Speech Communication 415

Rhetoric of Film and Television

Spring 2000

Tuesday – 111 Boucke – 2:30-5:30 p.m.


Section 1 – 119 Thomas Bldg - 2:30 - 3:45 (Benson) (class photos)

Section 2 – 119 Thomas Bldg - 4:15 - 5:30 (Borda)

 class e-mail addresses:

section 1 -- L-SPCOM415-1@lists.psu.edu

section 2 -- L-SPCOM415-2@lists.psu.edu

 Professor Thomas W. Benson

227 Sparks Building

University Park, PA 16802



office hours Thursday 4:00-5:30 and by appointment


Jennifer Borda

316 Sparks Building, #9



  Final Examination


Alfred Hitchcock and the Critics:

The Rhetoric of the Thriller as Art, Entertainment, and Social Text












Tues 11 Jan

Thurs 13 Jan




Murder! (1930)



Readings: William Rothman, "Alfred Hitchcock’s Murder!: Theater, Authorship, and the Presence of the Camera"; Jean Douchet, "Hitch and His Public"; Maurice Yacowar, "Hitchcock’s Imagery and Art," in A Hitchcock Reader; Donald Spoto, The Dark Side of Genius, 1-137.

Recommended Viewing: The Lodger (1926); Blackmail (1929); Juno and the Paycock (1930); Battleship Potemkin (1925); The Public Enemy (1931); M (1931); Little Caesar (1930)



Tues 18 Jan

Thurs 20 Jan




The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)

Blackmail (1929)



Readings: Elisabeth Weis, "Consolidation of a Classical Style: The Man Who Knew Too Much"; Robin Wood, "Retrospective"; Leonard J. Leff, "Hitchcock at Metro"; Lesley W. Brill, "Hitchcock’s The Lodger"; Leland Poague, "Criticism and/as History: Rereading Blackmail," in A Hitchcock Reader; Spoto, Dark Side of Genius, 141-159.

Recommended Viewing: The Rules of the Game (1939); Rio Bravo (1959); Bringing Up Baby (1938); Duck Soup (1933); The Awful Truth (1937): The Blue Angel (1930); Les Carabiniers (1963); The Silence (1963); The Informer (1935); Scarface (1932).



Tues 25 Jan

Thurs 27 Jan


The 39 Steps (1935)



Readings: Charles L. P. Silet, "Through a Woman’s Eyes: Sexuality and Memory in The 39 Steps," in A Hitchcock Reader; Auiler, Hitchcock's Notebooks, 298-299.

Recommended Viewing: It Happened One Night (1934); I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932).



Tues 1 Feb

Thurs 3 Feb



The Lady Vanishes (1938)



Readings: Patrice Petro, "Rematerializing the Vanishing ‘Lady’: Feminism, Hitchcock, and Interpretation," in A Hitchcock Reader; Spoto, Dark Side of Genius, 163-189.

Recommended Viewing: Secret Agent (1936); Sabotage (1936); Shanghai Express (1932); Snow White and the Seven Drawfs (1937); Modern Times (1936); Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936); Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939).



Tues 8 Feb

Thurs 10 Feb




Shadow of a Doubt (1943)



sequence 1 from Shadow of a Doubt


sequence 2 from Shadow of a Doubt


Readings: James McLaughlin, "All in the Family: Alfred Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt," in A Hitchcock Reader; Jonathan Freedman and Richard Millington, "Introduction"; Debra Fried, "Love, American Style: Hitchcock’s Hollywood," in Hitchcock’s America; Spoto, Dark Side of Genius, 207-279; Auiler, Hitchcock's Notebooks, 96-128.

