Comparative Literature 320A
5 credits; W credit


Paris: Experiencing Space through Film




WF 1:30-3:20 Paris Study Abroad Program


Yomi Braester








Readings and film viewings:
All readings must be completed on time. Students are required to attend the screenings.



a. Reading reports: email a one-page reading report summarizing EACH reading and raising questions about it. Each report is due on the day for which the reading is assigned for class discussion (10%).

b. Presentations: submit and present in class THREE image/video assignments. Each assignment includes:

    (1) an essay, at least three pages long
    (2) a presentation of 10-20 stills or 2-4 one-minute videos

    The assignments will be graded at 25 points each (75%).
These assignments are the core of the course. To choose your sites, ask friends, host family, and others; walk through the city in search of sites.     Note how your sources react to your questions and what it takes to find an interesting site.

c. Final presentation: see description for assignment on Week 9 (10%)

d. Participation in class discussions (5%)


Policies and Procedures

Late submissions must be pre-approved by the instructor or they will not be accepted.
All assignments must be in electronic form. Please use Times New Roman font, size 12, double-spaced.
The course strictly adheres to UWs rules on plagiarism.
Students with disabilities are encouraged to inform the instructor, who will do his best to provide the relevant accommodations.


CLASS SCHEDULE (subject to change)

NOTE: Readings are available on electronic reserve or online (linked directly)

WEEK 1 (October 6, 8)

a. Seminar: Different ways of experiencing space
Screening: Paris qui dort

b. Seminar: Temporal simultaneity and spatial orientation
Read: Tom Conley, “Icarian Cinema”

WEEK 2 (October 13, 15)

a. Seminar: Walking in the city
Screening: The Red Balloon (also excerpts from The Flight of the Red Balloon)
Read: de Certeau, “Walking in the City”

b. Assignment presentations: capturing the present
Choose a site that offers, in your view, an experience of the present — that is, that tries to capture the present time. Explain how the space captures the present

WEEK 3 (October 20, 22)

a. Seminar: The city in fast-forward
Screening: Breathless
Read for today: Benjamin, “Some Motifs in Baudelaire”

b. Assignment presentations: following visual clues
Choose a site that calls, in your view, for the walking visitor to follow a specific trajectory. Explain the nature of the visual signs that direct the viewer and their purpose. Is their goal achieved, or do people veer of the intended path? Why?

WEEK 4 (October 27, 29)

a. Seminar: spaces of circulation
Screening: Cleo from 5 to 7 (also excerpts from The 400 Blows)
Read: selection from Donald, Imagining the Modern City

b. Assignment presentation: the distortion of temporal flow
Choose a site that offers, in your view, an experience that distorts temporal flow – slows it down, makes it faster, reverses it, etc. Explain how the space distorts time.

WEEK 5 (November 2)

a. Seminar: the modernization of Paris in the late 19th century
Read: Clark, “The View from Notre-Dame”

WEEK 6 (November 8, 10, 12)

a. Assignment presentation: crowds
Choose a site that encourages, in your view, people-watching. Explain how the space is
designed to allow interaction with the crowd and to what effects.

b. Seminar: the city of high modernism
Screening: Play Time
Read: - Barthes, “The Eiffel Tower”; Laurent Marie, “Jacques Tati’s Play Time as New Babylon”

c. Assignment presentation: historical palimpsest
Choose a site that retains traces of the controversy about Haussmann’s city plan. Explain how the space conveys the controversial aspects, and in what form these vestiges have been preserved today.

WEEK 7 (November 17, 19)

a. Seminar: the city of immigrants
Screening: La haine
Read: Tom Conley, “Cronos, Cosmos, and Polis

b. Assignment presentation: non-places
Choose a site that is more space than place, that is, where the local culture seems flattened to allow for global flow of materials, people, and ideas. What enables the flattening effect? What is lost and gained in the process?

WEEK 8 (November 24, 26)

a. Seminar: Paris outside its own borders
Screening: What Time Is It There?
Read: Verena Conley, "Electronic Paris from Place of Election to Place of Ejection"; Marc Augé, "Paris and the Ethnography of the Contemporary World"

b. Assignment presentation: immigrant spaces
Choose a site where the presence of immigrants is highly visible. Explain how this space is different from spaces we have discussed so far: how does it affect patterns of walking, temporal perceptions, etc.?

WEEK 9 (December 1, 3)

a. Seminar: Paris in the tourist’s eye
Screening: Excerpt from Paris je t’aime

b. Final presentation: Choose 3 sites or aspects of the city that you watched differently when you have just arrived in Paris. Present your thoughts to class in three slide pairs conveying the before/after effect.