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Film and U.S. History

Film has always played an important role in shaping how people understand and interpret the past. This course will specifically analyze Hollywood films as historical texts and will examine what these sources reveal about the time in which they were made and the historical narratives they seek to put forward about the past. The course will focus on several moments in history to understand how the past has been represented by and shaped Hollywood film, including Native American history, slavery, the Civil War and Reconstruction, World War II, the Cold War, McCarthyism, Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement, and recent U.S. foreign policy. This course will teach students to understand and analyze films as primary and secondary sources and contextualize them historically. Students will learn how films use various elements (lighting, dialogue, camera angle, music, etc.) to elicit emotional responses from viewers and shape their understanding of specific historical moments. Students will also learn to think about how films contribute to larger historical narratives in the United States by comparing specific films with broader historiographical trends in U.S. history. This course (HIST 190) was taught by Karine Walther as a Doyle Seminar (small upper-level classes that foster deepened student learning about diversity and difference through research and dialogue).

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