L&S Curricular Connections

L&S Discovery Courses

LS 20D

Ang Lee, James Schamus and American Film Genres

Arts and Literature

“Let’s jump from genre to genre and be filmmakers and see what we can make of these gifts; whether from Hong Kong or Hollywood, these genres are now so often ossified relics. [We need to] go back in there and shake ’em up.”
—James Schamus, on Ang Lee in indieWIRE

In this course we will discuss the way that the Hollywood film industry developed and deployed a set of narrative formulas, visual conventions, character types and other codes to economize and systematize the marketing of its products. Distinctive genres including westerns, family melodramas, screwball comedies, gangster films, musicals, and horror films emerged during the “classic” period, and continued to evolve for decades. New genres were “born,” older genres “died” or were revised, and classic formulas re-appeared in self-reflexive, parodic, subversive and/or hybrid variations. Director Ang Lee and writer James Schamus have collaborated on a remarkable set of films that truly “shake up” classic American genres. We will watch a number of the Hollywood films that scholars have defined as “quintessential” or definitive versions of some genre, and analyze Lee/Shamus films as comments on the generic conventions, as updated readings of the nature of popular audiences, as re-imaginations of American myths, and as reflections of contemporary historical reality.

This course is being offered in conjunction with the On the Same Page program in the College of Letters & Science.

Kathleen Moran faculty profile
Kathleen Moran (American Studies)

Terms Offered

  • Fall 2008