L&S Curricular Connections

L&S Discovery Courses

LS 120B / Film 108

American Film Genres: The Woman’s Film

Arts and Literature

This course focuses on the “woman’s film”— a Hollywood genre produced from the silent era until today. Made for, about, and sometimes by women, such films strongly address a presumed female audience and as such have performed an important role in society’s ordering of gender and sexual difference. Beginning with the silent era’s “Flapper film” comedies and ending with contemporary women’s independent cinema, this course analyzes the prevailing narrative paradigms, recurring figures and characterizations, and the thematic obsessions that overtly mark the woman’s film. Each week we will analyze a specific issue or “subgenre” associated with the woman’s film, including the problem of domesticity in the melodrama; film censorship and the “fallen” woman’s film in the 1930s; cross-dressing in the screwball comedy; paranoia and the gothic film; “passing” in the racial melodrama; the femme fatale in the “noir” melodrama; and trans-gender identity in independent cinema. Readings will focus on the scholarship written around questions of genre, spectatorship, representation, sexuality, and race in the woman’s film. Films studied may include “It,” “Blonde Venus,” “Stella Dallas,” “All That Heaven Allows,” “Mildred Pierce,” “Sylvia Scarlet,” “Pinky,” “Craig’s Wife,” “Gaslight,” “Boys Don’t Cry,” and, in conjunction with the On the Same Page program in L&S, “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.”

All are welcome, but the course is most appropriate for students in their second through fourth years. The upper-division designation signals that the course will involve a good deal of reading, writing and film analysis.

Kristen Whissel faculty profile
Kristen Whissel (Film & Media)

Terms Offered

  • Fall 2008