First things first: This assignment is not meant to test your knowledge but is rather designed as an opportunity to reflect on the readings, lectures, and films we explored in the past few weeks (Part I: The Great Depression and the Second World War). This is an ongoing conversation, and this assignment serves as a reflective pause that allows us to filter out a few key ideas, questions, and problems that challenge our understanding of the American dream and Hollywoods role in this process of mythmaking. The midterm also helps us, your instructors, provide you with more detailed feedback.
A few technicalities right away:
- The midterm assignment will be due by Monday, March 14 (11:59 pm ET).
- The midterm is an open-book exam, meaning that you have access to all the course materials.
- Please submit/upload your midterm here as one file (DOC or PDF).
- Make sure you format your document properly (Links to an external site.): 1-inch margin on both sides, font size 12, double-spaced, page numbers at the bottom; the rest is up to you. Additionally, please provide a word count at the end of each part.
- Pay attention to any misspellings and/or typos and please carefully proofread your writing prior to submission.
- Please make sure to cite your sources properly (the last name of the author and the page number will suffice unless you are quoting an additional text in which case please be sure to provide the title and the date when it was drafted).
- If you are referring to ideas borrowed from our forum discussions, please acknowledge the names of your peers in your writing.
- If you are looking for advice on writing, the Writing Center has several tips and strategies to offer: https://extension.harvard.edu/for-students/support-and-services/the-writing-center/
- Students who are taking the course for undergraduate credit are expected to write ca. 1500 words. Graduate students are expected to write ca. 2100 words. However, each of you has a different writing style, so take your time and the space that you need to unfold your argument and express your thoughts.
The midterm focuses above all on comprehension and in-depth, critical engagement with the course materials; deepening your capacity for formal film analysis, juxtaposition, and synthesis; and, finally, productively applying the interpretive skills and the vocabulary that you have been working on so far. This weeks film, Michael Curtiz Casablanca (1942), thus, functions as a kind of lens, a magnifying glass, if you will, that allows us to filter out some key ideas, questions, and problems that challenge our understanding of the American dream and Hollywoods intricate processes of mythmaking.
The grading of this assignment will therefore be based on the assessment of:
- your knowledge of the readings, handouts, lectures, and films;
- your ability to engage with course materials critically, persuasively, and self-reflexively;
- your familiarity with film vocabulary and ability to perform formal film analysis whether through juxtaposition, comparison, or synthesis.
That said, we always encourage experimentation and your efforts to push complex and complicated questions even further!
Part I: The Cinematic Language of Casablanca
Please focus on one of the five scenes and its formal characteristics, both as an isolated, self-contained segment (as a painstakingly choreographed ensemble of sights and sounds!) and within the broader context of the film as a whole insofar as it contributes to the films overall effect.
That said, you can always pick a different sequence, if you like, however, please make sure it’s a longer segment and provide some justification for your choice.
Also, please be sure to draw on this week’s lecture and the readings on Casablanca!
Undergraduate students: min. 600 words. Graduate students: min. 900 words.
CLIP: Opening Sequence
CLIP: Ricks Caf Americain
CLIP: Play It, Sam
Clip: Rick and Ilsa