Through an analysis of historical, anthropological, literary, and cinematic texts, this course explores representations of the Mafia in Italian and American film from the early 20th century to today. How have Italian and American cultural representations of the Mafia converged, diverged, evolved, and/or persisted over the course of the past century? How have the cultural conditions of their production and reception shifted as Italians have ceased to occupy the privileged category of “the immigrant” in the popular American imagination, and as Italy has transitioned from a country of emigration to one of immigration? How has the Mafia evolved from a local organization to a global network in the 21st century, and how has cinema registered this shift? What are the unique origins and challenges of the Italian anti-Mafia resistance? In addition to raising key questions about cultural representation and power (stereotypes; immigration and national identity; racial, gender, and class difference), the course will introduce students to the study of film genres. How do we know a “mafia movie” when we see it? What are some of the essential character types, film techniques, and narrative conventions that distinguish this genre from other related genres (film noir, crime fiction, police procedural, etc.)?
By the end of the semester, students will be familiar with a number of canonical works of American and Italian cinema; they will be able to critically analyze films according to generic codes and conventions; they will be able to relate the films to their specific socio-historical contexts; and they will be able to communicate their ideas effectively, both orally and in written form, in modes appropriate to the discipline.
Departmental Goals: Goal II. Cultural Proficiency; Goal III. Professional Preparation
Required Texts (available Barnes and Noble RU Bookstore and at various online retailers):
1. Dana Renga, ed. Mafia Movies: A Reader (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2011).
2. Additional articles on Sakai
Films will be screened immediately following Tuesday lectures. Attendance at screenings is mandatory. Many titles are also available on Netflix, Google Play, and Amazon Prime.
Reference Books on Reserve at Alexander Library:
Peter Bondanella, A History of Italian Cinema
Carlo Celli and Marga Cottino-Jones, A New Guide to Italian Cinema
Timothy Corrigan, A Short Guide to Writing about Film
John Dickie, Cosa Nostra: A History of the Sicilian Mafia
Letizia Paoli, Mafia Brotherhoods: Organized Crime, Italian Style
The Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/
RAI Moments of Italian Cinema: http://www.italica.rai.it/monografie/cinema/index.php?hl=eng
National Cinema Museum (Turin, Italy): http://www.museonazionaledelcinema.it/index.php?l=en
Cineteca di Bologna: http://www.cinetecadibologna.it/en/
Participation, 15%: Regular attendance at lectures, screenings, and discussion sections is mandatory. Highest grades for participation are earned by students who come to class on time having seen the film and read the material assigned for each class, who prepare the discussion questions assigned, pose thoughtful questions, offer their insights consistently, communicate their thoughts effectively, and listen respectfully to the contributions of other students. Thursdays will be dedicated to student-led discussion groups of the readings, and groups will be responsible for reporting on the following topics: a) main argument or interpretation of assigned article(s); b) historical, political, and/or aesthetic contexts (diegetic, production, reception); c) key theoretical terms; d) characterization; e) relevance for film genres.
Quizzes, 10%: On five select Thursdays (discussion section), class will begin with a brief quiz to assess students’ preparation of the required readings. No makeup quizzes offered; missed attendance at a quiz will receive a grade of zero.
Mid-term examination, 25%: Based on lectures and readings, includes identifications and an essay question. The identifications and the essay are aimed at assessing the student’s ability to relate the films to their historical and cultural contexts, as well as to major theoretical concepts covered in the first half of the course. No makeup midterm offered.
Research Paper, 25%: Approximately seven pages (1,700-1,900 words), typed and double-spaced) on an essay question posed by your professor. Due Thursday, Week 12. No late papers will be accepted, no exceptions. Students will write a paper analyzing the gangster film genre in the US and Italy. They should demonstrate the ability to formulate a thesis statement, perform a close reading of cinematic texts by discussing specific examples, and effectively communicate complex ideas in written English.
End of term exam, 25%. Based on lectures and readings, includes identifications and one essay question. The final exam assesses the student’s ability to relate the films to their historical and cultural contexts, as well as to major theoretical concepts covered in the second half of the course. No makeup exam offered.