MCS-509-Cinema Studies

Fall 2011



Dr. Özgür Avcı





This course aims to put urban social theory and cinema studies in dialogue. Since the end of the nineteenth century, cinema has been fascinated with the representations of the spaces, lifestyles, and human conditions of the city. A lot of films captured and expressed the complexity, diversity, and dynamism of urban life. Various thinkers from different branches of social and cultural theory have recognized and reflected on the curious and telling relationship between cinema and urban space/society over the course of capitalist (post)modernization. In this class, we will examine the different ways in which cities and cinema intersect by relying on resources from both urban studies and film studies, and cover some major topics related to the cinematic representations of city including industrialization, modern urban society, country-city paradigm, production of urban space, everyday life in the city, fragmentation, and marginality.





I will give a lecture at the beginning of each class about the weekly readings. In the second part of the session, we will have a whole-class discussion based on the questions formulated beforehand by each student. Starting from the sixth week, we will also have two students make presentations on that week’s topic which would incorporate the film and the readings assigned for the week. Each presentation will take about 10 minutes, and a typed copy of it must be handed in before class. Time does not allow any in-class screening; i.e., no film will be shown in the classroom. Hence, students will be responsible for watching the films before they come to class. Regarding the availability of the films, please see the next section.





A copy of all the readings will be made available to students at least a week before we study them in class. You will be responsible for taking a copy of each week’s coursepack. Some films listed under “Course Schedule” below are available for online viewing. I will give you the web addresses where you can find these films at least a week before each class. As for the ones that are not available via internet, I will make sure that each student gets a copy of the film with enough time to watch it and complete the assignments.





Discussion Questions 15%: Every week, students are required to come to class having formulated two thought-provoking rather than memory-requiring questions about each text (including the film) under focus. You must e-mail the questions to me at least one day prior to the class.

Presentations 25%: Each student will make at least two 10-minute presentations throughout the semester, a typed copy of which will be turned in to the instructor at the beginning of the class. At our first meeting, you will pick the two topics that you want to cover in your presentations.

Participation 15%: Students should be prepared to discuss about all the materials in class. Remember that participation is worth 15% of your final grade.

Final Exam 45%: Students are required to take a three-hour, closed-book, essay-type exam at the end of the semester.





Assignments/Exams: Due dates are final. A make-up exam will only be given in the event of a documented family or medical emergency on exam day. You must complete all course requirements to pass.

Academic Integrity: All assignments must be the original work of a student and not used for any other course.





Week 1: Introduction


Shiel, M. “Cinema and the City in History and Theory” in Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context: Blackwell, 2001.


Week 2: (Urban) Space and (Cinematic) Representation I


Massey, DB. “Part One” and “Part Two” in For Space: Sage, 2005.


Elsaesser, T and Hagener, M. Introduction and Chapters 1-2 in Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses: Routledge, 2010.



Week 3: (Urban) Space and (Cinematic) Representation II


Gottdiener, M. Introduction and Chapter 6 in The Social Production of Urban Space: University of Texas Press, 1997.


Elsaesser, T and Hagener, M. Chapters 3-5 in Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses: Routledge, 2010.


Week 4: (Urban) Space and (Cinematic) Representation III


Harvey, D. Chapters 1-3 in The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change: Blakwell, 2000.


Elsaesser, T and Hagener, M. Chapters 6-7 and Conclusion in Film Theory: An Introduction through the Senses: Routledge, 2010.


Week 5: The Experience of Space and Time


Harvey, D. Chapters 12-17 in The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry into the Origins of Cultural Change: Blackwell, 2000.


Week 6: The Industrial City


Engels F. “The Industrial Proletariat” and “The Great Towns” in The Condition of the Working Class in England: Penguin, 2005.


Thompson, EP. “Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism” in Past & Present, 38, 1967, 56-97.


Screening: Metropolis


Week 7: Cinematic Perception of City


Benjamin, W. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” in Film Theory and Criticism (ed. L Braudy and M Cohen): Oxford University Press, 2004.


Hansen, M. “Benjamin, Cinema and Experience: ‘The Blue Flower in the Land of Technology’” inNew German Critique, 40, 1987, 179-224.


