The Documentary Impulse

Subject Name: 
Film & Media Studies
Course Number: 
Amherst College

(Offered as ENGL 377 and FAMS 383.)  This course focuses on the documentary impulse–that is, the desire for an encounter with the “real”–as a way of understanding the different philosophies and ideologies that have shaped the history and practice of documentary. We will approach canonical studies of the modes of documentary (e.g., expository, observational, poetic, reflexive), placing pressure on concepts whose resonance or antagonism has shaped the notion of documentary, such as spectacle, authenticity, reality, mimesis, art, fiction, and performance. In addition to encountering canonical documentary films and major debates, we will analyze documentary as a complex discourse that has been shaped by multiple media forms (such as photography, television, and new media) and exhibition contexts (the art gallery, the cinema, the smartphone). Assignments will include group presentations, analytical exercises, and a final research paper. Two class meetings and one screening per week.

Recommended requisite: A prior introductory film course.  Not open to first-year students.  Limited to 35 students.  Fall semester.  Professor Rangan.

Instructor Permission: 
Permission is required for interchange registration during the add/drop period only.
Crosslisted Section ID: 
Schedule #: 

Course Sections

The Documentary Impulse
Sect # Credits Instructor(s) Instructor Email Meeting Times Location
01 4.0 Pooja Rangan TTH 11:30AM-12:50PM; M 07:00PM-09:40PM CHAP 201; FAYE 113