Skip to main content Skip to secondary navigation

PWR 1EI: Watch Now: Rhetorics of Film and Television

Main content start

Course Description

Movies and TV shows aren’t only frivolous entertainment. Through the intentional use of stories, images, sound and language, our film and television industries shape and reflect back to us the impressions that we come to have of ourselves, our societies and our universe. Because of this, movies and TV shows are an abundant source of research material and writing topics for essayists and journalists, as well as for scholars across the humanities and social sciences. 

Just about any interest you can name is to be found within the scope of this course’s theme. Students in the past have used film and television productions to research and write about a wide array of social topics, including racial equity, gender-based violence, economic inequality, religion, mental illness, artificial intelligence, social media, and sports. Their work has also addressed common media tropes (the hero’s quest, the white savior, zombie apocalypse), popular genres (anime, literary adaptations, rom-coms, horror) and special subjects in moving-image production and distribution (screenwriting, film scoring, video streaming, media piracy), not to mention the myriad joys of stanning for a favorite franchise, character or celebrity. 

Interested students shouldn’t worry if they’re not already serious movie buffs. There are many fruitful approaches to watching, listening to and talking about moving-image works. Together, we’ll discover the styles of film and media analysis and writing that suit you. 

Major Assignments

Rhetorical Analysis

(1500-1800 words) Choosing a brief clip from any movie or TV show, explain what that moment in the narrative wants to persuade viewers of and identify the major creative decisions that enable it to get across its ideas. This assignment asks students to think about the producers of film and television works as “speakers” with definite messages, motivations and aims. It asks people to specify the external parameters that limit what a particular speaker can say and how they can say it. Finally, the assignment asks students to consider what audience a work’s producers seem most keen to connect with or win over. 

Texts in Conversation

(1800-2400 words) Picking a topic that interests you (e.g., a work of film or TV, a recurring media trope, an industry news event, an aspect of moving-image production, a fan-made work), identify and read six of the most prominent sources that discuss your topic and then write an analysis of the main ideas that you find multiple sources concentrating on in their arguments. Conclude your assignment by specifying further examples of the things those main ideas suggest to you and explain how you could research your examples for the Research-Based Argument assignment. 

Research-Based Argument

(3600-4500 words) Analyze one or more examples and/or published texts directly related to the main ideas you uncovered in your Texts in Conversation assignment. Then, working in a suitable nonfiction genre (e.g., personal essay, academic paper, review article, op-ed piece, reportage), present your research findings to an audience that includes the creators of your six Texts-in-Conversation sources. The piece you produce should be organized around a coherent line of argument or central storyline and deal meaningfully with arguments and/or evidence from at least 10 published sources.