Screening: Berlin: Symphony of a Big City



Week 8: Modern Life and Urban Space


Simmel, G. “Spatial and Urban Culture” in Simmel on Culture (ed. D Frisby and M Featherstone): Sage, 2000.


Singer, B. “Making Sense of the Modernity Thesis” in Melodrama and Modernity: Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts: Columbia University Press, 2001.


Screening: Midnight Cowboy


Week 9: The Country / The City


Williams, R. Chapters 1, 5, 14, 15, 16, 19, and 25 in The Country and the City: Oxford University Press, 1975.


McArthur, C. “Chinese Boxes and Russian Dolls: Tracking the Elusive Cinematic City” in The Cinematic City (ed. DB Clarke): Routledge, 1997.


Screening: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans


Week 10: Walking through the City I


Benjamin, W. “Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century [Exposé 1939]” and “The Flâneur [416-455] in The Arcades Project: Harvard University Press, 1999.


Gleber, A. Part Three in The Art of Taking a Walk: Flanerie, Literature, and Film in Weimar Culture: Princeton University Press, 1999.


Screening: London


Week 11: Spaces of Spectacle


Lefebvre, H. Chapters 1 and 7 in The Production of Space: Blackwell, 1991.


Debord, G. “Territorial Domination” in Society of the Spectacle: Rebel Press, 1983.


Screening: La Société du Spectacle


Week 12: Walking through the City II


de Certeau, M. “General Introduction” and “Walking in the City” in The Practice of Everyday Life: University of California Press, 1988.


Wilson, E. “The Invisible Flâneur” in New Left Review, 191, 1992, 90-110.


Mouton, J. “From Feminine Masquerade to Flâneuse: Agnès Varda’s Cléo in the City” in Cinema Journal, 40 (2), 2001, 3-16.


Screening: Cléo from 5 to 7


Week 13: The Dark City


“Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism” by Fredric Jameson in New Left Review,146, 1984


Davis, M. “Urban Renaissance and the Spirit of Postmodernism” in New Left Review, 151, 1985, 106-113.


Mahoney, E. “‘The People in Parentheses’: Space Under Pressure in the Post-Modern City” inThe Cinematic City (ed. DB Clarke)


Screening: Blade Runner


Week 14: The Cinamatic City from Below


Wacquant, L. “Urban Marginality in the Coming Millennium” in Urban Studies, 36(10), 1999, 1639-1647.


Morris, L. “Dangerous Classes: Neglected Aspects of the Underclass Debate” in Urban Poverty and the Underclass: A Reader (ed. E Mingione): Blackwell, 1996.


Bayat, A. “From ‘Dangerous Classes’ to ‘Quiet Rebels’: Politics of the Urban Subaltern in the Global South” in International Sociology, 15(3), 2000, 533-557.


Mennel, B. “Ghettos and Barrios” in Cities and Cinema: Routledge, 2008.


Dickey, S. Chapters 1 and 10 in Cinema and the Urban Poor in South India: Cambridge University Press, 1993.


Screening: Los Olvidados


Week 15: An Introduction to the Cultural Representations of the Urban Poor in Turkey


Erman, Tahire. “The politics of Squatter (Gecekondu) Studies in Turkey: The

Changing Representations of Rural Migrants in the Academic Discourse” in Urban

Studies,38(7), 2001, 983-1002.


Erdoğan, Necmi. “Garibanların Dünyası: Türkiye'de Yoksulların Kültürel

Temsilleri Üzerine İlk Notlar” in Yoksulluk Halleri: Türkiye'de Kent Yoksulluğunun Toplumsal Görünümleri. (ed. Necmi Erdoğan): Demokrasi Kitaplığı, 2002.


Erdoğan, Necmi. “Yok-sanma: Yoksulluk-Mâduniyet ve ‘Fark Yaraları’” in Yoksulluk Halleri: Türkiye'de Kent Yoksulluğunun Toplumsal Görünümleri. (ed. Necmi Erdoğan): Demokrasi Kitaplığı, 2002.


Yıldız, E. Gecekondu Sineması (selected parts, tbdl): Hayal-Et Kitaplığı, 2008.


Screening: Balatlı ArifBanker Bilo, and Sır Çocukları