Documenting Difference: Species, Race, and Gender in (Non)Fiction Film

English Composition II (ENGL 1102-H4)
School of Literature, Media, and Communication
Georgia Institute of Technology
Spring 2017

This section of ENGL 1102 develops multimodal communication skills through the critical and creative analysis of a heterogeneous collection of documentary and not-quite documentary films: popular nature and wildlife films, ethnographic films, historical documentaries, essay films, mockumentaries or pseudo- documentaries, and interactive documentaries or i-Docs. Documentary film is commonly understood as a mode that, on one hand, educates audiences about important historical events and, on the other, makes arguments about current events and issues. As our selective tour of the preceding documentary traditions will show, documentaries serve these two functions and so many more. Our viewings, readings, discussions, and multimodal communication projects will focus on the ways in which they represent—and, indeed, produce—differences between humans and between humans and nonhumans. How do these films’ attention to issues of identify and difference—specifically in the forms of species, race, and gender—inform their larger projects of educating and convincing audiences? Are there connections between the ways in which differences among species, races, and genders are documented? Adopting a comparative lens, we will explore these questions through weekly viewings and short writing assignments, as well as three larger multimodal projects: a recorded presentation, a digitally annotated analytical essay, and a videographic essay.

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