Rhetoric, Film, and Screen Studies

Professor Nero; Associate Professors Kelley-Romano and Cavallero (chair); Visiting Assistant Professors Otis and Salter (English and Rhetoric, Film and Screen Studies); Lecturer Hovden



Rhetoric, film, and screen studies offer an interdisciplinary approach to the study of human communication that focuses on the intersectional nature of meaning and knowledge.

Rhetoric is a vital aspect of modern democracy. Courses offered by the Department of Rhetoric, Film, and Screen Studies teach students to understand how citizens use the symbolic in processes of negotiation within democratic states. Historically, this understanding has come through study of oratory, writing, and debate. But as the public sphere has expanded, so have the skills needed for successful agency: skills also now address visual media such as film, television, and virtual worlds.

Courses examine the production of meaning in texts and screen texts through the study of the systems that create texts; the form of those texts; and the historical, sociocultural, and economic milieus that mediate their circulation and interpretation. Courses are informed by theories that examine race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class, among other categories. In addition to introductory courses, students are required to take courses in performance. Students take two seminar courses with two different professors to further expand their exploration into the breadth of rhetoric, film, and screen studies. All students complete a senior thesis.

Argumentation and debate are traditional aspects of the practice and study of rhetoric, and have long been considered essential elements to a functioning public sphere. Bates has a storied tradition of excellence in debate, and students may study argumentation in courses or participate in competitive debate, or both. The Brooks Quimby Debate Council (BQDC), teaches students basic elements of rhetorical practice and theory.

More information on the rhetoric, film, and screen studies curriculum is available on the website (bates.edu/rhetoric).

Major Requirements

The major consists of ten courses plus a thesis. A coherent program for each student's major is designed in accord with the following guidelines and in consultation with a member of the faculty in the rhetoric, film, and screen studies who is appointed as the student's departmental advisor. Students should consult with their major advisor about meeting their requirements. Students may count one Short Term course toward the major, unless they are using a Short Term course to fulfill the performance requirement, in which case, students may use two Short Term courses to satisfy the major requirements.

1) Core Courses. Two of the following (taking all three is recommended):
RFSS 100. What is Rhetoric?
RFSS 120. Introduction to Screen Studies.
AF/RF 162. White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American History.

2) Performance. One of the following:
RFSS s16. Public Discourse.
RFSS s17. Introduction to Argumentation.

3) Theory. One of the following:
RFSS 240. Film Theory.
RFSS 252. Rhetorical Theory.
RFSS 276. Television Criticism.

4) Race/Ethnicity. One of the following:
AF/RF 162. White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American History.
AF/RF 202. Coming of Age While Black.
RFSS 219. Race, Gender, and International Cinema.
RFSS 220. Constructions of Italian American Men and Masculinities.
RFSS 273. Monday Morning Quarterbacking: The Rhetoric of Sports.

5) Gender/Sexuality. One of the following:
RFSS 219. Race, Gender, and International Cinema.
RFSS 220. Constructions of Italian American Men and Masculinities.
RFSS 260. Lesbian and Gay Images in Film.
RFSS 265. The Rhetoric of Women’s Rights.
RFSS 273. Monday Morning Quarterbacking: The Rhetoric of Sports.
RFSS 276. Television Criticism.

6) Seminars. Two of the following (with two different faculty members):
RFSS 391A. The Rhetoric of Alien Abduction.
RFSS 391B. Presidential Campaign Rhetoric.
RFSS 391F. Bollywood.
RFSS 391J. Film Festival Studies.
RFSS 391K. Cyborgs on Screen.

7) Additional Courses. In consultation with a major advisor, students take two additional courses in rhetoric, film, or screen studies. These courses may be from within the department, offered by other departments or programs, or taken off campus.

8) RFSS 457 or 458. Senior Thesis.

Pass/Fail Grading Option

Only one 100- or 200-level course may be taken pass/fail in fulfilling the major requirements.

Minor Requirements

The minor consists of six courses. A coherent program for each student's minor is designed in accord with the following guidelines and in consultation the faculty member who is appointed as the student's departmental advisor for the minor.

1) Core Courses. Two of the following three courses:
RFSS 100. What is Rhetoric?
RFSS 120. Introduction to Screen Studies.
AF/RF 162. White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American History.

