Fall 2006

ARTS 616
Film Comedy

De Seife,Ethan R.

09/11/2006 - 12/16/2006
Monday 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM

Public Affairs Center 421

This course will focus on the historical and aesthetic development of comedy across multiple national cinema traditions. We start by acquiring a grounding in comedy theory and then embark on a chronological study of the many forms which film comedy has taken over the past 100 years. Special focus will be given to film comedy's many struggles with censorship; the split between the romantic comedy and the "comedian comedy"; and the interaction of comedy with such matters as gender, race, sexuality, and stardom. Though an emphasis will be placed on American comedy, we will also study European and Asian films, as well.

Course reading includes but is not limited to: Kristine Brunovska Karnik and Henry Jenkins, eds., Classical Hollywood Comedy; Henry Jenkins, What Made Pistachio Nuts?: Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic; Steve Seidman, Comedian Comedy: A Tradition in Hollywood Film; and numerous short essays.

We will view short films starring Buster Keaton, Charlie Chaplin, Harry Langdon, and W.C. Fields; features starring The Marx Brothers, Mae West, Laurel and Hardy, Bob Hope, Jerry Lewis, and Woody Allen; screwball comedies of the '30s and '40s; features directed by Howard Hawks, Billy Wilder, Preston Sturges, Frank Tashlin, and Jacques Tati; early feature comedies by Yasujiro Ozu; short cartoons by Disney and Warner Bros; Hong Kong comedies by Michael Hui and Stephen Chiau; and British comedies by the Ealing Studios, Peter Sellers, Richard Lester, and Monty Python.

Each student is required to deliver a class presentation, and to write a research paper. Additionally, class participation will make up a significant portion of the grade.

A syllabus for this course is available at:

Ethan DeSeife (BA Wesleyan University; MA, PHD University of Wisconsin-Madison) has taught film studies at Wesleyan University, and is author of a book forthcoming fro Wallflower Press on "This is Spinal Tap."


Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Henry Jenkins, WHAT MADE PISTACHIO NUTS? (Columbia University Press), Paperback


PLEASE NOTE: A course packet is available for purchase at PIP Printing, 179 Main Street, Middletown, (860) 344-9001.

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