"Like Writing History with Lightning": History of American Cinema


From its earliest years, motion pictures have been widely recognized as a powerful and influential cultural force in American society.  As such, films have been scrutinized by public and civic officials and endured official and unofficial censorship campaigns; many have used films to generate sympathy for cherished causes; many others have rallied to protect alleged moral or patriotic threats against controversial films.  This semester, then, we will closely examine the history of cinema by viewing a select number of motion pictures.  We will view, analyze and discuss these films as primary documents, and ask ourselves what those films reveal about the times in which they were created.  We will thus use cinema as an important prism to view the changing social landscape of the United States in the twentieth cinema.