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Sociology Through Film

The University of Akron, Spring 2010


Olin Hall 113, Tuesdays 7:10-9:40

Instructor: Jodi A. Ross, M.A.


Olin Hall 247D
jodi.ross@yahoo.com
(330) 972-8827

Course Description
This course is designed to help students develop their sociological imagination through the
viewing, discussion and analysis of popular films. This course is not about analyzing film
per se. For example, while we will consider the context of the production of some films, we
will not discuss technical aspects of film-making or the caliber of individual performances.
Instead, we will be using the intellectual tools of sociology to explore various aspects of the
social world as they are (re)presented by filmmakers and movie studios. In so doing we will
examine a variety of popular films genres to refine your ability to understand and apply
sociology to your everyday world.

Specific Learning Objectives:


• Appreciate the “promise” of the sociological imagination.
• Recognize the value of popular film as a cultural product.
• Understand basic sociological concepts related to the substantive areas in the
syllabus
• Apply critical thinking skills to analyze films and produce an argument regarding the
sociological elements of importance.
• Develop and refine written and oral communication skills.

Required Reading:

Sutherland, J.A. and Feltey, K. (2010). Cinematic Sociology: Social Life in Film.
Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge Press.
(Additional readings will be made available on our Springboard site.)

Instructor Note:

The film list for this class is not meant to be read as a “best-of” list (either generally
speaking or as they relate to particular substantive areas). The films selected for viewing
include both mainstream and independent productions. I have tried to include a variety of
genres including dramas, comedies, science fiction, foreign films, children’s films, and
based-in-fact films. I chose some films and ignored others based on their length in order to
best meet the needs of our time-delimited class format. We also will not deal with
documentary films at all in this course.

You should keep in mind that we will watch/read/discuss material that may include explicit
language and/or explore sensitive or controversial topics. At times, these materials, issues,
and our discussions may make you uncomfortable. It is important
that you allow the material to challenge you in order to move toward new knowledge. That
does not mean you have to agree with everything we watch/read/discuss but you are
expected to show respect to each person in our class. Inappropriate or derogatory
language or behavior will not be tolerated if directed at other students or their beliefs. My
goal is to provide an environment where critical but constructive dialogue and analysis of
these very important issues can take place in a comfortable and civilized manner.

How to Succeed in this Course


I am neither an entertainer, nor a magician. I cannot teach you what you are not prepared
or willing to learn. I will do my best to keep you engaged in the material, but it is your
responsibility to become a part of this class. The following are some basic tips which will
help you succeed in this course:
1. Attend class regularly. Although I realize you may have seen some of the films we
will be viewing, I expect that you attend each class. We only meet once a week and so
attendance is VERY important. I do not lend out my copies of films. Most are available at
the public library. I also will not provide any type of notes if you miss a class.
Do NOT ask me “Did I miss anything?” Of course you did. Get a buddy in the class
and ask that person the question. If they tell you that you didn’t miss anything, get
another buddy!
2. Pay Careful Attention to the Films. It will come as no surprise to me that some of
you signed up thinking “how hard could watching movies be?”. The truth is that it isn’t
hard to watch movies purely for pleasure. Watching films for substantive content and
further analysis is a much different task. Do not be lulled into passively watching. You
should be carefully thinking and taking notes during the film.
3. Prepare for class appropriately. Read all of the required reading for each class
before class. This will allow you to actively participate in discussions. This is a 3 credit,
junior-level (300) course. As a general rule you should be prepared to spend at least 6
hours outside of class each week doing your readings, studying, preparing assignments.
This is the equivalent of 2 hours for every hour inside class and is a bare minimum
expectation.
4. Take notes on the readings. Students who take clear and concise notes on each
reading not only retain and process more of the information, but also have a head-start on
creating study materials. On occasion I will let you refer to your text during a quiz. I can
assure you that this will only be beneficial to you if you have read the material.
5. Hand in your written assignments on time. Start early, write multiple drafts, and
hand in quality work on time. Make use of the services of the Writing Center in Bierce
Library to assist you in your work.
6. See me if you are having any difficulty with the material. We can talk through any
problems or issues. Do not wait until the end of the semester to come talk about “what can
I do so I don’t flunk your course”. That is too late (and the answer is probably, “nothing”).
7. Take advantage of any extra credit opportunities. Extra credit may be offered
throughout the semester at my discretion. These opportunities are offered to the entire
class and will not be available on an individual basis to those students desiring to improve
their grade at the last minute. After all, if you can’t manage to keep up with the class and
its requirements during the bulk of the term, it wouldn’t make sense for me to give you
“extra” work at the end of the term.
EVALUATION AND GRADING
Film Biography Paper
You will write a 3-5 page paper detailing your personal relationship to film. See page vii-ix
of the Preface to your textbook for examples and ideas for getting started. We will talk
about this more during class. This assignment is worth 50 points.
Quizzes
It is imperative that you do your reading to be able to thoughtfully and appropriately
participate in class. I have found that using quizzes throughout the semester strongly
encourages students to keep up with their reading. The quizzes in this class will include
material from the text and the films we watch. Questions will be short answer/essay
format. I may ask you to apply the material from the text to a specific film, or I may require
that you compare and/or contrast several films or I may ask comprehension questions from
the readings in the textbook. Some quizzes may be take-home (to be posted on
Springboard Dropbox) and others will be in-class. Each will be worth 40 points for a total of
200.
Application and Reaction Journal
Each student will keep a class journal with a minimum of one entry per week. Entries
should include reaction to films/ discussion from class (including points you may not have
raised in class), connections to specific points in the readings and/or connections to other
films and sociologically relevant insights. These entries should be typed on Springboard.
They will be checked twice during the semester. These are your opportunity to practice
your analysis skills and work out concepts, applications and arguments we didn’t get to in
class. Your journal will count for 50 points towards your final grade.
Film Analysis Paper (including Choice of Film, Topic and References Assignment)
Your final assignment will be to produce a film analysis on a film we have NOT watched in
class. You may not choose a film analyzed at length in your textbook. You may use the
extensive list of films in the back of your book or you may choose another film. You will be
required to relate your film to a specific topic (e.g., deviance, aging, health, friendship, war,
violence, education). You will also be required to find at least two outside references to
help shape your arguments in the paper. I will provide more details in class. This
assignment is worth 120 points or 24% of your grade. All the work we do throughout the
semester, including especially your careful reading of the text will prepare you for this
assignment.
Participation & Attendance
A portion of your grade is allotted for participation and attendance. I consider participation
to be thoughtful and appropriate contributions to class discussions. Negative participation
includes interruptions, inappropriate conduct and talking to your neighbor(s). Please note
that this component of evaluation is not purely quantitative but instead involves my
discretion as to your role in the course. That is, you do not simply get points counted
toward your grade for occupying a seat in the classroom, nor do you necessarily have
points subtracted if you fail to come to class. With this in mind, if you should find yourself
too tired to stay awake in class, you should plan to stay home in bed. You should consult
the section of the syllabus “how to succeed in this course” for additional tips. This
component of your grade will count for 50 points towards the final grade.

