Special Topics in Film Studies

"[Like the monolith in 2001, Stanley Kubrick] was a force of supernatural intelligence, appearing at great intervals amid high-pitched shrieks, who gives the world a violent kick up the next rung of the evolutionary ladder."

David Denby

"To live a creative life is one of the intentions of a creative person."

Doris B. Wallace and Howard Gruber, Creative People at Work (29)



Fall 2012

ENGL 4860-01

Place: PH 308 | Time: M 600 pm

Office: PH 372 |  Office Hours: M 500-600; T-TH 230-400
Phone/Voice-Mail: 898-5648 | Text Messages: 615 962-1161 | Home Page: http://davidlavery.net/

Kubrick Brief Biography | Kubrick Timeline | Kubrick Bibliography | Kubrick Film Chapters | Kubrick on the WebWorks Adapted into Kubrick Films | The Complete Kubrick | Kubrick Films in the MTSU Media Library | Kubrick on Blockbuster.com | Kubrick on Amazon Instant Video | Kubrick Films on Reserve in the Walker Library (Reserve Desk, 1st Floor)

About the Course


David Lavery | Books | Course Policies and Procedures | Course Requirements | Class Members

| Agenda | Take-Home Final


The official website describes the late director Stanley Kubrick (1928-1999) in the following words:

Few filmmakers’ work is so instantly recognizable as that of Stanley Kubrick. Beautiful, precise composition. Elaborate tracking shots. Powerful acting. Deep, thought-provoking themes. Kubrick put his unique stamp and vision on every film he made.


Despite his relatively small output, probably no other director made great films in so many different genres, from science fiction (2001: A Space Odyssey) to war films (Full Metal Jacket), historical drama (Barry Lyndon) to comedy (Dr. Strangelove), horror (The Shining) to psychosexual drama (Eyes Wide Shut).


Kubrick’s influence on the art of filmmaking is matched by only a precious few fellow giants, and his body of work will certainly continue to thrill and intrigue audiences, critics and future filmmakers for years to come.

This Special Topics in Film Studies course will be devoted entirely to an in-depth study of Kubrick's films. We will view and critique at least a dozen movies and consider such subjects as auteurism, narratology, adaptation, genre, independent vs. Hollywood filmmaking, acting, cinematography, critical response. In keeping with your professor's obsession, and grounded in the work of the late Howard Gruber, an underlying focus of the semester will be the "creative work" of Stanley Kubrick. If, as the epigraph above declares, "To live a creative life is one of the intentions of a creative person," then how exactly did Kubrick do it? How did he accomplish his greatest achievement: becoming Stanley Kubrick.


David Lavery is Professor of English at MTSU (1993- ), where he won the University's 2006 Distinguished Research Award. The author of over one hundred and fifty published essays, chapters, and reviews, he is author / co-author / editor / co-editor of twenty two books, including Joss Whedon: Conversations and The Essential Cult TV Reader, the forthcoming Joss Whedon, A Creative Portrait: From Buffy the Vampire Slayer to The Avengers and Television Art (a textbook), and published books on the Space Age, Lost (2), Twin Peaks, X-Files, The Sopranos (a trilogy), Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Teleparody, Seinfeld, Deadwood, My So-Called Life, Gilmore Girls, Heroes, Battlestar Galactica, Supernatural, and Crying. The organizer of international conferences on the Whedonverses, 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, co-founder of The Whedon Studies Association, 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), AP, The Toronto Star, USA Today. From 2006-2008, he taught at Brunel University in London. In the Fall of 2013, he will become the Director of Graduate Studies in English.




 Alexander Walker, Ulrich Ruchti, Sybil Taylor, Stanley Kubrick, Director: A Visual Analysis (required)

Stanley Kubrick: Interviews (required)

David Hughes, The Complete Kubrick (scanned PDfs of this book are available here)

Gene Phillips and Rodney Hill, The Encyclopedia of Stanley Kubrick (recommended) Paul Duncan, Stanley Kubrick: The Complete Films (recommended) The Stanley Kubrick Archives (recommended)


Course Requirements

Viewing Journal: You owe me an entry--at least 300 words in length--on any ten (10) films. You may feel free to write about any aspect of the film that interests you, or you may just write a review. To be submitted at the end of the semester. Feel free to submit a trial entry or two to me to see if you are doing it right. In assessing your work, I will be paying more attention to your insights than to your mechanics/style/organization, etc, though you should make every effort to write well. Demonstrate for me that you have watched intelligently and carefully, and you will be rewarded. 20% of grade. | Due by noon, December 7.


Critical / Interpretive Essays: You owe me two (2) critical/interpretive/investigative essays of not less than 1,250 words in length. One should be on an individual film (or two or more considered together), or a theme/topic/aspect, etc. These papers should be based on your careful reading and viewing (and reviewing) and need not make use of additional secondary sources in addition to the required course texts (though you are certainly not forbidden to do additional research).

Here is a partial list of topics you might write on: A.I. as a Kubrick film | acting | adaptation | art direction | auteurism | censorship | characterization/character | cinematography | collaborators | color | direction | documentary technique | editing | film noir | gender issues | genre | Hollywood style | horror | humor | Kubrick as a still photographer | lighting | mise-en-scene | music | narration/voice-over | narrative technique | plot | science fiction | screenplays | set design | setting | sexuality/homosexuality | sound | special effects | steadicam | structure | technology | the critics | unfinished films | violence | war | women

Go here to learn more. Essay 1: 20%; Essay 2: 30% of grade.


