Professor Sophia McClennen / Dept. of Comparative Literature , Penn State University, Mailbox: 427 Burrowes, Office:  448 Burrowes Office Phone: 865-0032 E-mail:, Office Hours:  M 1:30-2:30, T 11-12 and by appointment.


Projecting Identity:

Nationalism, Globalization, and Cinema

Spring 2009; M 2:30-5:30, 306 Burrowes, 3 Credit Hours

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Course Objectives


General Information

Course Requirements

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Plan of Study







Course Description

Where are films from? Or where do they seem to be from? And how do these geographical markers influence identity construction? Cinema has long been linked to the production of national identity.  It has equally been associated with the representation of transnationalism, cosmopolitanism, and globalization.  In addition, the cinemas most thought of as “national,” like that of Hollywood in the 40s, were often multinational in terms of talent, production, and economy. Similarly the recent wave of “global” films have often been successful due to their connections with particular national identities, as in the case of the Mexican director González Ińárritu’s Babel.

This course will examine, unpack, and theorize these relationships. By reading film theory, postcolonial theory, and especially theories of nationalism and globalization, this course will examine the ways that cinema has projected group identities that have alternately been national and post-national.  We will also examine questions of cultural policy and film production in order to challenge the projected cinematic images with the actual practices behind them. Thus the first half of the course will look at the national question and the second will move to globalization. We will cover films from Latin America, Africa, Asia, the United States, and Europe while reading film history, cultural theory and practicing skills of cinematic analysis. Some of the films to be featured include: The Searchers, Powaqqatsi, Peach Blossom Land, Babel, Y tú mama también, along with work by  Emilio Fernández, Dziga Vertov, Sembčne Ousmane, Ang Lee and others. In addition, Dr. John Mackay, a specialist in Soviet Cinema from Yale, will be a guest seminar leader. For more info contact Prof. McClennen at


Course Objectives

Students enrolled in this course should expect to develop the following skills:

  • Acquire a cross-cultural understanding of filmmaking and film language.
  • Become familiar with a wide range of ideas and a vocabulary to talk and write about these modes of filmmaking with confidence.
  • Appreciate how the films' wide variety of styles were intended to determine and produce meaning through an emphasis on in-depth formal and thematic analysis.
  • Gain an understanding of these films' integral relationship to their social, economic, and political context.
  • Understand  how films have participated in the development of national and global identities.
  • Develop and refine critical thinking, oral and written expression, and techniques of film analysis.  
  • Develop communication skills in essays, response papers, class discussions, presentations, web discussions and research papers.
  • Acquire a sound basis for further work in Comparative Literature.
  • Actively participate in the creation of a vibrant and rewarding learning community.


A note on on-line readings: Many of our readings are available on-line.  This saves us money!  You need to access the texts well in advance in case there are problems with the website. 

Required books

1. How to Read a Film: The World of Movies, Media, Multimedia: Language, History, Theory (Paperback)

by James Monaco (Author) Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; 3 edition (January 15, 2000) ISBN-10: 019503869X

2. Understanding Cultural Globalization (Paperback)

by Paul Hopper (Author) Publisher: Polity (December 19, 2007) ISBN-10: 074563558X

3. Nationalism: Theory, Ideology, History (Key Concepts) (Paperback)

by Anthony D. Smith Publisher: Polity (January 28, 2002) ISBN-10: 0745626599

4. Global Hollywood: No. 2 (Paperback)

by Toby Miller (Author), et al. Publisher: British Film Institute; 2nd edition (January 22, 2008) ISBN-10: 1844570398

5. Remapping World Cinema: Identity, Culture and Politics in Film (Paperback)

by Stephanie Dennison (Editor), Song Hwee Lim Publisher: Wallflower Press (March 15, 2006) ISBN-10: 1904764622

6. Theorising National Cinema (Paperback)

by Valentina Vitali (Editor), Paul Willemen (Publisher: British Film Institute (January 22, 2008) ISBN-10: 1844571203

7. Film and Nationalism (A volume in the Depth of Field Series, edited by Charles Affron, Mirella Jona Affron, and Robert Lyons) (Paperback)

by Alan Williams (Editor) Publisher: Rutgers University Press (February 20, 2002) ISBN-10: 0813530407

8. Screen Traffic: Movies, Multiplexes, and Global Culture (Paperback)

by Charles R. Acland Publisher: Duke University Press (September 2003) ISBN-10: 0822331632

9. Culture, Globalization and the World-System: Contemporary Conditions for the Representation of Identity (Paperback)

by Anthony D. King (Editor) Publisher: University of Minnesota Press (May 1997) ISBN-10: 0816629536  

