Thursday, September 1, 2016

ENGL 495.001 - Senior Seminar


This course aims to be a seminar in word and spirit. As a group of independent scholars, we will critically examine an extensive array of films that have been historically and variably "defined," categorized, "marginalized," labeled, and celebrated as "avant-garde," "experimental," "artistic," "independent," "personal," "provocative," "underground," "shocking," "poetic"and "pornographic." Beginning with a consideration of how these terms function (e.g. the cultural capital attached to each, etc.) this course surveys the last half-century of so-called "experimental" and "avant-garde" cinema in the United States. In the process, students in this seminar will engage intellectually with these challenging works, explaining how function formally, thematically, and politically. 

Professor Jay McRoy
Office Hours: W 3pm - 5pm

The following required texts are available at the campus bookstore.
  • The Film Culture Reader. Edited by P. Adams Sitney
  • Experimental Cinema: The Film Reader. Edited by Wheeler Winston Dixon and Gwendolyn Foster
  • Naked Lens: Beat Cinema by Jack Sargeant
  • Flesh and Excess: On Underground Film by Jack Sargeant
  • Writing about Film by Timothy Corrigan
  • Film Art: An Introduction by David Bordwell and Kristen Thompson
  • The Beats: A Very Short Introduction by David Sterritt
  • Screening the Beats: Media Culture and the Beat Sensibility by David Sterritt
  • Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde, 1943 - 2000 by P. Adams Sitney
  • Death Tripping by Jack Sergeant
  • Subversion: The Definitive History of Underground Cinema by Duncan Reekie
  • Theorizing Art Cinemas by David Andrews
  • A History of Experimental Film and Video by A.L. Rees
  • Avant-Garde Film: Forms, Themes and Passions by Michael O'Pray


Attendance, Preparation, and Participation.
This is a seminar. Consequently, this class will embrace the full meaning of the word's etymology in that it will consist of a "special group-study class for advanced students." Active participation is vital. As we only meet once a week, attendance is mandatory; missing classes will negatively impact your grade. After two absences your grade will be lowered by half a letter grade. Additionally, all of the assigned reading, viewing, and writing for the course must be completed by the beginning of class. Failure to keep up with the readings and viewings will have a negative impact upon your performance in this class; a chronic lack of preparation will be disastrous.
Classes will consist of a combination of lectures, screenings, and discussions. The works we will encounter are challenging...deliberately so, and to multiple ends. Consequently, many of the films we will view have been historically and variably "defined"/categorized/labeled as: "avant-garde," "experimental," "personal," "underground," "artistic,""independent," "poetic," "pornographic"/ "obscene," etc.

Warning: There will be depictions of human beings doing the human-being things. 


For those taking the class a ENGL 495: Senior Seminar, the breakdown is as follows:
  • Attendance, Preparation, and Participation (20%). See Above.
  • Critical Reading - And OccasionallyViewing - Notes (No more than 500 words. 40%). Reading notes are due the day the material is scheduled to be discussed. They should be your attempt to make sense of the text(s), not your opinions on it. Locate and note key concepts and quotable lines. Note any connections you find between/among the readings and the films we will be watching. Note any important films or writings that the readings reference. Your notes must always contain a full citation of the text in MLA format, as well as page numbers for any quotes. This is really great practice. There are twelve (12) dates when Critical Reading Notes are due; you need only turn in eight (8) to fulfill the course requirement. If you complete more that eight, I will drop the lowest grade.
  • Seminar Paper (12 - 15 pages [not counting Works Cited], 40%) Your seminar paper, like any film analysis, should consist of a solid thesis statement supported by a specific and detailed close reading(s) of the of the work (or works) in question. As a senior seminar paper is longer than many analytical essays you may have written in previous classes, your approach could be comparative (i.e. exploring how a similar formal approach or thematic concern is addressed by two different artists, or by a single artist at two different stages of their careers). Of course, all theoretical approaches are welcome. Screenshots/frame grabs for illustrative purposes are encouraged. Your seminar paper must include "support" from at least four outside sources.  
         All wring for this class must use MLA formatting.

For those taking the class as a designation other than ENGL 495, the breakdown is as follows:
  • Attendance, Preparation, and Participation (20%). See above.
  • Critical Reading and Viewing Notes (40%). See above.
  • Seminar Paper (40%), or, Two Shorter Analytical Essays (Approximately 1000 words - 20% each). Shorter analytical essays need cite only two sources and must restrict their scope to a sustained critical engagement with a single film.         

