Special Topics in Film, ENGL 2210








Instructor: John Cole

Office: Room 3210

Email: jcole@ccri.edu

Phone: 825-2362

Office Hours: M: 11:00-1:00; W: 11:00-1:00 (Warwick Campus); R: 11.00-1.00 (Liston Campus)

My Faculty Website: http://facultywp.ccri.edu/jcole/


“Romance is a game for fools, I used to say
A game, I thought I’d never play
Romance is a game for fools, I said and grinned
Then you passed by and here am I
Throwing caution to the wind . . .”  — “Fools Rush In” by Mercer and Bloom


Text:  No Text; however, we will be using Yale Film Site, an online resource, from which I will assign reading, and class notes.

Learning Outcomes:

Upon successful completion of the course, the student should:
  1. Display a working knowledge of film techniques viewed and discussed during the semester
  2. Identify and describe various film genres, directors, and aspects of film theory
  3. Analyze works for their structure and meaning, using correct terminology
  4. Write analytically about film using MLA guidelines
  5. Effectively communicate ideas related to the works during class and group activities

Course Overview:

This semester we will be examining Romantic Comedies from near the beginning of the sound era to the present day. I contend that Romantic Comedies are worthy of our consideration, and if we pay close enough attention, the films themselves can teach us how to “read” them. So, why examine Romcoms? Romantic Comedy is often considered a lower or less serious form of art, unworthy of study. Popular films and literature have typically been devalued. Northrup Frye, for example, makes this observation about Romance:

“Any serious discussion of romance has to take into account its curiously proletarian status as a form generally disapproved of, in most ages, by the guardians of taste and learning, except when they use it for their own purposes. The close connection of the romantic and the popular runs all through literature. The formulas of New Comedy and Greek romance were demotic and popular formulas, like their counterparts now, treated with condescension by the highbrows, one form of condescension being the writing of such tales themselves . . . .”

So, we shall attempt to treat the films and the genre of Romantic Comedy seriously, exploring the ways in and by which Romcoms reveal and comment on class, status, identity, love, gender, and sexuality.

Delivery Method: Face-to-Face

Course Requirements and Policies:  Bring a notebook to class with you and save all of your observation notes.  (You will learn to take notes in the dark quickly.) You must see all films whether you are in class or not.  Some of the films shown in class will be available through Kanopy, a free streaming service available to all CCRI students through the library. Also, check the course homepage for links to specific film sites, clips, and announcements.  As with most other college classes, you should plan on two hours of outside work for each credit hour per week.  Finally, the official syllabus is on my website and may be subject to change.

Attendance:  You will be allowed to miss one class with no penalty.  Your grade will be dropped by one letter grade if you miss a second class, and if you miss a third class, you will not be able to pass the course.  Class begins on time; do not arrive late.  Two late arrivals will count as one absence.

Grading:  Your grade will be based on two exams and two short (3-4 pages) analysis papers and will count for 80% of your grade. In addition, I will also assign short response papers, usually no more than one typed page.  Those responses, along with participation and attendance, will comprise the remaining 20% of your grade. Note: In order to pass the course, you must submit all required work.

Paper One:  20%

Paper Two:  20%

Mid-Term:  20%

Final:   20%

Responses, Attendance and Class Participation:   20%

Total:  100%


Grade Table:

A: Superior 93-100

A-: 90-92

B+: 87-89

B: Above Average: 84-86

B-: 80-83

C+: 77-79

C: Average: 74-76


D+ 67-69

D: Below Average: 60-66

F: Failure: Below 60

Other Matters:  I expect proper classroom decorum, and I deal with any disruptive behavior immediately.  (Please consult the Student Handbook for details if you need to.)  Turn off all cell phones or other electronic noisemakers before you come into the classroom, and keep them out of sight. Laptops are not permitted in class.  It will not often be possible to take a break during class, so take care of stuff before class.  During screenings, do not talk and stay in your seat.  Do not turn on a cell phone during the screening of a filmYou will be marked absent if you open a cell phone. Careful and attentive film viewing is essential.

Plagiarism:  Plagiarism is the appropriation of another writer’s thoughts or words as your own.  If you plagiarize, you will receive an F in the course. I am versed in film writing, and I recognize plagiarized work instantly.

Disability Services for Students: Students who feel they may need an academic accommodation based on a disability may meet with me privately after class. Contact the Office of Disability Services for Students to coordinate reasonable accommodations. DSS Coordinator contact information.

Other Student Services: Students who faces challenges securing  food or housing and believe this may affect their performance in the course are urged to contact CCRI’s Community and Social Resources Office for support.


Films will include:  Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks, 1938), The Lady Eve (Preston Sturges, 1941 or The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (Preston Sturges, 1943),  Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977), When Harry Met Sally (Rob Reiner, 1989), Moonstruck (Norman Jewison, 1987), Tangerine (Sean Baker, 2015), Let The Sunshine In (Claire Denis, 2017).

Films may include:  Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie, 2007), High Fidelity (Stephen Frears, 2000), Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Peter Sollett, 2008), Sleepless in Seattle (Nora Ephron, 1993), My Best Friend’s Wedding (P.J. Horgan, 1997), You’ve Got Mail (Nora Ephron, 1998), The Shop Around The Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940), 500 Days of Summer (Marc Webb, 2009), and Punch-Drunk Love (P.T. Anderson, 2002).