University of Manchester
Division of English, American Studies and Creative Writing
(AMER30462) Film and Politics in America
This course will examine representations of politics, politicians and political institutions through the eyes of a number of filmmakers and over the course of Hollywood's cinematic history. The aim is to incorporate film theory, history and genre studies into an appreciation of specific themes and periods in American history and political culture cognizant with Hollywood productions from those and other eras. For example, the course will look at political films in the 1930s, the 1970s, and the 2000s as a historical evaluation of the way art and culture can inform and elucidate upon political issues of the times. But, in addition, the course also aims to elevate critical sub-genres in the field with historical and theoretical readings of offshoots to political movies such as election films, action, conspiracy and political thrillers, as well as political biographies; all treated as discrete entities reflective of Hollywood’s productive capacity specifically, and resonant within American political history more generally. The course aims to reflect on the way democratic theories and ideas have been perpetuated through such films as well as their contribution to an aesthetic, iconic set of values replicated upon the actual American political landscape through their devotion to buildings, places and monuments. The final section of the course will elaborate on the developments and renewed interest in political movies in what is now termed the “post 9/11” era, reflecting on the state of America’s polity at home and abroad and incorporating documentary and TV productions as well as mainstream feature films into the analysis.
The course has a selection of textbooks available as the first point of reading around the subject. These include:
Ian Scott, American Politics in Hollywood Film 2nd Ed (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2011); Michael Coyne, Hollywood Goes to Washington: American Politics on Screen (London: Reaktion, 2008); Tricia Jenkins, The CIA in Hollywood: How the Agency Shapes Film and Television (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2012); Iwan W. Morgan (ed), Presidents at the Movies: American History and Politics on Screen (London: Palgrave, 2011); Terry Christensen and Peter J. Hass, Projecting Politics: Political Messages in American Films (London: M.E. Sharpe, 2005); Peter C. Rollins & John Connor (eds), Hollywood’s White House: The American Presidency in Film and History (Lexington: University of Kentucky Press, 2004); Tony Shaw, Hollywood’s Cold War (Edinburgh: EUP, 2007); Brian Neve, Film and Politics in America: A Social Tradition (London: Routledge, 1992); Colin Shindler, Hollywood in Crisis: Cinema and American Society 1929-39 (London: Routledge, 1996).