Sociology of Film
Sociology of Music, Sociology of Arts, Music, Art, Film, TV and Media, Syllabus,
and Interviews - Music, Articles and
Interviews - Film and TV, Lyrics with social content,
Film as a social institution. How works of fiction, documentaries, and
archive films offer a space of convergence for numerous sociological and psychological
In "restructuring the fast-paced upper-crust romance, the screwball comedy
dominated Depression-era screen comedy and provided that period's most significant and
engaging social commentary. - Thomas Schatz. The Screwball Comedy. Hollywood Genres.
Random House, 1981.
"the melodrama's narrative formula-- its interrelated family of characters, its
repressive small-town milieu, and its preoccupation with America's sociosexual
mores-managed to live beyond the Eisenhower years and into the era of civil rights,
Vietnam, the sexual revolution, and the Women's Movement." - Thomas Schatz. The
Family Melodrama. Hollywood Genres. Random House, 1981.
Film noir is a term that was coined by the French who categorized the films of the
1940s-1950s to use film noir. "Generally speaking, film noir ("black
films") refers to two interrelated aspects: visually, these films were darker and
compositionally more abstract than most Hollywood films; thematically, they were
considerably more pessimistic and brutal in their presentation of contemporary American
life." - Thomas Schatz. Hollywood Genres. Random House, 1981.
"The Western hero, in his physical allegiance to the environment and his
moral commitment to civilization, embodies this ambiguity." - Thomas Schatz. The
Western. Hollywood Genres. Random House, 1981.
Soci 3000: Sociology in
Sociology of Film - Alex Hicks
This course will introduce students to social aspects, causes and consequences of the
production, distribution, content, form and reception of film. The course will carried out
as a combination of lecture course and seminar, enlivened by frequent film clips and
nearly weekly films (required unless otherwise indicated).
Sociology of Film - wsu.edu/~allen/soc372/filsyl.html
Description: This course examines the history of the film industry and the significance of
films in the cultural history of the United States. In particular, it focuses on the
effects of social conditions on the film industry and the content of films. It also
assesses the impact of films on American culture and society.
Sociology of Film
The Invention of Film
Rise of the Studio System
Introduction of Sound and Color
Organization of Film Production
Organizing Talent and the Blacklist
Decline of the Studio System
Minorities in Film
Women in Film
Censorship in Film
European Art Cinema
Film Art and Film Criticism
Reading a Film
Film as Ideology
The following assigned books should be available from the bookstore in paperbound
Carringer, Robert L. The Making of Citizen Kane. University of California. Rev. Ed. 1996.
Turner, Graeme. Film as Social Practice. Routledge. 4th Ed. 2006.
King, Geoff. Spectacular Narratives . Tauris. 2000.
University of Bordeaux - France
SOCIOLOGY OF FILM / AUDIOVISUAL
Course Description: This course examines how works of fiction, documentaries, and archive
films offer a space of convergence for numerous sociological and psychological
perspectives. The course questions what permits cinema to present itself as a medium of
human expression and how it becomes a witness to our times. This course presents in-depth
sociological and sociocultural approaches to analyzing cinema and the audiovisual. -
Language of Instruction: French - Partner Title: SOCIOLOGIE DU CINEMA ET DE L'AUDIOVISUEL
Sociology 250b (570): The Sociology of Film - uwo.ca/kings - Prof. David MacGregor
Description: This course deals with film as a social institution. We look at the movies as
a globalized industry with a particular history that operates like any other productive
enterprisebringing together labour, capital and land. Film involves an audience with
certain characteristics and expectations. For example, the earliest filmgoers came mostly
from the working class; today audiences may be drawn from all strata of society. Integral
to film is the experience it providesthe reactions of audiences, the relationship
between society and the film world, and the standard genres that occur in movies. Films
are aesthetic objects that demand evaluation: this is the area of film criticism, movie
promotion, and box office success.
