Special Topics Seminar: Actors Acting: Performance in Film, Video and Digital Media

Course Details
FILM 194S-02
Jonathan Kahana
Academic Year: 

This seminar deals with the theory and history of screen performance, in a variety of modes and styles, both fictional and non-fictional. Touching on the physical, psychological, cultural and social dimensions of acting, the course tries out various methods for making sense of screen performance, wherever it is found: from the formal and professional styles of filmed drama and comedy to the unpolished and unconscious kinds of acting we find on other kinds of screens. Among the topics to be considered are: histories of acting style; the aesthetics and semiotics of performance in theatrical, cinematic, televisual, and “everyday” stages; stars, doubles, and extras; actors in non-fiction film and television; directors’ techniques and troubles with actors; “passing” and the performance of race, gender, and sexuality; the problem of recording and analyzing performance for the screen. Actors whose methods, voices, bodies, lives and legacies will likely come up in the seminar include: Lillian Gish, Buster Keaton, Bert Williams, John Wayne, James Stewart, Laurence Olivier, Daffy Duck, Marlon Brando, Marilyn Monroe, Gong Li, Ron Vawter, Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, John Candy, Anna Deveare Smith, Nicholas Cage, Jamie Foxx, Matt Damon, Ricky Gervais, Michelle Obama, Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele, Donald J. Trump, and as a number of people you and I never heard of. Expect substantial reading and viewing each week appropriate to a senior critical studies seminar, as well as significant critical writing and other forms of critical engagement.