Summer Faculty Seminar: How to Teach Film and Screen Literacy

Author: Jim Collins

A photo of Browning Cinema including the movie screen and theater seating

Summer Faculty Seminar: How to Teach Film—and Screen Literacy - Across the Humanities
Seminar Leader: Jim Collins
May 20-24, 2024
Screenings and discussions in the Browning Cinema in the Marie DeBartolo Performing Arts Center

This course is intended for Notre Dame faculty in the College of Arts and Letters who would like to use film and other forms of visual media in their courses but have hesitated to do so because they've had little or no formal training in media studies. I've designed a weeklong intensive seminar that will solve that problem by exposing seminar participants to the pedagogical strategies they might use to incorporate contemporary visual media in their courses. Our collective goal is to explore how we can use different forms of screen culture to investigate aesthetic, political, philosophical, ethnographic, psychological, or theological issues in ways that will enhance our teaching and research.

More specifically, how might we use popular texts to frame class discussions about diversity and inclusion, wealth inequality, faith conflicts, historical memory, and digital literacy?

This seminar was initially designed to help faculty throughout the College of Arts and Letters integrate films into their syllabi but visual culture has changed so profoundly within the past few years that the scope of the course has had to change accordingly. The term “screen literacy” is emblematic of this-- we used to watch movies and television programs on screens, now we read books and do our research on screens. How do we navigate through the transmediation that forms the basis of what is called convergence culture? What are the new architectures of participation for media experiences?

We'll begin with a crash-course in close visual analysis because I’ve found that's a major source of anxiety. So I have this image up on the wall, but what do I do with it? How do I get my students to read these images critically? All too often, films are turned into just side-bar illustrations. How can we talk about film as a way of knowing? How do visual media envision racial, gender, national identities and how can we interrogate those images with our students in ways that go beyond simple content analysis?

Once we’ve established the parameters for close visual analysis, we'll explore the various ways that really productive interdisciplinary study might be achieved within a given course, from comparative aesthetics, to ideological analysis, to media archaeology, to digital critical studies. We'll talk about how we can read a film, but also how we might "read" web sites and the communities they generate. How do we read YouTube?

During each morning session, I'll introduce a variety of approaches through lecture, scene analysis, and short selected readings. We'll have a screening each day in the Browning Cinema, right after lunch, and then we'll discuss pragmatic utilization of those methods in our afternoon discussions of that film, focusing on specific applications in courses now being taught or in the process of being developed.

The list of featured films and television series each year is shaped by the interests of the seminar participants. Titles which might be featured this summer include Anatomy of a Fall, The Zone of Interest, The Bear, All of Us Strangers, Aftersun, American Fiction, Origin, 20 Days in Mariupol, Barbie, All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt, Reservation Dogs...

Modest research stipends provided by the Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts will be available to all seminar participants.

If you're intrigued, please let me know as soon as possible because this seminar has been over-subscribed in the past. The seminar is limited to 12 participants, so it tends to fill up quickly.

And to answer a question that has already been put to me a number of times—if there is room available, you can take the seminar again, even if you’ve taken it before because the goals of the seminar have changed quite profoundly in the past few years.

For further information, contact Jim Collins