The Film Theory Syllabus

To be a little more reflective about my own disciplinary practice, one thing that resonated with Kieran Healy's post is his reckoning with the fact that the field of theory and its place within the larger discipline has changed: "I could have pretended that it is still 1978, or squeezed in ten pages of everything that calls itself 'theory,' or just assigned only the good stuff from the past decade. Instead, I have kept it awkward." This is precisely the dilemma I've had teaching my graduate film theory class. I was trained basically on a triumvirate of 70s film theory, cultural studies, and Frankfurt school, with important strains of classical film theory, poststructuralist literary and cultural theory, etc. I still think these are important ideas to think through and teach, both on their own merits and also because they still unselfconsciously inform contemporary scholarship.

And yet contemporary film studies is not the world of 1970s film theory, and intellectual history can cripple more interesting conceptual engagement. I wrestle with how to best teach the theory class. Maybe I need to learn how to keep it awkward myself.


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