Additional, Recommended books

1. Transnational Cinema, The Film Reader (In Focus: Routledge Film Readers) (Paperback) by Elizabeth Ezra (Editor), Terry Rowden (Editor)

Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (January 13, 2006) ISBN-10: 0415371589

2. The Place of the Audience: Cultural Geographies of Film Consumption (BFI Modern Classics) (Paperback)

by Mark Jancovich (Author), Lucy Faire (Author), Sarah Stubbings Publisher: British Film Institute (January 22, 2008) ISBN-10: 0851709427

3. Globalization and Culture (Paperback)

by John Tomlinson (Author) Publisher: University Of Chicago Press; 1 edition (July 15, 1999) ISBN-10: 0226807681

4. Global/Local: Cultural Production and the Transnational Imaginary (Asia-Pacific) (Paperback)

by Rob Wilson (Editor), Rob Wilson (Editor), Wimal Dissanayake (Publisher: Duke University Press (December 1996) ISBN-10: 0822317125

5. Empire and Communications (Critical Media Studies: Institutions, Politics, and Culture) (Paperback)

by Harold A. Innis (Author)Publisher: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. (March 28, 2007) ISBN-10: 0742555089

6. Hollywood Abroad: Audiences and Cultural Exchange (Paperback)

by Melvyn Stokes (Editor), Richard Maltby (Editor) Publisher: British Film Institute (January 22, 2008) ISBN-10: 1844570517

General Information:

Academic dishonesty: Students are expected to uphold the University's standards of academic integrity. Academic dishonesty will be dealt with according to University policies.

Registration Policy: During the drop/add period at the beginning of the semester, the department of Comparative Literature encourages students to visit this and other courses in order to make informed decisions about which courses to take. After the first week, however, only students registered in the course may remain; no student may late-add (or restore a dropped registration) after the third week of the semester without petitioning the department on a form available in the office, 427 Burrowes.

University Access Statement: The Pennsylvania State University encourages qualified students with disabilities to participate in its programs and activities.  If you anticipate needing any kind of accommodations in this course or have any questions about physical access, please tell the instructor as soon as possible. 

Course Requirements

Grade Breakdown:

Participation and Homework




Presentations and short writing assignments


Mid-term Paper


Final Paper



Grading Scale:

  • 100-93= A
  • 92-90= A-
  • 89-88= B+
  • 87-83= B
  • 82-80= B-
  • 79-78= C+
  • 77-70= C
  • 69-60= D
  • 59-0= F

Course components

1. Participation

This grade will be determined by how actively you engage and initiate in class discussion.  Viewing the films and doing the reading before class is essential.


Participation is not limited to in-class discussion -- we will also be discussing issues on our MESSAGE BOARDS available on ANGEL. The MESSAGE BOARDS are set up to encourage discussion and debate of topics covered in class as well as other issues that you think are relevant. Each student is expected to log in and write a message at least 7 times over the course of the semester. You do NOT need to write something every week, but you should read the postings before class. You DO need to post to the Forum on 7 different topics. 

NOTE: For students who are less comfortable speaking in class, sustained participation on the MESSAGE BOARDS can help balance hesitancy in classroom participation. 

The MESSAGE BOARDS have topics listed that are in synch with our course. Please check the message boards before each class for discussion questions, topics to consider, and to respond to issues. You can also use the message boards to post questions or information. If you have questions about how to use ANGEL ask me for help. 

Ř     You must post to the message boards at least 7 times. 

Ř     You must post to the message boards on a regular basis.  Posting seven times at the end of the semester will not receive full credit.

Ř     Try to answer the questions posted by your classmates.  

Ř     You should try to post questions so that I can answer them for the benefit of all students.  It is generally better to post a question to the message boards than to me on e-mail, since if you have a question chances are your class mates are curious about the same thing.  Then, when I answer, all will see my response.  

Ř     Post useful web resources and explain why they helped you.  You can also post any tips on using websites.

Ř     You need to check ANGEL before each class, because I will often post important class info there.


3. Presentations and short writing assignments

All students will present on a film or on theory at least once during the term.  In addition there will be at least two short writing assignments that will vary from close reading to critical reflection.  Students will also be asked to prepare questions on the films and readings prior to class.

4. Mid-term Paper

Short 7-8  page paper.

5. Final Research paper

Research paper of 20 +/- pages that compares one of the films seen in class with another film of the student's choosing.  In special circumstances (when it will greatly benefit the professional development of the student) exceptions can be made. 

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Created and Maintained by Sophia A. McClennen

Copyright Sophia A. McClennen 2005-2006


Created on 7/5/2005

Last updated on 12/16/2008