The English Department regards any type of academic misconduct as a serious offense. Academic misconduct can take many forms, including plagiarism, collusion, or cheating on tests or exams.

I. Plagiarism is the deliberate presentation of the writing or ideas of another as one's own.
1 You must acknowledge the sources of any information in your work which is not either common knowledge or personal knowledge. Common knowledge, such as the dates of Bill Clinton's presidency or the freezing point of water, is information that belongs generally to the educated public. Personal knowledge is something that you know through your own direct personal experience.
2 You must acknowledge direct quotation, either by using quotation marks or indenting longer passages. Without quotation marks, or indentation, a quotation is plagiarized even if it is followed by an in-text citation or a footnote.
3 If you rephrase the original passage from the source by merely changing a few words or altering its structure, you are still committing plagiarism. Ask your instructor for help if you are having trouble paraphrasing appropriately.
4 If you use the ideas, examples, or structure of a source without acknowledgement, you are plagiarizing.
5 If you purchase, download, borrow, or steal a paper, or any part of a paper, written by someone else, and present it as your own work, you are plagiarizing.
6 You also cannot use an assignment for more than one course without prior written approval from both instructors.
II. Collusion (i.e. allowing someone else to write, revise, or edit your academic work) is also a form of academic misconduct. Changes or corrections can be suggested by an instructor, peer editor, tutor, or even a friend or family member, but the person cannot revise or edit the paper for you.

III. Cheating. On quizzes, tests, or exams, you must abide by the rules established by your instructor. For example, if you are told you cannot use books or notes, then using notes during the exam is considered to be academic misconduct. Obviously, you cannot use answers that have been provided by anyone else (whether voluntarily or involuntarily), and you also cannot use an illegally obtained copy of the test or exam to gain an unfair advantage over your fellow students.

Penalties for academic misconduct can be severe, ranging from a failing grade on the assignment to suspension or even expulsion from the University of Wisconsin System. Students may appeal these penalties following procedures outlined by UWS 14, the section of the UW System's code on academic disciplinary policies and procedures.


9/7: Week One

9/14: Week Two
Read For Class:
  • “Introduction: Toward a New History of the Experimental Cinema” (EFR)
  • “The First Statement of the New American Cinema Group” (FCR & ECR)
  • “The Film as an Original Art Form” by Hans Richter (FCR)
  • “Notes on the New American Cinema” by Jonas Mekas (FCR)
  • “A Call for a New Generation of Film Makers” by Jonas Mekas (FCR)
CRN #1 Due
(Ballet Mécanique, 1924)

(Rhythmus 21, 1921)

(Filmstudie, 1925)

(Everyday, 1929)

(Anemic Cinema, 1926)

(Un chien andalou, 1928)

(L'age d'or, 1930)

(Europe after the Rain: Dadaism and Surrealism
- Recommended)

(Destino, 2003 - Walt Disney & Salvador Dali
- Recommended)

9/21: Week Three
Read For Class: 
CRN #2 Due

(The Story of Jonas Mekes) 

(Jonas Mekes: Advice to the Young)

(Jonas Mekas on His Filmmaking)

(Notes on the Circus)

(Four in the Afternoon, 1951) 

(This is It, 1971)

(The Garden of Eden, 1981)

(Little Stabs at Happiness, Ken Jacobs, 1959-63
ADDED 9/20)

(Necrology, 1969 -70, Standish Lawder
ADDED 9/20)

9/28: Week Four
Read For Class: 
  • “Poetry and Film: A Symposium with Maya Deren, Arthur Miller, Dylan Thomas, Parker Tyler. Chairman, Willard Maas.” Organized by Amos Vogel (FCR)
  • “Imagism in Four Avant-Garde Films” by P. Adams Sitney (FCR)
  • “To Maya Deren” by Rudolf Arnheim (FCR)
  • “The Women Filmmaker in the New York Avant-garde” by Lauren Rabinowitz (ECR)
CRN #3 Due

(Meshes of the Afternoon, 1943)

(At Land, 1944)

(The Very Eye of Night, 1958)

(Ritual in Transfigured Time, 1946)

(Meditation on Violence, 1948)

(Dive Horsemen: The Living Gods of Haiti, 1947-1954)

(In the Mirror of Maya Deren, 2002 -
Cool Documentary on Maya Deren)

10/5: Week Five
Read For Class: 
  • Naked Lens: Beat Cinema  - Part One: Chapters 1-3
  • “For Shadows, Against Pull My Daisy” by Parker Tyler (FCR)
CRN #4 Due
(Shadows Trailer)

(John Cassavetes on Creating Cinema and "Television")

(I'm Almost Not Crazy: John Cassavetes)

(John Cassavetes punches Ronald Reagan in the face after 
Ronald Reagan slaps Angie Dickinson in
The Killers, 1964. I'm just gonna leave this here...)