2) Performance. One of the following:
RFSS s16. Public Discourse.
RFSS s17. Introduction to Argumentation.

3) Race/Ethnicity. One of the following:
AF/RF 162. White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American
History.
AF/RF 202. Coming of Age While Black.
RFSS 219. Race, Gender, and International Cinema.
RFSS 220. Constructions of Italian American Men and Masculinities.
RFSS 273. Monday Morning Quarterbacking: The Rhetoric of Sports.

4) Gender/Sexuality. One of the following:
RFSS 219. Race, Gender, and International Cinema.
RFSS 220. Constructions of Italian American Men and Masculinities.
RFSS 260. Lesbian and Gay Images in Film.
RFSS 265. The Rhetoric of Women’s Rights.
RFSS 273. Monday Morning Quarterbacking: The Rhetoric of Sports.
RFSS 276. Television Criticism.

5) Seminar. One of the following.
RFSS 391A. The Rhetoric of Alien Abduction.
RFSS 391B. Presidential Campaign Rhetoric.
RFSS 391F. Bollywood.
RFSS 391J. Film Festival Studies.
RFSS 391K. Cyborgs on Screen.

Pass/Fail Grading Option

Only one 100- or 200-level course may be taken pass/fail in fulfilling the minor requirements.

Courses
RFSS 100. What is Rhetoric?.
Although the oldest discipline, rhetoric may be the least understood. Aristotle defined rhetoric as "the faculty of observing in any given case the available means of persuasion." In this course, students conduct a historical survey of rhetorical theory from classical times to the present to critique the role of language in establishing, perpetuating, and challenging power. Rhetorical artifacts examined include political speeches, television programs, print advertisements, editorials, music, film, and social media. Not open to students who have received credit for RHET 100. Enrollment limited to 29. [W1] Normally offered every year. [AC] [HS] S. Kelley-Romano.
Concentrations

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

RFSS 120. Introduction to Screen Studies.
This course is designed to introduce students to the production techniques, historical context, cultural function, and critical analysis of various film and television texts. Both film and television play an important role in defining, challenging, and reinforcing cultural norms and practices. By looking critically at a number of texts and artifacts, the course encourages students to develop a better understanding of the role film and television play in defining cultures and "reality." Not open to students who have received credit for RHET 120. Enrollment limited to 39. [W1] Normally offered every year. [AC] [HS] J. Cavallero.
Concentrations

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

AF/RF 162. White Redemption: Cinema and the Co-optation of African American History.
Since its origins in the early twentieth century, film has debated how to represent black suffering. This course examines one aspect of that debate: the persistent themes of white goodness, innocence, and blamelessness in films that are allegedly about black history and culture. Historical and cultural topics examined in film include the enslavement of Africans, Reconstruction, and the civil rights movement. Not open to students who have received credit for AA/RF 162 or AA/RH 162. Enrollment limited to 29. (Africana: Historical Perspective.) (Africana: Introductory Sequence.) [CP] [HS] C. Nero.
Concentrations
AF/RF 202. Coming of Age While Black.
This course proceeds from the premise that coming of age while black is fraught with the dangers created by a system of anti-black surveillance. Students examine the "coming-of-age" film in American and international cinema that began during the era of the U.S. civil rights movement in the 1950s. Typically, the films in this subgenre feature a young black protagonist, often a teen, navigating, sometimes successfully but not always, a world defined by intersecting oppressions created by race, class, gender, sexuality, and/or (post)colonial identity. Prerequisite(s): one of the following: RFSS 100, RFSS 120, or AF/RF 162. Not open to students who have received credit for AA/RF 202 or AA/RH 202. Enrollment limited to 39. (Africana: Diaspora.) (Africana: Gender.) (Africana: Historical Perspective.) [AC] [HS] C. Nero.
Concentrations

