English 4860
Special Topics in Film:

The Gangster Film


Spring 2011 | M 430-730 | PH 322


About David Lavery | Course Policies and Procedures | Course Requirements | Agenda | Gangster Filmography | Gangster Glossary | Power Points: Intro to Course | Meeting 1 | Warshow | Meeting 2 | Meeting 3 | Meeting 4 | Meeting 5 | Meeting 6 | Meeting 7 | Meeting 8 | Meeting 9 | Meeting 10 | Meeting 11 | Sopranos Characters | David Chase | Meeting 12 | Meeting 13


Dr. David Lavery, Professor, English Department | Office: PH 372 | Office Phone/Voice-Mail: 898-5648 | Office Hours: M 300-420; W 200-400 | E-mail: david.lavery@gmail.com  

Dr. David Lavery is Professor of English at MTSU (1993- ). The author of over one hundred twenty published essays, chapters, and reviews, he is author / co-author / editor / co-editor of twenty three books, including a Sopranos trilogy: This Thing of Ours: Investigating The Sopranos (Columbia U P, 2002); Reading The Sopranos (I. B. Tauris, 2006); The Essential Sopranos Reader (U P Kentucky, 2011). The organizer of international conferences on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Lost, and The Sopranos, a founding co-editor of the journals Slayage: The Online International Journal of Buffy Studies, Critical Studies in Television, and Series/Season/Show, he has lectured around the world on the subject of television (Australia, Turkey, the UK, Portugal, New Zealand, Ireland, Germany) and has been a guest/source for the BBC, NPR, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, The New York Times, A Folha de Sao Paulo (Brazil), Publica (Portugal), Information (Netherlands), AP, The Toronto Star, USA Today. From 2006-2008, he taught at Brunel University in London.




(Hereafter GFR.)

A resource CD, supplied by me. (Hereafter RCD.)



Course Policies and Procedures

Class format: We will follow a lecture / discussion format during most class meetings. A substantial portion of class time will be spent screening and discussing the gangster films/television in question. Manuscript form: All written assignments must be word-processed and submitted as Microsoft Word or Rich Text e-mail attachments sent to david.lavery@gmail.com. Please name the file with your own last name (for example: lavery.doc.) Essay Evaluation: I will evaluate your essays using a grading scale which can be found here. Reading assignments: You are responsible for having read the entirety of each week's assignments See the agenda. Participation & involvement: Please come prepared for each day’s class. I encourage you to become an active participant in class discussion and to ask constructive and meaningful questions at all times. Attendance: Regular attendance is essential to the ongoing progress of the course. Two absences will be permitted. A third absence may result in the loss of a letter grade. A fourth absence may result in failure of the course. Inclement Weather Policy: Go here. Plagiarism / Cheating: The unacknowledged use of the words / ideas / insights / original research of another is, of course, prohibited. Should I catch you plagiarizing, or cheating in any way, you will receive a grade of "0" on the assignment in question, the violation may be reported to University authorities, and you may fail the course. Students with Disabilities: Any student with a disability will be given all the rights and privileges guaranteed under the Americans with Disabilities Act if he/she is registered with Disabled Student Services (call/contact John Harris, KUC 120/2783). University Writing Center: At The University Writing Center (now located in the Walker Library), sponsored by the English Department and staffed by full-time and adjunct faculty and graduate teaching assistants, you can get constructive help with a variety of writing problems, from pre-writing to organization to grammatical errors. (Please be aware, however, that the UWC does not do proofreading.) Grading Scale: 90-99%=A | 80-89%=B | 70-79%=C | 60-69%=D | 0-59%=F

Course Requirements


Critical Essay. A critical essay of at least 1500 words interpreting/analyzing one of the films or two or more considered together. This essay must be solely the product of your mind and imagination.30% of course grade. [Go here to find a guide to this assignment.]


Source Paper. A critical essay of at least 1500 words on some aspect of the gangster genre which makes use of at least ten sources [sources may include course readings in the GFR and RCD and no more than three purely internet pages].30% of course grade.


Final Examination [two parts]:

Part I: A take-home essay exam, consisting of a menu of topics, from which you will select two. These topics will all be "leading questions," intended to inspire your own comprehensive synthesis of course ideas, questions, problems.20% of grade. Go here to see the Take-Home-Final.

Part II: An in-class cognitive-memory test, consisting of a variety of primarily matching questions (on films, filmmakers, characters, terms). It will be a piece of cake for anyone who has been present and attentive in class throughout the semester.20% of grade. Go here to find a study sheet for the In-Class-Final.



Meeting | Date | Subject/Screenings: Reading(s): Requirements:

January 24 [Meeting 1] | Introduction to the Course | Little Caesar (Mervyn LeRoy, 1930; 79m) | Public Enemies: The Golden Age of the Gangster Film (excerpt) | Reading: Warshow (GFR 11; RCD; Kaminsky, GFR 47)

January 31 [Meeting 2]Public Enemy (William Wellman, 1931; 83m) | Reading: Baxter (GFR 29)

February 7 [Meeting 3]Scarface (Howard Hawks, 1932; 83m) | Reading: Macarthur (GFR 39); Sarris (GFR 85)

February 14 [Meeting 4] | The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972; 175m) | Reading: Clarens (GFR 107)

February 21 [Meeting 5] | The Godfather II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974; 200m) | Reading: Fordham (GFR 165) | Roger Ebert's Reviews of The Godfather II: 1974 | 2008

February 28 [Meeting 6] | The Long Good Friday (John Mackenzie, 1981; 114) | Reading: Williams (GFR 237) | The Long Good Friday (from the DVD of the Movie) | Long Good Friday at Movie-Locations.com

Spring Break, March 7-13

March 14 [Meeting 7] | Miller’s Crossing (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1990; 115m) | Reading: TBA

March 21 [Meeting 8] | GoodFellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990; 148m) | Reading: Verevis (GFR 209) | Either Critical Essay or Source Paper Due by this Date

March 28 [Meeting 9] | Reservoir Dogs (Quentin Tarantino, 1992; 99m) or Bound (The Wachowski Brothers, 1996; 109m) or Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (Jim Jarmusch, 1999; 119m)

April 4 [Meeting 10] | The Sopranos (1999-2007)—Episodes: "The Pilot" (1.1); "College" (1.5)

April 11 [Meeting 11] | The Sopranos (1999-2007)—Episodes: "Funhouse" (2.13); "Pine Barrens" (3.11)

April 18 [Meeting 12] | The Sopranos (1999-2007)—Episodes: "Whoever Did This" (4.9); "The Test Dream" (5.11)

April 25 [Meeting 13] | The Sopranos (1999-2007)—Episodes: "Mayham" (6.3); "Made in America" (6.21) | Either Critical Essay or Source Paper Due by 11 pm, April 27th.

May 2 [Meeting 14] Final Exam Part II in Class (600-800 pm); Final Exam Part I due by 11 pm, May 4