Recommended Viewing: Jamaica Inn (1939); Rebecca (1940); Foreign Correspondent (1940); Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941); Suspicion (1941); Saboteur (1942); The Maltese Falcon (1941); Citizen Kane (1941); Dumbo (1941); High Sierra (1941); Casablanca (1943); The Ox Bow Incident (1943)

Paper 1. Due on Tuesday 8 February. A 5-8 page paper on any Hitchcock film released before 1943. As an appendix to your paper, include a list of scenes from your chosen film (for an example of how to do this, see a list of scenes from Taxi Driver). In your paper, include an analysis of the narrative structure of the film, attending to such dimensions as story line, point of view, repetition, sequence, suspense, and surprise. But you may go beyond the rhetoric of narrative structure in any direction your analysis takes you so long as it illuminates the rhetoric of the film.



Tues 15 Feb

Thurs 17 Feb




Notorious (1946)


Readings: Richard Abel, "Notorious: Perversion par Excellence"; Thomas Hyde, "The Moral Universe of Hitchcock’s Spellbound," in A Hitchcock Reader; Spoto, Dark Side of Genius, 283-316.

Recommended Viewing: Lifeboat (1944); Spellbound (1945); Open City (1945); The Best Years of Our Lives (1946); Hail the Conquering Hero (1944); Meet Me in St. Louis (1944); The Killers (1946).



Tues 22 Feb

Thurs 24 Feb




Rope (1948)



Readings: Amy Lawrence, "American Shame: Rope, James Stewart, and the Postwar Crisis in American Masculinity," in Hitchcock’s America; Auiler, Hitchcock's Notebooks, 483.

Recommended Viewing: The Paradine Case (1947); The Naked City (1948); All the King's Men (1949); The Snake Pit (1948); Gentleman's Agreement (1947); Paisan (1946); Crossfire (1947); It's a Wonderful Life (1947); Call Northside 777 (1948); State of the Union (1948); The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948).



Tues 29 Feb

Thurs 2 March




Strangers on a Train (1951)



Readings: Robin Wood, "Strangers on a Train," in A Hitchcock Reader; Robert J. Corber, "Hitchcock’s Washington: Spectatorship, Ideology, and the ‘Homosexual Menace’ in Strangers on a Train," in Hitchcock’s America; Spoto, Dark Side of Genius, 319-356; Auiler, Hitchcock's Notebooks, 484-491.

Recommended Viewing: Under Capricorn (1949); Stage Fright (1950); The Lavender Hill Mob (1951); The Men (1950); The Bicycle Thief (1949); Home of the Brave (1949); Panic in the Streets (1950); Twelve O'Clock High (1950); The African Queen (1951); A Streetcar Named Desire (1951).


March 6 – 10







Tues 14 March

Thurs 16 March




Rear Window (1954)



Readings: Dana Brand, "Rear-View Mirror: Hitchcock, Poe, and the Flaneur in America," in Hitchcock’s America; Robert Stam and Roberta Pearson, "Hitchcock’s Rear Window: Reflexivity and the Critique of Voyeurism," in A Hitchcock Reader.

Recommended Viewing: I Confess (1953); Dial "M" for Murder (1954); Seven Samurai (1954); Pather Panchali (1955); Aparajito (1956); The World of Apu (1958); High Noon (1952); The Quiet Man (1952); Singin' in the Rain (1952); From Here to Eternity (1953); On the Waterfront (1954).



Tues 21 March

Thurs 23 March




The Wrong Man (1956)



Readings: Marshall Deutelbaum, "Finding the Right Man in The Wrong Man," in A Hitchcock Reader; Spoto, Dark Side of Genius, 359-427.

Recommended Viewing: To Catch a Thief (1955); The Trouble with Harry (1955); Grapes of Wrath (1940); Young Mr. Lincoln (1939); My Darling Clementine (1946); Twelve Angry Men (1957); Rebel Without a Cause (1955); Somebody Up There Likes Me (1956).

Paper 2. Due on Tuesday 21 March. Write a close analysis of a scene or sequence from any Hitchcock film made before 1956. Choose what seems to you a scene that is of some interest for its dramatic contribution to the story and of some interest visually. In your paper, describe and analyze the scene in detail, including attention to dialogue, camerawork, editing, and sound. Consider how the scene shapes a viewer's response both to the scene under consideration and to the film as a whole. You may include captured frames or sketches to support your analysis. 5-8 pages.



