COMM 378 FILM and Aesthetics and Criticism Class

COMM 378 Spring 2016 Syllabus



I. Course Description

Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy that deals with the study of “the beautiful,” with the nature of art and the criteria of artistic judgment. In this course we will examine the principles by which films are judged to be artistically valid or “beautiful,” (as subjective as those terms might be), and by which they create meaning for different viewers. We will spend the better part of the quarter addressing these questions, through readings, screenings, online discussions and written assignments. This investigation will include narrative, documentary, and experimental forms.


Successful completion of this course satisfies Theme 2 of the General Education Requirements.



II. Learning Objectives 

The central Theme 2 Learning Objectives of this course are for students to:


• understand the interaction between culture and creative expression in film (Objective 2); and


• understand works of cinematic art within a cultural context, and the influences on their creation      (Objective 2).



III. Student Learning Outcomes

By the end of the course, students should be able to:


• apply theoretical perspectives in their critical analyses of filmic texts (Objective 2, Outcome 1); and

• move beyond the standard Hollywood model, to effectively critique a wider variety of films (Objective 5, Outcome 1)



IV. Required Text

Film Art: An Introduction, 10th edition. David Bordwell and Kristen Thompson.


V. Policies

1. Grades

There are three exams in this course, three short film critiques, and online discussions.

   Tests 1 – 3        75%

   Discussions      25%

  Total                100%


A 100 – 95      A- 94 – 90

B+ 89 – 88      B 87 – 85        B- 84 – 80

C+ 79 – 78      C 77 – 75        C- 74 – 70

D+ 69 – 68      D 67 – 65        D- 64 – 60

                                                F 59 – 0


2. Discussions

There are discussions for every chapter covered in this course. To aid in these discussions, there are screening questions that are designed to help you understand how a particular aspect of film art – form, cinematography, editing, etc. – is at work in the film being screened for a particular chapter’s main topic. The responses you write for these questions will inform your discussions. For each discussion, you will make three posts: one of your own, in which you answer the question, and two substantive replies to classmates’ posts. This is a chance to share your ideas and reactions to the films you watch, as they relate to the lessons of each chapter. Please use complete sentences. Please note:


For each discussion, you will make three posts: one of your own, in which you answer the question, and two substantive replies to classmates’ posts. This is a chance to share your ideas and reactions to the films you watch. Students must write in complete sentences, and use paragraph structure, in these discussions.

If any posts for a given discussion are insubstantial –for example, an original post without much information, or replies that are variations of “I agree!”– they will not be accepted, and will yield a grade of “0” for that week’s discussion.

All three posts must be made, successfully, to receive the points for a particular discussion; fewer than three posts will also result in a “0” for that discussion.


All work is to be completed and uploaded by the designated due time and date. Late work will not be accepted. Do not email your late posts, as they also will not be accepted.


NOTE: Blackboard Limitations

All discussions and exams are due by 5:00p.m. on their respective due dates. This is the official due date; if you have taken a class on Blackboard before, you may have experienced problems taking exams or making discussion posts near the last few hours that the exam or discussion is available. On-campus Blackboard specialists have speculated that too many people are trying to submit their work/take an exam at the same time.

For this reason, PLEASE do not wait until the last minute (or last few hours) that an exam or discussion is due, to do the work. The chances are good that something will go wrong, and you won’t be able to submit on time, or an exam will stop working. I will not reset exams or accept late discussion posts, so it is your responsibility to do you work in a timely fashion, to avoid such consequences. 

Another limiting factor of Blackboard is that, as has been written elsewhere on this site, exams must be taken on “wired” devices. Most devices that you probably use are wi-fi enabled: your laptop, smartphone, tablet device. These are “wireless” devices. The problem is, your internet connection may be interrupted, while you are taking the exam. For that reason, exams must be taken on wired computers. This may mean a trip to the library, either Walter Stein Library, or your local library (provided they have wired computers). It would be a good idea to find your wired test-taking location as soon as possible, to plan for taking your exams.

Exams will not be reset, and late discussion posts sent via email will not be accepted. There are no exceptions. It is your responsibility to do you work in a timely fashion, and on the right device, to avoid such consequences.



3. Exams

There will be three exams in this course, covering text chapters and the films you will watch. Exams will have a combination of true-false, multiple choice, matching, and short answer.


NOTE: DO NOT TAKE EXAMS ON iPADS, TABLET DEVICES OR SMARTPHONES. Exams taken on these wireless devices will crash, and you will not be able to finish the exam. You must take your exams on a “wired” device, such as a comput
er in the library.


Exams will not be reset once they have begun, under any circumstances.


If you haven’t taken an online exam before, be aware: once you have clicked on the “Begin” button, you are taking the exam.


4. Code of Conduct

This is the CSUB statement on “Civility and Respectful Conduct”: “The classroom is essential for the achievement of academic freedom, the pursuit of truth, and the development of students. Because of its importance, students are expected to exhibit respect for the views of others, the professionalism of the instructor, and the goals of academic freedom whenever they are in the classroom.” (CSUB Catalog)


You can imagine how important this is to an online class. For our purposes, the “classroom” is Blackboard. We are a learning community; it is imperative that we treat one another with civility and respect. Violations of this code, in disussions or in emails, will affect your grade for the class: you will lose your discussion grade, to start, and may be subject to a hearing convened by the Honor Council if there are repeated incidents of incivility.

5. Email

While email is an important tool for an online course, it should be used wisely. Your Blackboard-related questions must be directed to the Blackboard support staff. If your question contains the word “Blackboard,” the place to start is with the Student Help Desk, at 661-654-2307. I will be happy to discuss any questions over email that have to do with readings, screenings, or to discuss your grade in the course. I try to answer your emails as soon as possible, but it may take up to a day to answer your question, or two days, if you send your email over the weekend.


6. Academic Integrity

Academic misconduct—cheating, fabrication of information, and plagiarism—is not tolerated. A student found engaging in this behavior will receive a grade of “F” in the course, and will be reported to the CSUB Honor Council for disciplinary action. If at any time you are unsure whether your actions constitute academic misconduct, I have included the section on academic integrity from the CSUB Catalog, available on the page titled, “Academic Integrity.”

7. Special Arrangements

To request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact the Office of Services for Students with Disabilities (SSD) as soon as possible. Call (661) 654-3360 or (661) 654-6288 (TDD). In Antelope Valley, please contact (661) 952-5061 or TDD: (661) 953-5120. You must have an accommodation letter from the SSD office documenting that you have a disability; please email me about this as soon as possible.

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