10/12: Week Six
Read For Class: 
CRN #5 Due
(Brion Gyrin Teaching)

(Jack Kerouac Interview)

(Towers Open Fire - Dr. Anthony Balsch -
William S. Burroughs Cut-Up Film)

(The Cut Ups [1966] - William S. Burroughs)

(William S. Burroughs: Commissioner of Sewers)

(William S. Burroughs: The Possessed)

(William S. Burroughs - On Writing and Art)

(William S. Burroughs - Is Everybody In?)

("A Thanksgiving Prayer" - William S. Burroughs)

10/19: Week Seven
Read For Class: 
  • “The Flower Thief: The “Film Poem,” Warhol’s Early Films,  and the Beat Writers” by Reva Wolf (ECR)
  • “Kenneth Anger’s Scorpio Rising” by Carolee Schneemann (FCR)
  • “Pop, Queer, or Fascist? The Ambiguity of Mass Culture” by Juan A Suarez (ECR)
  • “Some Notes on Sleep” by Henry Geldzahler (FCR)
CRN #6 Due

(Fireworks, Anger, 1947)

(Puce Moment, Anger, 1949)

(Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome, Anger, 1954)

(Invocation of my Demon Brother, Anger, 1969)

(Kustom Kar Kommandos, Anger, 1970)

(Blowjob, Warhol, 1964)

(Andy Warhol Eats A Hamburger)

10/26: Week Eight 
Read For Class: 
  • “Interview with Stan Brakhage” by P. Adams Sitney (FCR)
  • “The Birth Film” by Jane Brakhage (FCR)

****Paper One (Non-495 students only)***
CRN #7 Due

(Brakhage on Brakhage)

(Window Water Baby Moving, Breakage, 1962)

(Dogstar Man, Brakhage, 1962)

(Mothlight, Breakage, 1963) 

11/2: Week Nine
Read For Class: 
  • “Structural Film” by P. Adams Sitney (FCR & ECR)
CRN #8 Due
(Wavelength, 1967)

(Michael Snow, 1983)

(The Flicker, Tony Conrad)

(Zorn's Lemma, Hollis Frampton, 1970)

(Nostalgia, Hollis Frampton)

11/9: Week Ten
Read For Class: 
  • Flesh and Excess: On Underground Film - “An Introduction” through Chapter Four
CRN #9 Due
(Wild World of Lydia Lunch, Nick Zedd 1983)

(Ladies and Gentlemen Amos Poe 2012)

(Death Valley 69, Richard Kern)

(New Order's Age of Consent, 81, Amos Poe)

11/16: Week Eleven


(UCLA Department of Art Lecture: James Benning)

(Biographical Video on Sadie Benning)

11/23: Week Twelve

11/30: Week Thirteen
Listen For Class: "Rembrandt of the Video Age": Bill Viola Explores the Elemental Wonder of his Childhood"on ABC Radio

CRN #11 Due

(Bill Viola: Cameras are Soul Keepers)

(Iconic Turn Lecture Series: Bill Viola
"Video Art, Sense Perception and Human Experience"
Viola begins speaking approximately 20 minutes into the video)

("Owl" from I Do Not Know What I Am Like, 1986)

(The Quintet of the Astonished, 2010)

(The Innocents)

(The Raft, 2004)

(Martyrs, St. Paul's Cathedral, 2014)

(In Passing - A Remodernist Omnibus Film, 2011)

(Days Gone Not Forgotten, Jesse Richards, 2011)


12/7: Week Fourteen
Read for Class: TBA

CRN #12 Due
(White Ash, Pierce, 2014)

Leighton Pierce on Vimeo

Jennifer Reeder's A Million Miles Away (2014)

(F J Ossang's Ciel Eteint, 2008)

Underground Film Society:

From Savage Witches (2012)
     Clip 1
     Clip 2
     Clip 3

(Harmony Korine's Umshini Wam, 2011)

(Harmony Korine's Snowballs, 2011)