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Skidmore College
First-Year Experience

Scribner Seminar Program Fall 2011
Course Description

What is Noir?

Instructor(s): April Bernard, English

We will explore the gritty, crime-filled stories of American Film and Literature Noir's roots and history through the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries: from the dark Gothic extreme of Romanticism, to Dickens, to Poe, to the rise of the modern city and its attendant criminals and police forces, to Sherlock Holmes, to German Expressionism and early silent films.  The hey-day of Noir comes in the 1940s and 50s, with the American writers Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett, James M. Cain, Davis Goodis, and Jim Thompson-- and with Hollywood's black-and-white interpretations of their stories.

Among the many questions we will ask:  What is Genre? How are film and literature different in their story-telling techniques? Why do history and context matter when looking at a genre?  Is Noir a genre that still exists today?  Can a black-and-white genre survive in color? How sincere are the makers of Noir in their pessimism about the possibilities of urban America? What is an anti-hero? And what, indeed, is a "private eye"?