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

RFSS 219. Race, Gender, and International Cinema.
This course investigates a number of films, filmmakers, film industries, and film movements that have changed the shape of movies and expanded our understanding of what is possible with cinema. Students gain a greater knowledge of the global cinematic landscape and discern the role that cinema plays in global and local cultures. The course is particularly sensitive to the representation of race and gender and asks how a sensitivity to local cultural traditions might challenge or change readings of specific texts. Films from Iran, Brazil, Senegal, France, Australia, Italy, Japan, India, China, and Germany may be considered. Prerequisite(s): one of the following: RFSS 100, RFSS 120, or AF/RF 162. Enrollment limited to 29. [AC] [HS] J. Cavallero.
RFSS 220. Constructions of Italian American Men and Masculinities.
From Rudolf Valentino to The Godfather to Jersey Shore, American media makers and audiences seem obsessed with the Italian American man. In challenging cultural conventions and brazenly refusing to conform to accepted social norms, the Italian American male in popular culture is simultaneously admired and feared. Representations of the Italian American male indulge fantasies of total freedom while providing a cautionary tale that endorses social conformity. This course examines representations of Italian American men to determine the cultural place of ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class, with attention paid to the rhetorical usage of these overlapping identities. Prerequisite(s): one of the following: RFSS 100, RFSS 120, or AF/RF 162. Not open to students who have received credit for RHET 220. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 29. [AC] [HS] J. Cavallero.
Concentrations

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

RFSS 240. Film Theory.
What is a film? How should films be viewed? What cultural role do the movies play? As might be expected, such open-ended questions have yielded no shortage of answers. This intermediate-level film studies course introduces students to some of the dominant theoretical models that have surfaced throughout the history of film theory (including formal film analysis, realism, Soviet montage theory, documentary theory, and experimental film theory), while also exploring issues of cultural studies, authorship, ideology, representation, digital cinema, reception studies, and global and transnational cinema. In coming to an understanding of these approaches, students develop a deeper comprehension of the cultural place and artistic significance of the movies. Prerequisite(s): RFSS 100, 120, or AF/RF 162. Not open to students who have received credit for RHET 240. Enrollment limited to 25. [W2] Normally offered every year. [AC] [CP] J. Cavallero.
Concentrations

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

RFSS 252. Rhetorical Theory.
While rhetoric is commonly perceived to be persuasion, rhetorical theorists have long studied the relationship between symbol systems and broader aspects of human identity. This course focuses on theories that explore the epistemological (how we know) and the ontological (being) aspects of language use. The course begins with general theories related to the topic and then moves to discussions of how language influences our understanding and embodiment of race, gender, sexuality, and citizenship. Prerequisite(s): RFSS 100, 120, or AF/RF 162. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 29. [W2] [AC] [HS] J. Hovden.
RFSS 260. Lesbian and Gay Images in Film.
This course investigates the representation of lesbians and gays in film from the Golden Age of Hollywood to the contemporary independent filmmaking movement. Topics may include the effect of the "closet" on Hollywood film, homophobic imagery, international queer films, "camp" as a visual and narrative code for homosexuality, the independent filmmaking movement, and the debates about queer visibility in contemporary mass-market and independent films. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 29. [W2] [AC] [HS] C. Nero.
ConcentrationsInterdisciplinary Programs

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

This course counts toward the following Interdisciplinary Program(s)

RFSS 265. The Rhetoric of Women's Rights.
Throughout American history the roles and rights ascribed to women have differed from those ascribed to men. Because of their differing situations, women have had to use rhetorical means to attain their goals of equality and access to the public sphere. This course examines rhetorical strategies used by women to overcome the exigencies they faced. It considers the rhetoric of oppositional voices who have challenged the goals of the feminist movements and the rhetoric in the broader social environment that establishes the social norms and values in which the movement must operate. Students learn and apply the tools of rhetorical criticism in order to identify, describe, and evaluate the rhetorical strategies. Prerequisite(s): one of the following: RFSS 100, RFSS 120, or AF/RF 162. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 29. [W2] [AC] [HS] S. Kelley-Romano.
ConcentrationsInterdisciplinary Programs

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

This course counts toward the following Interdisciplinary Program(s)

