English 143 Film and Culture: Representations of Antiquity and Revenge

Spring, 2009

Instructor: Alexander Loney, Ph.D.

Office: 410 Greenlaw

Phone: 919.962.8899 (I check my UNC email only irregularly.)

Course Location & Time: 302 Greenlaw, 12:00 – 12: 50 PM, Mon., Wed., & Fri.

Office Hours: 1 PM- 2 PM Mon. and Weds. or by appointment



This course examines the relationship between modern cultures and the artistic medium of film. How do they influence one another? We will have two topics of study over the term: 1) cinematic representations and appropriations of antiquity; 2) cinematic depictions of vengeance and its consequences. Our semester roughly divides in half between these 2 units, with half of our films from each unit. Each week, we will pair one more approachable, English-language film with a foreign one.

“Antiquity” is purposefully a bit vague. Every culture has its own ancient past that it uses to say something about its present. Ingmar Bergman’s Swedes contemplate the Middle Ages, when Christianity held sway over Europe as the undisputed way of looking at the world; Kubrick’s American audience engages with an ancient Roman past, when Roman legions ruled the Mediterranean as American military might was in its post-war ascendancy.  Revenge has similar set of diverse responses.

Required Materials

You need to procure the assigned films on your own. I’ve given you a link to the Amazon page where you can purchase them. But you need not purchase the DVD of each one. You could rent the disc, or stream it. I also encourage you to go in with a small group and get the discs and watch them together. In addition to amazon, I suggest you look at: youtube movies; hulu; netflix; the chapel hill library; the undergraduate library. Some title may available from local video stores.

Graded Work

  1. Attendance at lecture and discussion of the films: 10%
  2. 2 examinations (a midterm and a final), covering film and lecture content: 10 % each
  3. 2 short papers (details of each will be posted closer to their due dates). For one of these papers, you will be able to meet with me after the paper to discuss your work for an extra credit bonus:  10% each
  4. A final, longer paper that analyzes several films to make a thematic argument, about 2500 words. You will be able to meet with me before the paper for an extra credit prospectus: 20%
  5. At least 2 blog posts. These are on a topic of your choosing–they could be almost anything related to the content of our films: 10% each
  6. At least 5 comments on other blog posts: 5% total
  7. A class presentation with a partner: 5%


The films below have hyperlinks to their pages on IMDB; I’ve included links to where they are available on Amazon.

Week Discuss Watch/Read Write
Jan. 9–13 Class intro; fascism; aesthetics
Jan. 18–20 contemp. politics and the past
Jan. 23–27 Honor; mythic past; class conflict
Jan. 30–Feb. 3 contemp. re-tellings; freedom
Feb. 6–10 Epic and war; myth & history Shorter paper 1 due (Fri.)
Feb. 13–17 Christianity, death, fate
Feb. 20–24 Revenge in antiquity
Feb.27–Mar. 2 Ancient politics Midterm exam (Fri.)
Mar. 5–9
  • [Spring Break]
Mar. 12–16 Westerns; rape & revenge
Mar. 19–23 Revenge and action
Mar. 26–30 Family
Apr. 2–6 Revenge & political order Shorter paper 2 due (Wed.)
Apr. 9–13
Apr. 16–20 Optional longer paper proposaldue (Fri.)
Apr. 23–25 Summary Longer paper due (Wed.)

FINAL EXAM: 12PM on Saturday the 28th, in 302 Greenlaw.


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