On the Road: American Travel Films

Course Description

For more than a century, cars and movies have occupied a romantic place in the American imagination, as vehicles that can take us someplace new and engines for our fantasies of mobility, freedom and personal expression. Perhaps this is one reason why the road movie is one of the most enduring subgenres of twentieth-century film. In this class, we'll watch and discuss ten celebrated American travel films, one for each decade starting from Buster Keaton's silent Go West (1925) and arriving at Alexander Payne's wry anti-road film Nebraska (2013). In between we'll travel by car, bus, motorcycle and even on foot across America and beyond, searching for answers to the motivating questions for this course: what is the attraction of the open road, and how is the romance of its call embraced and challenged by the multiple genres of these films, the concerns of the decades in which they were produced, and the limits they impose on the idea of unrestricted travel, individual growth and independence. A secondary goal of this class is to familiarize students with the language and concepts of film art and criticism. To that end, we'll pair our films with readings from Bordwell, Thompson and Smith's influential textbook Film Art: an Introduction. Students will therefore not only be immersed in the themes specific to this course, but will also learn how to analyze and speak about film as a medium.

Course Details

  • Grading Basis: Letter Grade or Credit/No Credit
  • Unit-Range Information: 3 units for students outside of major and for students who want to transfer units to their home institution; 5 units for students in major to count toward major program requirements.
  • Limited Enrollment Details: Flexible on enrollment cap, but the cap helps keep the course at a seminar level and provides a better ratio of students per instructor.

Syllabus Link

None available.
Group 3GroupGroup 2