Sexual Politics in Film Noir and Hard-boiled Literature


Emerging in American films most forcefully during the 1940s, film noir is a cycle of films associated with a distinctive visual style and a cynical worldview. In this course, we will explore the sexual politics of film noir as a distinctive vision of American sexual relations every bit as identifiable as the form's stylized lighting and circuitous storytelling. We will explore how and why sexual paranoia and perversion seem to animate this genre and why these movies continue to influence "neo-noir" filmmaking into the 21st century, even as film noir's representation of gender and sexuality is inseparable from its literary antecedents, most notably, the so-called "hard-boiled" school of writing. We will read examples from this literature by Dashiell Hammett, James Cain, Raymond Chandler and Cornell Woolrich, and discuss these novels and short stories in the context of other artistic and cultural influences on gendered power relations and film noir. We will also explore the relationship of these films to censorship and to changing post-World War II cultural values. Films to be screened in complete prints or in excerpts will likely include many of the following: The Maltese Falcon, Double Indemnity, Murder My Sweet, Phantom Lady, Strangers on a Train, The Big Sleep, The Killers, Mildred Pierce, The High Wall, Sudden Fear, The Big Combo, Laura, The Glass Key, The Big Heat, Kiss Me Deadly, The Crimson Kimono, Touch of Evil, Alphaville, Chinatown, Taxi Driver, Devil in a Blue Dress, The Bad Lieutenant, and Memento. Required Screenings: Wednesdays @ 4pm
Course Attributes: EN H; BU BA; AS HUM; AS SD I; FA HUM; AR HUM; AS SC

Section 01

Sexual Politics in Film Noir and Hard-boiled Literature - 01
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