Tues 28 March

Thurs 30 March




The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956)



Readings: Elsie B. Michie, "Unveiling Maternal Desires: Hitchcock and American Domesticity," in Hitchcock’s America; Dan Auiler, Hitchcock's Notebooks, 176-202; 495-505.

Recommended Viewing: Viva Zapata! (1952); The Robe (1953); The Country Girl (1954); Bridge on the River Kwai (1957);



Tues 4 April

Thurs 6 April




Vertigo (1958)



Readings: Robin Wood, "Male Desire, Male Anxiety: The Essential Hitchcock"; Marian E. Keane, "A Closer Look at Scopophilia: Mulvey, Hitchcock, and Vertigo," in A Hitchcock Reader; Paula Marantz Cohen, "Hitchcock’s Revised American Vision: The Wrong Man and Vertigo"; Jonathan Freedman, "From Spellbound to Vertigo: Alfred Hitchcock and Therapeutic Culture in America," in Hitchcock’s America"; Auiler, Hitchcock's Notebooks, 319-325.

Recommended Viewing: Touch of Evil (1958); Paths of Glory (1957); Some Like It Hot (1959).



Tues 11 April

Thurs 13 April




North by Northwest (1959)



Readings: Richard H. Millington, "Hitchcock and American Character: The Comedy of Self-Construction in North by Northwest," in Hitchcock’s America; Stanley Cavell, North by Northwest, in A Hitchcock Reader; Auiler, Hitchcock's Notebooks, 202-205, 326-357.

Recommended reading: Alain Silver, "Fragments of the Mirror: Hitchcock's Noir Landscape," Film Noir: A Reader 2, ed. Alain Silver and James Ursini (New York: Limelight, 1999), 106-127.

Recommended Viewing: On the Waterfront (1954); Anatomy of a Murder (1959); Ben Hur (1959); Breathless (1959); The 400 Blows (1959); Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959); Pickpocket (1959).



Tues 18 April

Thurs 20 April




Psycho (1960)



Readings: Raymond Bellour, "Psychosis, Neurosis, Perversion"; Barbara Klinger, "Psycho: The Institutionalization of Female Sexuality"; Leland Poague, "Links in a Chain: Psycho and Film Classicism," in A Hitchcock Reader; Spoto, Dark Side of Genius, 443-479; Auiler, Hitchcock's Notebooks, 358,

Recommended Viewing: The Entertainer (1960); L'Avventura (1960); La Dolce Vita (1960); La Notte (1960); Shoot the Piano Player (1960); Jules and Jim (1961).



Tues 25 April

Thurs 27 April




The Birds (1963)



Readings: Camille Paglia, The Birds (1998); Ian Cameron and Richard Jeffery, "The Universal Hitchcock," and Margaret M. Horwitz, "The Birds: A Mother's Love," in A Hitchcock Reader; Spoto, Dark Side of Genius, 483-555; Auiler, Hitchcock's Notebooks, 206-218, 359-413, 506-523.

Recommended Viewing: Marnie (1964); Torn Curtain (1966); Topaz (1969); Frenzy (1972); Family Plot (1976); The Hustler (1961); Lawrence of Arabia (1962); 8 1/2 (1963); The Conformist (1970); M*A*S*H (1970); The Godfather (1972); Le Boucher (1970); Le Chien andalou (1928); Philadelphia Story (1940); Bonjour Tristesse (1958); The Time Machine (1960); Barbarella (1968); Suddenly Last Summer (1959); On the Beach (1959)

Paper 3. Due on 1 May. Write a paper in which you

(1) Consider some aspect of the rhetoric of Hitchcock's filmmaking in 3 of his films. You might, for example, concentrate on a formal issue (such as camerawork; point of view, suspense, mise en scene, editing, sound) or on a thematic element (such as gender, guilt, voyeurism, or some other theme that has come up in our readings or discussions); or