As Richard Barsam points out in Chapter 8 of Looking at Movies (p. 340), movies are
a social phenomenon. Social history and culture have a profound effect on the movies,
which in turn often influence society and culture. Because the movies reflect, make and
influence history, they can be primary sources in the study of society.
While the key emphasis is on social aspects of film, students will be introduced to
certain forms, techniques and characteristics of cinema. These include the nature of
movies, the role of narrative, the meaning of Mis-en-Scène, properties of cinematography,
acting, editing and sound.
There will be three guest lectures. One will deal with race and racism in movies. Another,
by Professor Alan Pomfret, will examine the war movie, using Stanley Kubricks Full
Metal Jacket. A third guest lecture will feature a Toronto television producer, and will
focus on the kind of work performed by filmmakers.
Soci 3000: Sociology in Film
Prof. James J. Dowd Baldwin Hall, Rm. 320
This course is designed to supplement and to reinforce some of the lessons learned in the
1000-level sociology courses, particularly Introduction to Sociology (Soci1101). The
distinctive feature of this course is its extensive use of feature-length films to
illustrate sociological concepts and issues. This semester, the course will be organized
both by film genre and by sociological concepts. We will discuss the distinctive aspects
of various film genres and the ways in which an application of the sociological
imagination can increase our understanding of the cultural effects that movies produce.
We will also consider various sociological ideas, including modernization, anomie, social
class and social mobility, cultural capital, gender roles, social identity, subcultures,
and assimilation. Throughout the course, we will pay particular attention to the ways in
which forces of social reproduction and social transformation continually operate to make
and remake American society.
For our purposes in this course, there are certain types of film that work less well than
others. I try to focus on movies that are contemporary, which is to say that they are made
and set in our time. Historical dramas, which I enjoy (Elizabeth with Cate Blanchett is a
favorite of mine), are of less interest for this course since they typically do not focus
on contemporary American society. Documentaries are also excluded from our syllabus. Since
documentaries come already packaged with a definite point-of-view, they work less well in
this course, in which we strive to apply the sociological imagination to films that were
not intended to be analyzed sociologically.
I also tend not to include foreign films in this course for the simple reason that our
focus is on American culture, and one of the central goals of this course is a better
understanding of that culture. I make no claims for the quality or importance of any of
the films we will view and discuss in class; films have been chosen for the course solely
because in one way or another they say something about American culture.
The four required film critiques are not intended to be term papers but, rather, exercises
to help organize your thinking for class discussion. Each critique should be 2-3 typed
pages and organized around one or two key questions. Although you may choose any
sociological issue as a theme for your film critique, here are some questions you might
1. What central social or cultural issues does the film raise? If the film seems to
emphasize psychological over social themes, does it also attempt to place the
psychological issue within a broader social or cultural context?
2. Is social class a factor in the movie, either as part of the story of the movie or as
part of the overall tone of the movie?
3. Are gender roles a factor in the movie, either as part of the story of the movie or as
part of the overall tone of the movie?
4. What does the film suggest about the cultural mood of the time in which the story was
5. In order to analyze this film, what about the context of the times in which the film is
set must the viewer understand?
6. Are the issues raised by the film similarly relevant within American culture today?
7. Does the film contain any apparent ideological or utopian themes?
8. Does the film contain any apparent political biases?
9. Are the central themes in this movie similar to or different than the
themes of any of the other films from this era?-11-
10. Are the central themes in this movie similar to or different than the
themes of other films in this genre?
Auster, Albert. 2005. Saving Private Ryan and American triumphalism. Pp.
205-213 in Robert Eberwein (ed.) The War Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers Univ. Press.
Dahms, Harry. 2005. "The Matrix Trilogy as Critical Theory of Alienation:
Communicating a Message of Radical Transformation." Transdisciplinary Journal of
Emergence. 3 (1) 2005:108-24.
Denzin, Norman K. 2002. A Grand Canyon. Pp. 47-63 in Reading Race: Hollywood
and the Cinema of Racial Violence. Sage.
