1997 (Spring)

Film 24:
Screening the Machine:
Technology, Anxiety & The Movies

Gary Handman
Moffitt Library -- Room 251
Thursday 2-4pm

  • Office Hours: Thursday, 10-12; Media Resources Center (1st floor Moffitt)
  • Phone: 643-8566
  • email:

  • Technology is not just a series of events which occurs over there on the side of the world. It is, on the contrary, the enactment of human imagination in the world. In building a technological world we create ourselves, and through the events which comprise this world we enact and live out our experiences of awe and wonder, our fantasies of service and control, our images of exploration and destruction, our dreams of hope and nightmares of despair.

    --Robert D. Roanyshyn, Technology as Symptom and Dream (NY: Routledge, 1989)

    This seminar will will explore the ways in which the movies have both shaped and reflected cultural views of technology and technological change. Through readings and weekly viewing and discussions of selected films, we will investigate technology and its societal impact as a recurring theme in comedies, science fiction, and other film genres. The course will also look for clues about the ways in which technology is treated in particular films by studying the social, cultural, and political milieu surrounding the film, as represented in print media, documentaries, and newsreel footage of the times.

    How the Class Will Work:

    T he class will be a mixture of film viewings, reports on background research, and discussions--all aimed at trying to discover why the movies have portrayed various technologies or technological trends in various lights over the years. We'll see if we can discern recurring themes or motifs which have popped up in the movies over time. We'll also look for contrasting views of a technology or technologies in the same decade.

    E arly in the class, we'll break into small "cultural archaeology" teams. The team which is "up at bat" will be responsible for doing a bit of research on the decades we'll be studying the following week and for reporting back on the big news of the day and other cultural clues which might shed light on the film we're going to be watching (including film reviews published at the time the movie was released). The reporting team will also be responsible for preparing a list of discussion questions regarding the film of the week and for leading the discussion of the film.

    I will provide supplementary materials and other cool stuff, such as documentaries and newsreel footage, which will contribute to our understanding of the era or film being studied.

    A good part of the success of this class will depend on regular attendance, lively discussion, and active participation in digging up background material and doing the course reading. Attendance for this seminar is NOT optional. You will be expected to attend all class sessions, barring personal or natural catastrophies. Receiving a passing grade in the course will be contingent on these things.

    Film Viewing

    In class, we'll be looking at a combination of feature length films and excerpts from features, documentary materials, and other moving image materials. In a few instances, you will be required to take a look at portions of a film outside of class (as background for a forthcoming class discussion). Both films viewed in and outside of class will be available in the Media Resources Center, first floor, Moffitt Library. Consult MRC's web site for a listing of movies, the Center's hours, etc.


    Readings listed in the syllabus and in the Reading Listare HIGHLY recommended (although not strictly required). Although we will not be discussing these readings directly in class, they provide extremely useful context and ideas about the films we'll be watching and discussing. The readings listed in the syllabus for a particular week would be particularly useful background material for the Discussion Team which is due to lead our discussions on the films being viewed that week.

    All readings listed will be on 2-hour reserve in Moffitt Library.

    Viewing list

    Recommended Reading list

    Questions, Musings, Notes: Some things to think about when viewing the movies in this course

    Technology & the Movies Timeline

    Related web sites

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