Jewish Studies 191
The Role of Jews in American Film and Television
UCLA, Spring 2009
Tuesday/Thursday, 4 – 5:30 pm; Public Affairs 2214
Professor Vincent Brook;
As J. Hoberman and Jeffrey Shandler note in Entertaining America: Jews, Movies, and Broadcasting (2003) that the relationship between Jews and the American entertainment media has provoked one of the most extensive public discussions of identity and culture in this country over the past century. This highly charged subject has been debated by Jews and gentiles, anti-Semites and philo-Semites, industry and scholarly observers, fiction writers and journalists. The history of this discourse reveals shifting notions of Jewish distinctiveness in America, and, more generally, of identity politics in the public sphere.
“The Role of Jews in American Film and Television” focuses on images of and by Jews in the two mass media in which the discussion of American Jewish influence, expression, and identity figures most prominently. Drawing on seminal academic and journalistic studies, as well as on pivotal film and television texts, the course explores the history and current state of Jewish media representation and representability. Representation is used here in the dual sense of screen images and behind-the-scenes influence. Representability refers to the historical discrepancy and ongoing dialectical relation between these two facets, a discrepancy and dialectic which has been both alleviated and problematized by Jews’ increasing acceptance in U.S. society.
Vincent Brook, Something Ain’t Kosher Here: The Rise of the “Jewish” Sitcom
Neal Gabler, An Empire of Their Own: How the Jews Invented Hollywood
Course Reader (CR)
Joyce Antler, ed., Talking Back: Images of Jewish Women in Popular American Culture
Vincent Brook, ed., You Should See Yourself: Jewish Identity in Postmodern American Culture
Steven Carr: Hollywood and Anti-Semitism: A Cultural History up to World War II
Leonard Dinnerstein, Antisemitism in America
Lawrence J. Epstein, The Haunted Smile: The History of Jewish Comedians in America
Partricia Erens: The Jew in American Cinema
Lester D. Friedman, The Jewish Image in American Film
Shelley Hornstein and Florence Jacobowitz, ed., Image and Remembrance: Representation and the Holocaust
J. Hoberman and Jeffrey Shandler, Entertaining America: Jews, Movies, and Broadcasting
Annette Insdorf: Indelible Shadows: Film and the Holocaust
Victor S. Navasky, Naming Names
Jonathan Pearl and Judith Pearl, The Chosen Image: Television’s Portrayal of Jewish Themes and Characters
Jon Stratton, Coming Out Jewish
Stephen J. Whitfield, In Search of American Jewish Culture
Ruth Wisse, The Schlemiel as Modern Hero
Term Paper: 30%
Midterm Exam: 30%
Final Exam: 30%
97-100% = A+, 93-96% = A, 90-92% = A-, 87-89% = B+, etc.
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SCHEDULE AND AGENDA
(Readings and screenings are subject to change;
generally film/TV clips will be shown rather than entire films or episodes)
Week 1: March 31/April 2
Class 1A: Introduction
Course structure, historical context
Screening: Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies, and the American Dream (Part 1)
Class 1B: Immigrant Audiences/Jewish Entrepreneurs
The movies begin, and the Nickelodeon Era
Reading: Gabler, 1-46; Hoberman/Shandler (CR)
Screening: Hollywoodism: Jews, Movies, and the American Dream (Part 2)
Week 2: April 7/9
Class 2A: Hollywood as Sin City/Jewish Trope
Hollywood becomes U.S. movie capital, Jews become movie moguls
Reading: Gabler, 79-119
Screening: What Price Hollywood?; Barton Fink
Class 2B: Old World/New World, Part 1
Survivalism and Assimilation
Reading: Hoberman/Shandler (CR); Rosenberg (CR)
Screening: The Jazz Singer (1927) (Part 1)
Week 3: April14/16
Class 3A: Old World/New World, Part 2
Assimilation and Interfaith Marriage
Reading: Gabler, 120-150
Screening: The Jazz Singer (1927) (Part 2)
Class 3B: Hollywood’s “Jewish Question,” Part 1
Anti-Semitism and Hollywood
Reading: Gabler, 266-310; Hoberman/Shandler (CR)
Week 4: April 21/23
Class 4A: Hollywood’s “Jewish Question,” Part 2
Anti-Semitism and Jewish Self-Hatred
Reading: Brook, 1-17 (CR)
Screening: The Believer
Class 4B: Postwar Jewishness, Part 1
The First U.S. films about Anti-Semitism
Reading: Erens (CR)
Screening: Gentleman’s Agreement documentary
Week 5: April 28/30
Class 5A: Postwar Jewishness, Part 2
Philo-Semitism, and new Jewish Stereotypes
Reading: Erens (CR)
Screening: Goodbye Columbus
Class 5B: The Blacklist, Part 1
McCarthyism and Anti-Semitism
Readings: Navasky, 97-143, 347-370 (CR)
Screenings: Hollywood on Trial: The Legacy of the Blacklist (Part 1)
Week 6: May 5/7
Class 6A: The Blacklist, Part 2
McCarthysim and Anti-Semitism (Continued)
Reading: Lewis, 3-30 (CR)
Screening: Hollywood on Trial: The Legacy of the Blacklist (Part 2)
Class 6B: MIDTERM
Week 7: May 12/14
Class 7A: The Holocaust, Part 1
The Holocaust as Historical Event and Cultural Sign
Reading: Insdorf, xi-xix, 3-42 (CR)
Screening: Hollywood and the Holocaust, Part 1
Class 7B: The Holocaust, Part 2
Evolving Representations of the Holocaust
Reading: Insdorf, 43-74, 259-267, 285-292 (CR)
Screening: Hollywood and the Holocaust, Part 2
Week 8: May 19/21
Class 8A: Jews and Television, Part 1
Ethnic, Working-Class TV
Readings: Brook, 21-42
Screening: The Goldbergs
TERM PAPER PROSPECTUS DUE!