Evaluation Component Points Available Percentage of


Grade
Film Biography Paper 50 10%
Quizzes 5 @ 40 = 200 40%
Journal 50 10%
Film, Topic, References 30 6%
Film Analysis Paper 120 24%
Participation & Attendance 50 10%
Total Points 500 100%
Grading Scale: 470- 500 points (94-100%) = A; 450-469 points (90-93%) = A-;
435-449 points (87-89%) = B+; 415-434 points (83-86%) = B; 400-414 points (80-
82%) = B-; 385-399 points (77-79%) = C+; 365-384 points (73-76%) = C; 350-364
points (70-72%) = C-; 335-349 points (67-69%) = D+; 315-334 points (63-66%) = D;
300-314 points (60-62%) = D-; below 300 points = F.

COURSE AND UNIVERSITY POLICIES


**Changes to the Syllabus**
I reserve the right to make changes to the course schedule at any time during the
semester. Any changes will be announced in class and under most circumstances these
changes will also be posted on Springboard. The fact that you missed class is no excuse for
not being aware of schedule changes. You will be held responsible for adhering to all
changes regardless of your attendance during the time of the announced change.
Contacting the Instructor: Please e-mail me at jodi.ross@yahoo.com. Note that this is
NOT my university email. I use this alternative email to facilitate my communication with
students. Please use it! I do not have a fancy phone or other device that brings emails to
my attention immediately. I will make every effort to return emails within 24 hours. Please
do not re-email me before one business day has passed since your last email. I will not
accept papers by email unless you make prior arrangements with me. All papers should be
uploaded to Springboard or turned in as otherwise noted on the syllabus or in class.
Make-Up Policy
You cannot make-up quizzes offered in this course unless you make arrangements with me
PRIOR to missing the quiz. Quizzes may be made up only if you contact me via phone or
email prior to the test. You must have an acceptable and documented excuse including
medical emergency, hospitalization or imprisonment/detention. Be prepared to provide a
note from the official in charge. I do not accept notes from parents or roommates. Be
advised that I will verify the authenticity of documentation and any attempt to deceive me
will be reported as academic misconduct. I reserve the right to refuse make-up quizzes.
Late Assignments
All assignments are due in class where indicated on the syllabus, unless otherwise
announced (by me ). Late papers will be assessed a penalty of 5 points for each date
beyond the deadline. This includes 5 points for turning an assignment in after the class
period. I do not accept papers via e-mail.
Posting of Grades
All grades will be posted on our Springboard site for this course. University policy prohibits
me from discussing grades over email or the phone. You may make an appointment to
discuss grades in person.
Grading Disputes
I do my best to provide detailed feedback on assignments; however, you are always
welcome to ask for clarification concerning how I arrived at your grade. You are required to
keep the graded copy of all work completed in this course. If there is a discrepancy
(including an omission) with a posted grade, you are responsible for reporting it within two
weeks of posting. In other words, please do not come to me at the end of the semester
indicating that you did turn in that paper, take that test or that you were present on such
and such a date. When discrepancies are reported you are responsible for producing the
original, graded copy of the assignment.
Laptops
I do not allow laptops to be used in my courses. If you have a compelling reason which
necessitates that you take notes on a laptop please report to the Office of Accessibility for
an official letter of accommodation. You may certainly use these devices for the
preparation of any class materials.
Electronic Devices
I ask that you turn off your cell phone(s), pagers and other electronic devices for which
while I may not even know what they are called, will distract the class. Do not text during
class. If you are required by your job to have any of these devices on at all times, please
see me specifically. Please do not come to class with any kind of headphone device (e.g.,
iPod) because even though you may think no one else can hear, inevitably we do and it is