Douthat, Ross. 2008. The Return of the Paranoid Style: How the Iraq War and George
W. Bush sent the movie industry back to its favorite erathe 1970s. Atlantic
Dowd, James J. 2007. Practical Consciousness, Deep Culture, and Popular Film:
Understanding social mobility through the movies. Forthcoming in Kathryn Feltey and
Jean-Anne Sutherland (eds.) Teaching through Film. Sage.
Dowd, James J. 1999. Waiting for Louis Prima: On the Possibility of a Sociology in
Film. Teaching Sociology. 27 (Oct.): 324-342.
Dowd, James J. 2008. Patriotic Gore: War Movies and the American Flag.
Cultural -9-Sociology. In press.
Dowd, James J. 2007. The ends of teaching: Desire and Ambition in the School
Film. Filmand History. Forthcoming.
Dowd, James J. and Nicole R. Pallotta. 2000. The end of romance: The demystification
of love in the postmodern age. Sociological Perspectives. 43 (Winter): 549-580.
Feng, Peter. 1996. Being Chinese American, Becoming Asian American: Chan Is
Missing. Cinema Journal. 35, No. 4. (Summer): 88-118. Available through JSTOR.
Giroux, Henry A. and Imre Szeman. 2001. Ikea boy fights back: Fight Club,
consumerism, and the political limits of Nineties cinema. Pp. 95-104 in The End of
Cinema as We Know It: American Film in the Nineties. Jon Lewis (ed.). New York University
Giroux, Henry A. 2002. Culture, class, and pedagogy in Dead Poets
Society. Pp. 75-99 in Breaking in to the Movies: Film and the Culture of Politics.
Giroux, Henry A.. 1999. Animating Youth: the Disnification of Children's
Culture. Available online at
Leonard, Suzanne. 2007. I hate my job, I hate everybody here: Adultery,
boredom, and the Working Girl in Twenty-First-century American cinema. Pp.
100-131 in Yvonne Tasker and Diane Negra (Eds.) Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the
Politics of Popular Culture. Duke Univ. Press.
McCrisken, Trevor B. and Andrew Pepper. 2005. Hollywoods post-Cold War
history: The righteousness of American interventionism. Pp. 187-210 in
American History and Contemporary Hollywood Film. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers Univ.
Pappenheim, Fritz. 2000. "Alienation in American Society". Monthly Review. 52
(June). Available online at http://www.monthlyreview.org/600papp.htm.
Seeman, Melvin. 1983. Alienation Motifs in Contemporary Theorizing: The Hidden
Continuity of the Classic Themes. Social Psychology Quarterly, 46 (Sept.): 171-184.
Wartenberg, Thomas E. 1993. "A Fairy Tale with a Difference? Class and Gender in
Pretty Woman." Pp. 245-266. in Roger Gottlieb (ed.) Radical Philosophy: Tradition,
Counter-Tradition, Politics. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Wartenberg, Thomas E. 1995. An unlikely couple: The significance of difference in
White Palace. Pp. 161-179 in Philosophy and Film, edited by Cynthia A. Freeland and
Thomas E. Wartenberg. N.Y.: Routledge.-10-Wartenberg, Thomas E. 1999. Politics and
race in Guess Whos Coming to Dinner?. Pp. 111-130 in Unlikely Couples: Movie
Romance as Social Criticism. Boulder, CO: Westview.
Wartenberg, Thomas E. 2001. Humanizing the Beast: King Kong and the Representation
of Black Male Sexuality." In Daniel Bernardi (ed.) Classic Hollywood, Classic
Whiteness. Minneapolis: Univ. of Minnesota Press.
Wasko, Janet. 2008. Financing and production: Creating the Hollywood film
commodity. Pp. 43-62 in Paul McDonald and Janet Wasko (Eds.) The Contemporary
Hollywood Film Industry. Blackwell.
