Stars, Myths and Politics
Postponed to Summer 2021
This Masterclass will discuss myths in cinema as the main entry point to politics in a global context. Students will analyze film form, narratives, aesthetics and critical texts through the lens of models of nation, class, ethnicity and gender in French society.
Full course description
According to André Malraux, cinematic myths are the expression of a “collective instinct,” reflecting a society at a given moment of its history. To the viewers, cinema is a mirror-image and a mold of trust and fiducia (Valéry). Cinematic myths are the product of a historical context: as André Bazin put it, every film is a “social documentary” revealing our beliefs, our aspirations, and our dreams throughout history.
Myths are incarnated by actors on the screen: movie stars like Charlie Chaplin, Brigitte Bardot, Jean Gabin, Greta Gardo, Marlon Brando or Catherine Deneuve form idealized images. To study the stars and the myths of cinema is, therefore, to analyze the way in which films generate and reflect collective beliefs validated by the public. Cinema, considered through the perspective of myth, is a “total social fact” (Mauss) which cuts across disciplinary fault lines.
In this Masterclass, students will discuss myths in cinema as the main entry point to politics in a global context. Students will analyze film form, narratives, aesthetics and critical texts through the lens of models of nation, class, ethnicity and gender in French society.
In light of landmark films and key theoretical texts, students will analyze how the first generation of French directors and film critics (Canudo, Delluc, Malraux, Bazin, Morin) laid the foundations of the mythical function of cinema.
Students will also discuss how the birth of a new generation of French actors, directors and theorists in the second half of the 20th century debunked the collective beliefs and the ideology underlying stardom. Barthes’s “mythologies,” Brecht’s “distancing,” Godard’s iconoclasm and the Marxist stance of the Cahiers du cinéma film critics all called into question the “mythical” representations of nation, class, gender and ethnicity in French cinema.
The moviegoers and the citizens of France then ushered in an “age of suspicion,” which was twofold: the desacralization of the film industry brought on by the advent of television and the dissemination of stardom through social media went hand in hand with the crisis of collective beliefs and confidence that characterized politics in France at the turn of the 21st century. The dusk of stardom paved the way for nostalgic intertextuality, pastiche and irony.
- Gain research skills in cinema studies
- Master key concepts of critical theory to understand the political stakes of cinema.
- Define the notion of the “cinematic myth” and its relation to collective beliefs, the nation, ethnicity, social class, and gender.
- Understand the expression of cinematic myths in France’s literary, artistic, social, and political history, as well as factors that contributed to the birth and decline of these myths;
- Critically examine one’s relationship to films and to their political dimension, in order to acquire image literacy in a global cultural context.
Course Number: FREN-GA 1066: Cinema Culture of France
Language of instruction: English
When: 4 days/week, 5 hours/day for 2 weeks
Evaluation: participation and a final essay based on the problematics discussed in the seminar and on the student’s interests.
NYU students and students from the GSAS consortium* are eligible to take the seminar for credit in their respective institutions (pending approval from their department).
Students from Paris I, Paris III, Paris VII, Paris X, the Ecole normale supérieure are eligible to audit the course.
* Schools participating in the GSAS Consortium: Columbia University,GSAS, Princeton University - The Graduate School, CUNY Graduate Center, Rutgers University, Fordham University, GSAS, Stony Brook University, Graduate Faculty, New School University, Teachers College, Columbia University, New York University, GSAS, Steinhardt.
Email the instructor: firstname.lastname@example.org prior to enrolling.
Housing in one of the NYU Paris residence halls is provided at a discounted rate: $58/day (limited availability). The NYU Department of French Literature, Thought and Culture may provide departmental graduate students with financial help.
New York University
Department of French Literature, Thought and Culture
Department of Cinema Studies
About Ludovic Cortade
Ludovic Cortade is Associate Professor in the Department of French Literature, Thought and Culture and an Associate faculty in the Department of Cinema Studies (Tisch School of the Arts) at New York University. Prof. Cortade is the author of Cinéma de l’immobilité : style, politique, réception (2008) and Antonin Artaud – la Virtualité incarnée (2000). His research fields include : History, Aesthetics, Theory of French Cinema ; French Literature and Film ; Politics of Film ; Cinematic Representations of Space. His articles and book chapters focus on Godard, Truffaut, Renoir, Malle, Leiris, Epstein and Bazin.
His current research project is elaborating on the notion of “cinematic myth” on the basis of a transdisciplinary dialogue between social scientists, writers, film critics and theorists. He investigates how the debates gravitating around Geography (Vidal de la Blache), Sociology (Durkheim, Mauss), and History (Annales School) influenced the evolution of French film criticism and paved the way for an anthropology of collective beliefs from the 1930s to the advent of political modernism. Cortade has held visiting appointments at the University of Toronto, Brown University, the Ecole normale supérieure and the University of Paris 3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle. His interviews are featured in the Criterion edition of Abdelatiff Kechiche’s The Secret of the Grain (2009), Le Monde and New York Public Radio.