wrote and then get in on the action themselves.


First, read the Blackboard online Student Manual about the Discussion Board, and learn how to create Threads and Replies.

You will mainly add your posts as Replies to my Thread or to the team's Threads. You may want to bring in outside information, such as other films and TV shows for comparison. You may want to refer to web pages or other readings that illustrate or set up a contrast with the topic of this Thread.

Feel free to reply to classmates' comments, but try to stay on the level of intellectual response and avoid emotionally shaded language or accusative tone. If you think an earlier posting was wrong, you may want to start with: "I disagree with xxx, and here are the reasons why....." Of course, in many instances, you may both agree and disagree in part with what someone said, and you can express that, reasoning out why you differ. When the question is about taste--like or dislike in film and TV viewing--then the person who declares a media preference is not "wrong"; they have just stated a preference and explained what satisfaction that film or television program provides them.

Sometimes you will find it useful to take the discussion to a higher level of generality, beyond individual taste. For example, you can discuss demographics and marketing, such as how action films are geared toward young people, often young men, and many romantic comedies are geared toward women. Clearly film and television marketing takes into consideration age, class, gender, geographical region, etc., so we should be able to take these into consideration, too. That is why it is important that we learn how to discuss issues of racism and sexism in the media without putting anyone down for their taste or individual viewing habits.

In using the Discussion Board, you do not just have to reply to my posted Thread. You can also start your own new Threads to ask questions that occur to you about the course material, expand on topics covered in class, or expand on thoughts related to the class material prompted by other films, web pages, or other readings germane to any topics covered in the course.

You can glance at what is to come in the syllabus and note some idea or useful information on a topic related to film and television that we might not cover in class till a later date. Start a new Thread for this kind of thinking, too.

If you just want to post some new information related to media work not relevant to course content, I will put in a Thread called "Hot Tips: Do you have information about the arts that you want fellow students to know about?" Post your non-intellectual, information-only, material here as "Replies." This kind of posting could include information about a film or TV show that you would recommend (tell why) or a web site you find worthwhile, either in terms of film/TV information or aesthetically, on its own terms (always list what someone can expect to see or hear on a web site). Postings here do not count toward your grade.


Here is what I consider to be an A or B, "substantial" message:

1. Real Comment: an observation or line of reasoning that uses thoughtful material from reading, class discussion, or film/TV examples, in concrete detail. It tries to provide concrete evidence to back up the point.

2. Real Question: one that shows student has done the reading but is still unsure about something. It may be a response to the Thread that acknowledges the line of the reasoning expressed in that Thread, but the author of the Reply then explains how she or he wants future Replies to take up the subject from another tack.

Here is what I consider to be C or D, "trivial" messages, with C falling between "trivial" and "substantial":

1. Mere Question: A question asked on just a point of fact or on something I know is in the textbook or has been presented in class.

2. Simple Comment: Parroting what is in the book or lecture. Saying something like, "I agree," with a comment that adds no new intellectual content to the discussion. Also, you should avoid the kind of comment that there is this really neat reference on the Net. You CAN reference a web site if you make it clear what that kind of information can add to our thinking about the issue at hand.

3. Unsupported Reply: Someone answers a question, but the Reply contains only speculation and deduction, and it does not contain any detailed references to film, TV, or other sources.

4. Gee Whiz: Expression of amazement or surprise, or mere put-downs: Examples: "How could anyone like Emeril!" "Wrestling is all fake." "Football is just a guy thing."

5. Off-topic: Messages that the Web site appears to be down, that there is some related show on TV, etc.

The purpose for having a Discussion Board is to establish an intellectual community. In particular, reading and tactfully commenting on each others' responses will let us examine relations between taste (viewers' likes, dislikes) and aesthetics (principles of film/TV visual and audio construction). We want to learn how to analyze our rather automatic but firmly clung to media preferences. One of the ways of doing this is to learn to listen to others speak about their media preferences.

On the other hand, one of the goals of media studies is to expand the range of what we pay attention to in the media, and to learn to appreciate more things, even if only some aspect of them. For example, I have a critique of consumer culture, but I have learned to appreciate the narrative construction and the formal visual style of many television advertisements. Learning to examine well-loved habits critically will not interfere with enjoyment but enhance it. I am not saying that you are going to learn to love genres that you now avoid (e.g., action films, soap operas, home improvement shows) but you will learn more about how they function.

COURSE GRADING: The grades will be based on a total of  possible points:

Quizzes on readings:   pt. x 7:  

Individual grade--  points, maximum;

Team grade--  points.

Peer evaluation--  points. (More will be presented about peer evaluation later. At the end of the term, each team member assigns a grade to the other team members individually, and gives this evaluation, with comments, to me. The grade is based on criteria developed by the class as a whole.)

Midterm exam--Individual grade--  points

Final exam--Individual grade--  points

Team presentation: Team grade --  points

Individual grade on paper --  points

Discussion Board Postings:     pt. x


Absences: Students who are absent for the film can make it up in the IMC. Students who miss a Tuesday quiz must submit a one page typed summary of each of the readings. If they are absent for the film screening on Thursday, they should also hand in a one page response to the film, after they have seen it in the IMC. This make-up work can be submitted no more than a week after the absence. Students should phone or email me in advance if they know they have to be absent. More than two days absences without a serious excuse will affect a student's grade and is a factor that will be taken into consideration in the peer evaluations.

Written form: All written work turned in must be correct in terms of grammar, spelling, and punctuation.

Special needs: Any students who have special needs should see me outside of class to discuss them.

No one can take this class and say they have to leave early or come late due to another overlapping class or due to work schedules. If you know you will have this problem, drop the course now.