1. Contact Information
  2. Prerequisites
  3. Course Description and Credit Hours
  4. Required Texts
  5. Course Objectives
  6. Student Learning Outcomes
  7. Other Course Materials
  8. Outline Of Topics
  9. Exams and Assignments
  10. Grading Policy
  11. Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework
  12. Attendance Policy
  13. Notification of Changes
  14. Custom Sections
  15. Statements on Academic Misconduct
  16. Statement On Disability Accommodations
  17. Severe Weather Protocol
  18. Pregnant Student Accommodations
  19. Religious Observances
  20. UAct Statement

Seminar in American Cinema

JCM 412-001Spring 2018 | 3 Credit Hours


Jeremy Butler

Contact Information

UA Campus Directory:
Jeremy Butler
Office: 486B Phifer
Office hours: MW 9-10:00 a.m., & by appt. 348-6350


UA Course Catalog Prerequisites:

JCM 212

Course Description

Course Description and Credit Hours

Study of selected topics in United States film. Writing proficiency is required for a passing grade in this course. A student who does not write with the skill normally required of an upper-division student will not earn a passing grade, no matter how well the student performs in other areas of the course.

Required Texts

Required Texts from UA Supply Store:

Student Learning Outcomes

At the conclusion of the course, students will be able to:

  1. Understand the three major critical methods applied to the American cinema: genre study, the auteur "theory," and the star "system", through the examples of film noir, director Howard Hawks and actor Humphrey Bogart, and the melodrama, director Douglas Sirk, and actress Lana Turner;
  2. Understand the shaping of film history and the impact of diverse groups on that history;
  3. Write correctly and clearly (evaluating their work for accuracy and fairness, appropriate style, and grammatical correctness);
  4. Evaluate concepts and apply theories in the use and presentation of images and narratives, including feminism, Marxism, structuralism and semiotics; and
  5. Think critically, creatively, and independently about the American cinema.

Other Course Materials

  • Numerous articles will be available as PDFs on the JCM 412 Blackboard site. The JCM 412 Outline of Topics indicates when they will be discussed in class.

  • Films are our principal texts. They will be shown Wednesday evenings in class. There will be no other class screenings of the programs, but copies of most films will be placed on reserve in the Phifer Learning Commons. Also, many titles are available through Netflix, and two or three of them are included in the audio-visual section of the Gorgas Library.

  • It is recommended that students subscribe to the e-newsletter, Cynopsis Media, to keep up-to-date with media industries.

  • Credits are available from the Internet Movie Database. Follow the links in the JCM 412 Outline of Topics to find them.

Outline of Topics

Please refer to the online course schedule for an outline of lecture topics, film screenings, reading assignments and various course resources (including discussion notes):


Exams and Assignments

The student's grade will depend upon five separate components:

  1. An analytical exercise. Worth 10 points.

  2. Three directed papers--assigned over the course of the first two months. These four-page (1200 word minimum) papers will respond to questions handed out in class and will deal with specific topics covered during a particular week. Questions will be handed out on a Wednesday and will be due 11:59 p.m. Thursday of the following week--via Blackboard Learn/TurnItIn. At least one of these papers will be graded and returned before midterm. Each paper is worth 15 points for a total of 45 points.

    Please see the handout, Notes on Writing Film Analyses, for tips on preparing these papers.

    These papers will be graded on the basis of conceptual rigor and fluency of writing style (i.e., grammar, spelling, etc.). Writing proficiency is required for a passing grade in this course. You are not expected to do extra research for these papers, but any references to sources other than yourself must be properly cited--see Joseph Gibaldi, MLA Handbook for Writers of Research Papers or a similar style book. This includes references to online resources and the course readings. Also, Diana Hacker, author of Research and Documentation in the Electronic Age, provides numerous tips on documenting sources. And the Citation Machine can partially automate the formatting of citations.

    To quote or paraphrase without proper citation constitutes academic misconduct.