(2) compare a Hitchcock film with its remake (such as Psycho; The 39 Steps; Sabotage (1936) [remade as The Secret Agent (1996)]; Dial M for Murder [remade as A Perfect Murder, 1998]); or

(3) write about a "Hitchcock " film made by another director, in which you analyze the Hitchockian appropriations, through close analysis of your chosen film and explicit comparison with Hitchcock's work. Remember that in the case of any of these assignments, you should try to engage in detailed description and close analysis of the film as a structure inviting an audience response. 5-8 pages. Please leave the paper before 5 pm in the mailbox of your discussion section leader in room 232 Sparks Building.


1 – 5 May




 SPCOM 415 001-002 Thursday, May 4, 2000 12:20 PM 111 BOUCKE

click here to link to the final exam


Required Textbooks

(note: local bookstores have been provided with this booklist; you may also want to shop at online bookstores to compare prices).

Auiler, Don. Hitchcock's Notebooks. New York: Avon Books, 1999.

Deutelbaum, Marshall, and Leland Poague, eds. A Hitchcock Reader. Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1986.

Freedman, Jonathan, and Richard Millington, eds. Hitchcock’s America. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Kapsis, Robert. Hitchcock: The Making of a Reputation. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992. [this text is not assigned for a particular date, but you should read it before the end of the semester].

Paglia, Camille. The Birds. London: British Film Institute, 1998.

Spoto, Donald. The Dark Side of Genius. New York: Da Capo Press, 1999.


Internet Resources

For a guide to Internet sources on Hitchcock, try the Alfred Hitchcock Scholars MacGuffin page.

Recommended Viewing

 Each week, we have recommended several films that you might wish to view in connection with that week's required reading and viewing. Viewing a selection of these films will allow you to see more of Hitchcock's work, and to see films that are mentioned in the week's readings, or that were made at about the same time as the Hitchcock film featured in the week's viewing and discussion. Most of these films are available for viewing in the music and media library, which is part of the Arts and Humanities library in Pattee Library, 5th floor, Paterno wing.

Academic Integrity

All work submitted for the course is assumed to be your own unless otherwise indicated. Violations of this standard will result in failure of the assignment and possibly in failure of the course or sanctions by University discipliinary authorities. You may of course discuss your work with other students, but all work that is quoted or paraphrased should be clearly identified. Please consult me if you are in doubt about how to handle these issues. See also the parallel discussion of plagiarism in student writing maintained on the English department web site.


 Grades will be based on

  • assigned papers 20% each (60%)
  • final examination 20%
  • participation in class discussion and listserv 20%


 You are assigned three critical papers of five to eight pages. Each paper should engage in close reading of one or more films (see the more detailed assignments in the weekly schedule). In preparing each paper, you should do some library research--in each, you should cite at least three printed sources reporting your research. Citations should be in the format described by the MLA Handbook. Help with this citation style is available online in A Guide for Writing Research Papers at the Capital-Community Technical College; for other citation help see also the online reference shelf section at the Penn State University Libraries.

Note: although you may of course refer to any of Hitchcock's films in all of your papers, please do not make the same Hitchcock film the main subject of more than one of your papers.


 Attendance is expected. Readings are due on the date indicated in the syllabus, and students are expected to be ready to discuss them. Please bring to class the assigned readings for the day. Failure to attend will affect final grades. This class is based on a model of cooperation, participation, and active learning. Your work is to learn more about film and film criticism, and also to teach others about these subjects through your participation in discussion of course readings and film viewings.


 "The Pennsylvania State University is committed to the policy that all persons shall have equal access to programs, facilities, admissions, and employment without regard to personal characteristics not related to ability, performance, or qualifications as determined by University policy or by state or federal authorities. The Pennsylvania State University does not discriminate against any person because of age, ancestry, color, disability or handicap, national origin, race, religious creed, sex, sexual orientation, or veteran status." Penn State University Affirmative Action Office.


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