Image and Influence: Studies in the Sociology of Film , London : Allen & Unwin; New
York : St Martin 's Press, 1974.
Wellesley College - Sociology of Film -
This course will examine movie-going and the experience of spectatorship within a
comparative and historical frame. Focus will be on the relationship between the spectator
and the cultural product and the evolution of the culture of reception. Beginning with an
exploration of the origins of cinema and its links to the consumer revolution in the 19th
century, the course will follow the evolution of cinema through its itinerant, nickelodeon
and movie palace eras and beyond with particular emphasis on reception settings, film
exhibition and audiences.
The larger objective is to examine movie-going in the contemporary United States through a
comparative lens and to analyse the audiences experiences of movie-going keeping in
mind cultural variations.
There will be a field assignment which will involve going to the movies. To that end we
will survey existing methods to study movie-going and movie audiences.
Herbert Gans. Popular Culture and High Culture. An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste. Baisc
Books. 1999 (edition).
Melvyn Stokes and Richard Maltby (eds). American Movie Audiences. From the turn of the
century to the early sound
era. British Film Institute Press. 1999.
Douglas Gomery. Shared Pleasures. U of Wisconsin Press, 1992.
Kathryn Fuller. At the Picture Show. Small Town Audiences and the Creation of Movie Fan
Institution Press. 1996.
Will Wright. Sixguns and Society. University of California Press, Berkeley.1975
Mass culture and society; Mass society thesis.
Gans.. Introduction. Mass culture, popular culture, high culture
Gans. Chapters 1 & 2: "The critique of mass culture" and "A comparative
analysis of popular and high culture".
Wanderer,Jules. "In defense of popular taste: film ratings among professionals and
lay audiences". American Journal of Sociology.®
Eliashberg, J. and Shugan. Film critics. Influencers or Predictors? Journal of Marketing
Making sense of movies: textual analysis versus reception analysis
Will Wright. Ch. 1,2,3.
Shiveley. Cowboys and Indians. Perceptions of Western Films Among American Indians and
Anglos. American Sociological Review. 1992. ®
Powdermaker. Chapter. Going to the movies. ®
Origins of mass culture and early cinema
Rosalind Williams. "Dream Worlds of Mass Consumption", chapter 3 in Dream
Worlds. Mass Consumption in Late 19th century France. Univ. of California Press, Berkeley.
Vanessa Schwartz. "Cinematic spectatorship before the apparatus: The public taste for
reality in fin-de-siecle Paris".pp.297-319. in Charney and Schwartz. ®
Kracauer. Basic Concepts. From the Theory of Film. In Film Theory and Criticism (ed)
Braudy and Cohen. ®
Tom Gunning. "The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, Its Spectator and the Avant
Garde" .pp56-61.in Early Cinema.
Space, Frame, Narrative. (ed). Thomas Elsaesser. 1990. BFI Publishing. ®
Video: The Movies Begin.
Simmel. "The metropolis and mental life". pp.409-424. in The Sociology of Georg
Simmel. Trans. Kurt Wolff. ®
Early cinema and its audience
Charles Musser selected chapters in "Before the Nickleodeon", Berkeley, Univ. of
California Press. 1991. ®
Video: Before the Nickelodeon.
Tom Gunning. " An aesthetic of astonishment: Early Film, and the (In)credulous
Spectator", pp. 818-832. in Art and Text 34. Spring 1989. ®
Video: The Movies Begin (contd).
Garth S. Jowett. "The First Motion Picture Audiences". J of Popular
Kathryn Fuller. " The Cook and Harris High Class Moving Picture Company" Chapter
1. in At the Picture Show.
Smithsonian Institution Press. 1996.
Douglas Gomery. "The Movie Show Begins", Ch. 1. in Shared Pleasures. Univ. of
Wisconsin Press, 1992.
Larry May. Chapter 2: The Decline of Progress (Nickleodeon) ®
Fuller. Chapter 3: The Nickleodeon
Russell Merritt. Nickelodeons Theaters 1905-1914: Building an Audience for the Movies.®
Gomery. "The Nickelodeon Era", Chapter 2.