RFSS 271. Film Noir, Its Influences, and Its Legacies.
From private eyes, femme fatales, and criminal masterminds to byzantine plots, double crosses, and good old-fashioned nihilism, film noir has contributed much to cinematic history and contemporary film. This course considers its influences, such as pulp magazines' hardboiled fiction and German expressionism, and examines its legacies into the twenty-first century. Students question what film noir actually is: A genre? An ethos? A lighting scheme? The course also interrogates film noir's rhetorical constructions of gender, race, class, and sexuality from its heyday in the 1940s and 1950s into the present. Finally, the course considers why these films continue to be so influential. Prerequisite(s): AF/RF 162, RFSS 100, or RFSS 120. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 29. One-time offering. T. Salter.
RFSS 273. Monday Morning Quarterbacking: The Rhetoric of Sports.
This course examines the ways in which discourse surrounding sports influences culture, politics, and one's sense of self. Using rhetorical theories such as myth, metaphor, and narrative, students analyze the discourses surrounding topics such as the rhetorical construction of the athlete, sporting events, athletes as racialized and gendered bodies, the commodification of the athlete, athletes and activism, and fandom and identification. Prerequisite(s): RFSS 100, 120, or AF/RF 162. Not open to students who have received credit for RHET 273. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 29. [W2] [AC] [HS] J. Hovden.
RFSS 276. Television Criticism.
This course examines the representational strategies employed by television to convey social messages. The goals of the course are twofold: first, to acquaint students with the basic theoretical premises of rhetorical approaches to television; and second, to provide students an opportunity for critical and original research. Students examine how representations of race, class, sexuality, ability, and other categories of analysis are articulated in science fiction and fantasy on television. Prerequisite (s): RFSS 100, 120, or AF/RF 162.. Not open to students who have received credit for RHET 276. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 29. [W2] [AC] [HS] S. Kelley-Romano.
Concentrations

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

RFSS 360. Independent Study.
Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair are required. Students may register for no more than one independent study per semester. Normally offered every semester. Staff.
RFSS 365. Special Topics.
Offered occasionally in selected subjects. Staff.
INDC 382. Latinx Film.
This course introduces students to the field of Latinx studies through the lens of Latinx representations in United States film. By analyzing various films that feature Latinx characters, actors, and stories, students learn about the diversity of the Latinx population in the United States and develop an understanding of the key sociopolitical issues Latinx individuals face. Through the medium of film, themes such as immigration, gender, ethnicity and race, and the policing of Brown bodies gives students a more nuanced understanding of the largest growing minority population in the United States while also providing them the terms and skills necessary for audiovisual analysis. Taught in English. Cross-listed in Hispanic studies, Latin American and Latinx studies, and rhetoric, film, and screen studies. Only open to juniors and seniors. Recommended background: AM/AN 207, AMST 200, HISP 228, LL/PT 208, or RFSS 120. Enrollment limited to 15. L. Fernandez.
RFSS 391. Topics in Rhetorical and Film Criticism.
Recommended for sophomores and juniors, the topic varies from semester to semester. The seminar relies largely upon individual student research, reports, and discussion. Instructor permission is required. Students should consult the departmental web page for petition form and process. Enrollment limited to 15. Instructor permission is required. Staff.
RFSS 391A. The Rhetoric of Alien Abduction.
This seminar examines the discourse surrounding UFOs and alien abduction. Texts are drawn from various media and include both fictional and nonfictional accounts of interaction with aliens. The course uses abduction/UFO discourse as a way to interrogate articulations of power, reality, control, rights, and identity as they are expressed both by abduction experiencers and popular culture. Topics include conspiracy, narrative, apocalyptic rhetoric, and myth. This seminar is recommended for sophomores and juniors. Prerequisite(s): one course in rhetoric, film and screen studies. Enrollment limited to 15. Instructor permission is required. [AC] [HS] S. Kelley-Romano.
Concentrations

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

RFSS 391B. Presidential Campaign Rhetoric.
In this course, students explore the wide array of discourse surrounding presidential campaigns. Attention is paid to political speeches, advertisements, debates, news reporting, and the use of social media in campaigning. Students also participate in an extensive "mock campaign" complete with candidates, conventions, media, debates, and scandal. Special attention is paid to the evaluation of evidence and sources in the construction of political argument and image. This seminar is recommended for juniors and seniors. Prerequisite(s): one course in rhetoric, film, and screen studies. Enrollment limited to 15. Instructor permission is required. [AC] [CP] S. Kelley-Romano.
Concentrations