Class 8B: Jews and Television, Part 2
From Great Retreat to Flickering Revival
Reading: Brook, 43-65
Screening: Bridget Loves Bernie; Rhoda
Week 9: May 26/28
Class 9A: The “Jewish” Sitcom Trend, Part 1
Unprecedented upsurge in “Jewish”TV from the late 1980s on
Reading: Brook, 66-147
Screening: Friends; The Larry Sanders Show
Class 9B: The “Jewish” Sitcom Trend, Part 2
The latest “Jewish” TV
Reading: Brook, 148-180
Screening: Curb Your Enthusiasm
TERM PAPER DUE!
Week 10: June 2/4
Class 10A: Where We’re At, Where We’re Going
Summary and Review
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TERM PAPER PROSPECTUS
By the start of the 8th week—latest—send an email stating the film or TV show you will be analyzing and the theoretical frame you will be using for your analysis (see Term Paper Guidelines below). Any other ideas or questions you have about the paper are also welcome.
TERM PAPER GUIDELINES
I. Due: End of 10th week.
II. Length: 5-7 pages (typed, double-spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins)
A. Expand on one of the class topics—assimilation, intermarriage, anti-Semitism, self-hatred, the Blacklist, the Holocaust, etc.—analyzing the topic in relation to a film or television show.
B. Incorporate assigned readings on the topic, as well as at least two outside academic sources. Additional sources are encouraged.
C. Provide historical context for the topic and the film/TV show.
D. Include a close reading, or textual analysis, of the film/TV episode.
A. Title Page:
1. Title of essay, with main title and subtitle (puns are encouraged), e.g.:
Pay Per Jew:
Jewish Self-Hatred in It’s Like, You Know…
2. Name; course number; term.
1. State your topic, and what film/TV show you’ll use to examine it.
2. State what you hope to demonstrate about the topic through the analysis of the film/TV show.
3. In identifying the film, give the director and release date; e.g., Schindler’s List (Steven Spielberg, 1993); for a TV show, give the years of the original run in parentheses; e.g., Seinfeld (1989-1998).
1. Proceed with your analysis, providing explanatory material and historical context for the topic and the film/TV show.
2. Incorporate your readings in a way that furthers your argument.
3. As much as possible, but only with secure understanding, use technical terms derived from lecture and readings.
4. Try to stick to your thesis. Extraneous information should be edited out or relegated to content footnotes.
5. All research sources must be cited, whether drawn on indirectly or quoted directly, using one of the approved citation methods (MLA, CMS, APA).
1. Summarize your findings, avoiding redundancy.
2. End with a strong statement that gives a clear sense of what you have tried to show.
E. Notes or Works Cited page
V. Additional Pointers:
A. Make sure to number your pages!
B. Underline or put in italics all titles (films, TV shows, books, etc.).
C. When referring to individuals, give the full name the first time they are mentioned, thereafter only the second name: e.g., “Neil Gabler makes a provocative argument regarding Jewish influence on the film industry in An Empire of Their Own. Gabler’s analysis is flawed, however, for the following reasons.”
D. When describing film/TV show content, use the present tense: e.g., “In Seinfeld, George Costanza appears to be Jewish but is identified within the text as non-Jewish.”
E. To indicate films’/shows’ historical relations, however, use the past tense: e.g., “Seinfeld was the most successful sitcom of the 1990s, both from a ratings and a critical standpoint.”
F. No plot summaries! Do include story information, but only enough to give the overall idea of the film/show and to support the thematic points of your paper, not as “padding.”
G. No plagiarism! This will result in an automatic Fail for the assignment and, depending on the egregiousness of the infraction, possibly for the class as well.