Film: The Great Train Robbery
Contemporary movie-going in the United States
Douglas Gomery "Contemporary Movie-going". Chapter 6. in Shared Pleasures.
Epstein, Multiplexities. The New Yorker. 1998. ®
A Theater Near You. Time magazine. 9/13/99
Philip Lentz.Word of Mouth can make or break a movie. The Bulletin. 1979.
Strauss Zelnick. "Twentieth Century Fox".in Making and Selling Culture. 1996. ®
Article Big Tease. Sight and Sound. ®
Videos: Depictions of movie-going in the movies
Studying movie audiences
Jason E. Squire. Industry Economic and Profile. In The Movie Business Book.
Handel. Ch.1 "The development and nature of film audience research". ®
Bruce Austin. Ch.1 "The film industry and audience research".®
Ch. 2 "Movies and Leisure". ®
Jowett and Linton. "Giving the people what they want" ®
" Keeping them in the dark" ®
Fuller. Ch. "Coming of Age at the Picture Show".
Blumer. "Movies and ConductTable of content and excerpts". ®
1. Theater audiences
Mittman. Spectators on the Paris Stage in the 17th and 18th Centuries.
Chapter 1. Stage seating (17th and 18 century theater in France) ®
Chapter 2. Social and aesthetic practices ®
Chapter 5.; p. 106-108. ®
Papp and Kirkland. Shakespeare Alive. Ch.7 The Revolution of 1576: The
theatre is born. ®
And pp. 141-145 ®
Silent film audiences
"This is where we came in: the Audible Screen and the Voluble Audience of Early Sound
Cinema" Ch.9 in Stokes and
Maltby. American Movie Audiences.
Srinivas. 1998. Active Viewing: An Ethnography of the Indian Cinema Audience. Visual
Larkin. Indian films and Nigerian lovers. In Africa. ®
Visuals on movie-going in India
Ethnicity and movie-going in the United States.
1. Immigrant audiences
Judith Thiessen "Jewish immigrant audiences in New York City, 1905-14". Ch. 1 in
American Movie Audiences. ®
Miriam Hansen. Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film. ®
Chapter 2: Early Cinema: Myths and Models
Judith Mayne "Immigrants and spectators." Wide Angle. ®
Ewen. City Lights ®
Film: The Immigrant (Chaplin).
2. Movies and African Americans
Mary Carbine. "The Finest Outside the Loop": Motion Picture Exhibition in
Chicagos Black Metropolis, 1905-1928.
Camera Obscura. 23 (1990):8-41. ®
Douglas Gomery. Ch 8. "Movie theaters for Black Americans".
Gregory A. Waller. "Another Audience: Black Movie-going, 1907-16". Cinema
Journal. 31.No.2 Winter 1992. ®
"Film and Ethnic Identity in Harlem, 1896-1915" Ch.3 in American Movie
Kathryn Fuller: Chapter 2: "Regional Diversity of Movie-going"
Blackface, White Noise. Selected chapters ®
Film: The Jazz Singer
Miriam Hansen. "New Universal Language" pp.76-89.
Lary May. Chapter 6. You are the Star: The Evolution of the Theater Palace
Fuller. Chapter 5: Movie Palaces
Shelley Stamp. "Spare me one evening: cultivating cinemas female
audiences from Movie Struck Girls Ch.1
Social reform and upward mobility
Miriam Hansen."Womens Passion for the Cinema: The Erosion of Separate
Spheres"pp.114-125 in Babel and Babylon.
Shelley Stamp."Is Any Girl Safe?" Ch.2 in Movie-Struck Girls.
"The House of Dreams" 1909. Jane Addams
Cheap Thrillers (1911), Chicago Vice Commission
Censoring the 5cent drama (1910) Charles V. Tevis
Film: Traffic in Souls