distracting. Finally, I reserve the right to confiscate any of these devices should I determine
they are distracting the class. I will return the device at the end of the class period. I will
report your behavior to Student Judicial Affairs if it is consistently distracting me or others.
Civility
We will often discuss issues which may make you uncomfortable by challenging your belief
systems. While open dialogue and disagreement are both expected and invited, I will not
tolerate any intimidation, direct hostility or other acts of disrespect towards any person in
the class. You may be asked to withdrawal from the class for violating this rule.
Tape Recording
According to University policy, absolutely no tape recording of course lectures or
discussions are permitted. If you have a special need for tape recording, you must contact
the Office of Accessibility in Student Affairs.
Plagiarism or Cheating
Using the work of another person without making reference to the source material is
plagiarism. This includes summarizing someone’s ideas, downloading internet material,
direct quotations from another source, or turning in the same paper as another student.
You will receive a zero on any assignment that contains plagiarized material. I reserve the
right to fail a student in the course and/or report the incident as academic misconduct in
cases I judge as extreme. Student Judicial Affairs will be notified of all plagiarism or
cheating episodes in this course.
Registration and Withdrawals
Please refer to you Zipline or the homepage of the Office of the Registrar for deadlines and
important dates concerning official registration and withdrawal from the course. You may
access your Zipline through the university homepage (www.uakron.edu). The Registrar’s
office can be located at: www.uakron.edu/registrar. I am NOT responsible for reminding
you of these dates!
Cancelled Classes
If classes are cancelled for any reason, we will resume during the next regularly scheduled
class session. Any assignments or exams scheduled on the day of a cancellation should be
turned in the following class period (e.g., if an exam is scheduled for a Monday that turns
out to be a snow day, you should plan to take the exam on Wednesday.) Note: the No Make
Up policy applies to these “re-scheduled” exams as well.

STUDENT RESOURCES
Tutoring Bierce Library 972-6552
Writing Skills Lab Bierce Library 972-6548
Computer Help Desk 972-6888
Office of Accessibility 972-7928; TDD 972-5764
(Students with disabilities or other special needs should contact this office to arrange any
necessary accommodations))
Course Schedule*
Date Topic Assignments Films*

January 12 Introduction to Class

19 Social Class and Read Chapter 1 & 2 The Bee Movie, Antz, Sneeches
Inequality

*Film Biography Paper Due Friday, January 22nd by 11pm in Dropbox on


Springboard*

26 Social Class and Quiz 1 Bread & Roses, Junebug, The


Inequality Royal Tenenbaums

February 2 Race & Ethnicity TIM WISE White Man’s Burden

9 Race & Ethnicity Chapter 3 American Violet, Jungle Fever

16 No class: President’s
Day

23 Race & Ethnicity Quiz 2 Hotel Rwanda

March 2 Gender & Sexuality Chapter 4 Little Mermaid,


Cinderella, Princess
Diaries

*Journals Due for Weeks 1-7 by March 5th, 11pm*

9 Gender & Sexuality Quiz 3 Ma Vie en Rose, Transamerica

*Final Topic, Film & 2 Refs Due in Dropbox by March 12th at 11pm*

16 No Class: Spring
Break

23 Work & Family Chapter 5 Real Women Have Curves,


Sunshine Cleaning

30 Work & Family Shattered Glass, Whale Rider,

April 6 Work & Family Quiz 4 Little Miss Sunshine, Step


Brothers, Baby Mama

13 Global Connections Chapter 6 Maria Full of Grace

*Journals Due*

20 Social Change & the Chapter 7 Battle in Seattle, In the Time of


Environment the Butterflies

27 Social Change & the Quiz 5 Gattaca, Children of Men


Environment

May 4 Final Exam Final Paper Due


w/ in-class
presentation

You should read the assigned chapters in full before class on the scheduled date.

*I reserve the right to change this syllabus at any time. I will announce changes in class
and on Springboard. We will generally only watch one film per week. If you miss class, it is
your responsibility to find out what movie we watched. I do not lend out my copies of
films.