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

RFSS 391F. Bollywood.
This course develops a historical understanding of Bollywood while demonstrating that the economic realities of a globalized world have ethical implications for cultural production. The course considers the history of Bollywood productions from the 1950s to the 1990s, a time in which the aesthetic style and production practices of these films were established; special attention is paid to the gender, racial, sexual, and class politics of these movies. Next, students consider the industry's global popularity and the lucrative potential of transnational audiences. Finally, they investigate how Hollywood and independent films have attempted to capture a more traditional Bollywood audience. Films under study include Mother India, Zanjeer, Dhoom 2, Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge, and Slumdog Millionaire. This seminar is recommended for sophomores and juniors. Prerequisite(s): one course in rhetoric, film and screen studies. Enrollment limited to 15. Instructor permission is required. [AC] [HS] J. Cavallero.
Concentrations

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

RFSS 391J. Film Festival Studies.
This course is structured around ongoing discussions within the academic field of festival studies and asks students to apply those conversations to the planning of an on-campus film festival. Throughout the course, students screen, discuss, and evaluate possible festival films and draw on the resources and connections of the Bates community to produce the event. They also engage in discussions about the history of film festivals, the promotion of festivals, the ways that festivals are accredited, the funding of festivals, the audience(s) of festivals, and the ways these realities create opportunities and constraints for festival organizers. This seminar is recommended for juniors and seniors. Prerequisite(s): one course in rhetoric, film and screen studies. Enrollment limited to 15. Instructor permission is required. [W2] [AC] [CP] J. Cavallero.
Concentrations

This course is referenced by the following General Education Concentrations

RFSS 391K. Cyborgs on Screen.
Some of the scariest and some of the most beloved characters in science fiction cinema and television are cyborgs. The simple equation of part human/part machine/all cyborg adds up to more than fiction, though; this course considers how disability, feminist, and cultural studies scholars engage with cyborgs’ rhetorical constructions. This course also considers the cyborg in its historical contexts through the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, examining the various cultural anxieties reflected in different rhetorical constructions of cyborgs on screen. Prerequisite(s): one rhetoric, film, and screen studies course. Enrollment limited to 15. Instructor permission is required. One-time offering. T. Salter.
AF/RF 391L. Screening Slavery: A Transnational Approach.
This course takes a transnational approach to films about the four hundred years of the enterprise in trans-Atlantic slavery. A transnational approach emphasizes the creation of a global audience, and sometimes one that is specifically Black or Pan-African, for films about slavery and its aftermath. These films challenge and question the stereotypes about slavery and enslaved people that were the foundation for anti-Blackness in United States and other Western national cinemas. The filmmakers considered in this course are most often members of the African diaspora in the Americas, especially, from the United States, Cuba, Martinique, and Brazil. Prerequisite(s): AF/RF 162 or a course in Africana. Instructor permission is required. [W2] C. Nero.
RFSS 457. Senior Thesis.
A substantial academic or artistic project. Students register for RFSS 457 in the fall semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both RFSS 457 and 458. [W3] Normally offered every year. Staff.
RFSS 458. Senior Thesis.
A substantial academic or artistic project. Students register for RFSS 458 in the winter semester. Majors writing an honors thesis register for both RFSS 457 and 458. [W3] Normally offered every year. Staff.
Short Term Courses
RFSS s16. Public Discourse.
This course is designed to develop an awareness of and skill in the techniques needed by a speaker in varying situations, from the large gathering to the small group. Students analyze and compose public speeches on various political issues. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 24. [AC] [CP] J. Hovden.
RFSS s17. Introduction to Argumentation.
An examination of the theory and practice of argumentation. This course explores argument theory from antiquity to the present and gives students the opportunity to develop skills in structured academic debates. Not open to students who have received credit for RHET s17. Open to first-year students. Enrollment limited to 24. [AC] [CP] J. Hovden.
RFSS s50. Independent Study.
Students, in consultation with a faculty advisor, individually design and plan a course of study or research not offered in the curriculum. Course work includes a reflective component, evaluation, and completion of an agreed-upon product. Sponsorship by a faculty member in the program/department, a course prospectus, and permission of the chair are required. Students may register for no more than one independent study during a Short Term. Normally offered every year. Staff.