American Yodas


Course description:

The practical and ideological role of American formal education is pivotal in articulating the nation’s democratic assumptions and in forwarding its aspirations towards equal opportunity, a fact not lost in Presidential Election Year 2008.

From Blackboard Jungle, 1955 to The Great Debaters, 2007, the subject of schooling has, not surprisingly, emerged as a challenging and often lucrative Hollywood sub-genre that uniquely and explicitly addresses issues of hegemony, discourse, and resistance. Likewise, commentaries on such representations is prominent in recent book publications (The Hollywood Curriculum, Dalton; Tales Out of School, Keroes).

This course will include but then advance beyond these genre-specific accounts to consider American film form and narrative in general and through the prism of contrasting learning theories (from Watson/behaviorism, through Bruner/cognitive to Gigerenzer/heuristics).

The represented workings of such theories in Hollywood narrative will therefore inform our detailed exploration that will include analysis and discussion of two complete films and a range of sequences.

More information can be found at Dr Taylor’s website for the seminar here.

From this luke-a.png to this luke-b.png

some useful links to begin with:

For film analysis links, check the sidebar on the right.

For learning theories:

– general links from EduTech Wiki
– overview from

And just a suggestion: A Class Divided – Documentary about an experiment that divided a class of 3rd graders into brown-eyed and blue-eyed kids from 1985.

Watch the full docu on

Assignment: Short intro on Ivan Pavlov in the context of American education
wiki link

leading to Skinner, Watson and Behaviorism

interesting: Pavlov’s term “conditional reflex” (“условный рефлекс”) was mistranslated from the Russian as “conditioned reflex”, and other scientists reading his work concluded that since such reflexes were conditioned, they must be produced by a process called conditioning.

Essay #1:Sequence analysis of the opening of Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt (which can be found here).

Reading up on German Expressionist Cinema for ideas.

The essay can be found here: shadow-of-a-doubt

Films watched in class:

Dead Poets Society (1989)

American History X (1998 )

And  Essay #2 on John Ford’s The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance can be found here: Poor Pompey
It also works as a preview on my research paper, specific topic aside from Liberty Valance yet to be determined. Possibly a Jimmy Stewart double-feature with Mr Smith Goes to Washington.


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