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



Course Policies and Procedures

Class format: We will follow a lecture / discussion format during most class meetings.

Manuscript form: All written assignments are to be submitted via the relevant D2L drop boxes. Please be sure to carefully edit and proofread your own work. Do not simply rely on your computer's spell checker. (Go here to read a poem that demonstrates the untrustworthiness of spell checkers.)

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 assignment, including the editor's introduction to each work we are studying.

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--even when I appear to be "lecturing." Please do not save your best questions / comments for after class, as students so often do. 

Viewing Films:  Viewing films is a proverbial problem in film classes. We will be meeting for 2 hours and 40 minutes each weak (160 minutes). If a film over two hours in length is screened in class, we will have no time for discussion. Seven of Kubrick's films exceed 130 minutes in length (in fact three exceed 150 minutes):

Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures142 minutes | Killer's Kiss67 minutes | The Killing85 minutes | Paths of Glory87 minutes | Spartacus198 minutes | Lolita152 minutes | Dr. Strangelove93 minutes | 2001: A Space Odyssey139 minutes | A Clockwork Orange137 minutes | Barry Lyndon184 minutes | The Shining141 minutes |  Full Metal Jacket116 minutes | Eyes Wide Shut159 minutes


Consequently, we will screen Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures, Killer's Kiss, The Killing, Paths of Glory, and Dr. Strangelove in their entirety in class, but other weeks we will only watch selected clips from each film. I will assume you have screened the film prior to class and will come ready to talk about it.

Attendance: Regular attendance is essential to the ongoing progress of the course. One absences will be permitted. A second absence may result in the loss of a letter grade. A third absence may result in failure of the course.

Inclement Weather Policy:  The University’s snow policy include these two statements: “1. Except in those instances when the University is closed, faculty will be expected to meet their classes. 2. Faculty should plan to cope with inclement weather conditions in such a fashion as to be able to hold scheduled classes when the University is open.” I will follow this policy to the letter and do my very best to be here for class whenever the University is open.

Plagiarism / Cheating: The unacknowledged use of the words/ideas/ insights/ original research of another is, of course, prohibited. Do not assume that, like prominent historians Doris Kearns Goodwin and Stephen Ambrose and journalist Fareed Zakaria you may plagiarize without fear of punishment. 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: The University Writing Center, sponsored by the English Department and staffed by full-time and adjunct faculty and graduate teaching assistants, is located in the Walker Library. At the UWC 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


Class Members

Chase Bilyeu | Dave Cate | Ali Dorris | Andy Duggan | Justin Ford | Scott D. Frost | Jeremy Hise | Owen Jackson | Karen Johns | Kelly Kerr | Kyle McCarthy | Andrew Kell Millwood | Kaitlyn Moore | William Phillips | Matthew Taylor Poe | D Nathan Porter | Stephen Porter | James Powell | Clinton Randolph | Sarah Raulerson | Matthew Richardson | Jordan Rimer | Rachel Ward | Lauren West | Mathew Zumwelt



Week 1 | 8/27/2012 | Introduction to the Course | Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures (2001) screened in class | Complete Kubrick: Day of the Fight, The Flying Padre, ?, The Seafarer, Fear and Desire | Power Points: Course Syllabus

9/3/12: Labor Day (No Class)

Week 2 | 9/10/12 | Killer’s Kiss (195567 minutes) screened in class | SKD 7-65 | Power Points: Howard E. Gruber | Killer's Kiss | Read "Creative Work: on the Method of Howard Gruber" | Interview with Steven Spielberg (from Eyes Wide Shut DVD) |  Complete Kubrick

Week 3 | 9/17/12 | The Killing (195685 minutes) screened in class | SKD 7-65 | Power Points: The Killing | Complete Kubrick

Week 4 | 9/24/12 | Paths of Glory (195787 minutes) screened in class | SKD 66-113 | Power Points: Paths of Glory | Complete Kubrick | James Naremore's Liner Notes for the Criterion Paths of Glory | Paths of Glory Quotes

Week 5 | 10/1/12 | Spartacus (1960) | Power Points: Spartacus | Complete Kubrick

Week 6 | 10/8/12 | Lolita (1962) | Power Points: Lolita | Complete Kubrick

10/15/12: Fall Break (No Class)

Week 7 | 10/22/12 | Dr. Strangelove (196493 minutes) screened in class | SKD 115-61 | Power Points: Dr. Strangelove | Complete Kubrick

Week 8 | 10/29/12 | 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) | SKD 162-95 | Power Points: 2001 | Complete Kubrick | Essay One Due

Week 9 | 11/5/12 | A Clockwork Orange (1971) | SKD 196-223 | Power Points: A Clockwork Orange | Complete Kubrick | The Script of Clockwork

Week 10 | 11/12/12 | Barry Lyndon (1975) | SKD 234-67 | Power Points: Barry Lyndon | Complete Kubrick

Week 11 | 11/19/12 | The Shining (1980) | SKD 268-313 | Power Points: The Shining | Complete Kubrick

Week 12 | 11/26/12 | Full Metal Jacket (1987) | SKD 314-43 | Power Points: Full Metal Jacket | Complete Kubrick | Essay Two Due by Saturday, 12/1/12 at noon.

Week 13 | 12/3/12 | Eyes Wide Shut (2001) | SKD 344-58 | Power Points: Eyes Wide Shut | Complete Kubrick | Viewing Journal Due (noon, December 8)

Week 14 | 12/13/12: Take-Home Final Exam Due by Noon