    The paper grading will include suggestions for improving your writing. Students who are concerned about their writing style are urged to come in during office hours to discuss their work in more detail. And the Academic Resource Hub (including the Writing Center) is available to help, too: academichub.ua.edu .

  3. One ten-page (3,000 word minimum) research paper. This paper will be graded based on conceptual rigor and fluency of writing style. This paper should involve outside research. Any use of outside sources must be properly cited. A bibliography and a filmography (that is, the credits for the film analyzed) must be provided. (One source for credits is the Internet Movie Database: us.imdb.com.) Worth 30 points.

  4. Reading quizzes--worth 5 points total. Quizzes on the readings will be given at the start of class-discussion days. Four low scores will be dropped.

  5. A take-home final exam on melodrama, Sirk, Turner--emphasizing Mildred Pierce. This exam is worth 10 points and is due 11:59 p.m., Wednesday of exam week, via Blackboard Learn/TurnItIn.

Additional Requirements for Graduate Students

Beyond the requirements for undergraduates, grad students' directed papers should be five pages (1,500 words) instead of four, and the final paper should be 13 pages (3,900 words) instead of 10. Also, grad students may be required to lead a class discussion.

Grading Policy

Grades will be posted on Blackboard Learn.

Grading scale:

A+ 97-100   C+ 77-79    F  59 and below
A 93-96 C 73-76
A- 90-92 C- 70-72
B+ 87-89 D+ 67-69
B 83-86 D 63-66
B- 80-82 D- 60-62

Policy on Missed Exams and Coursework

Make-up tests/exams will be given at the discretion of the instructor. No tests/exams will be given before their scheduled dates.

Attendance Policy

Each absence beyond four for the semester will result in one point being deducted from your final total. (Up to five points may be deducted.)

Notification of Changes

The instructor will make every effort to follow the guidelines of this syllabus as listed; however, the instructor reserves the right to amend this document as the need arises. In such instances, the instructor will notify students in class and/or via email and will endeavor to provide reasonable time for students to adjust to any changes.


Self-Plagiarism is not tolerated and is considered academic misconduct. Self-Plagiarism is resubmitting any part of your own previously submitted work without proper citation and permission from the instructor.

Digital Devices Policy

Please keep cell phones stowed away during class time--including film screenings. Studies have shown that students distracted by their phones have difficulty engaging in class discussions, distract students near them, and do worse on exams than students without phones. (See the Doonesbury cartoon on the distraction factor.)

Laptops, tablets, and e-readers may be judiciously used for reference to class texts or for online research during discussions. They may also be used for note-taking during lectures, but one study found that handwritten notes have some advantages over typed ones.

During screenings, all digital devices must be off--just like in regular movie theaters.

Any use of digital devices during exams will be considered academic misconduct.

Statement on Academic Misconduct

Students are expected to be familiar with and adhere to the official Academic Misconduct Policy provided in the Online Catalog.

Statement On Disability Accommodations

Contact the Office of Disability Services (ODS) as detailed in the Online Catalog.

Severe Weather Protocol

Please see the latest Severe Weather Guidelines in the Online Catalog.

Pregnant Student Accommodations

Title IX protects against discrimination related to pregnancy or parental status. If you are pregnant and will need accommodations for this class, please review the University’s FAQs on the UAct website.

Religious Observances

Under the Guidelines for Religious Holiday Observances, students should notify the instructor in writing or via email during the first two weeks of the semester of their intention to be absent from class for religious observance. The instructor will work to provide reasonable opportunity to complete academic responsibilities as long as that does not interfere with the academic integrity of the course. See full guidelines at Religious Holiday Observances Guidelines.

UAct Statement

The University of Alabama is committed to an ethical, inclusive community defined by respect and civility.  The UAct website (www.ua.edu/uact)  provides extensive information on how to report or obtain assistance with a variety of issues, including issues related to dating violence, domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, sexual violence or other Title IX violations, illegal discrimination, harassment, hate or bias incidents, child abuse or neglect, hazing, threat assessment, retaliation, and ethical violations or fraud.