General Course Information for SOC336: American Film and Society

Course: SOC336 - American Film and Society
Textbook: For the correct edition of the textbook assigned to a specific class, go to:

Course Prerequisite(s):
Course Description:

A critical examination of the complex relationship between film and society and the processes by which film both influences and is influenced by society. Emphasizes the importance of locating the meaning of film texts within social and historical perspective and identifies how the film industry influences the presentation of different groups of people and issues in society. Explores the interrelationship between film and technology, the impact of narrative and the institution of Hollywood on the sociological imagination and the nature of representation, particularly as it applies to race, class and gender.

Course Learning Outcomes:
  • Discuss and differentiate between the various genres of American film (i.e., film noir, Western, comedy, detective/mystery, gangster/crime, romance, science fiction/fantasy, combat/war, drama, musical, horror, suspense, action/adventure).
  • Identify and define filmic techniques (e.g. image, shot, scene, sequence; camera pan, tracking, zoom; montage; jump-cut; off-screen space and sound; point of view -- technical, narrative, and interpretive; shot-reverse shot; etc.).
  • Develop a successful storyboard for a film plot. Using good sequencing describing kinds of shots used estimating times needed per shot providing a good rationale for the above in lieu of the films controlling idea. If story boarding is not required, filmic techniques remain ethereal. Forcing students to make reasonable decisions helps them to incorporate the terminology.
  • Discuss the major thematic elements of various film genres (e.g. the Western: oppositional values such as individual/community, self-interest/social responsibility, nature/culture, pragmatism/idealism, savagery/humanity, wilderness/civilization, agrarianism/industrialism, the past/the future, etc.; outlaw hero, reluctant hero, official hero; reconciliation of conflicting values; diminution of place and role of women).
  • Discuss the major stylistic elements of various film genres (e.g. film noir: night, darkness, shadows; urban setting; smoky cocktail lounges; motifs of entrapment -- alleys, tunnels, elevators; symbols of fragility -- glass mirrors, sheer clothing; locations of transient -- rail -- road yards, bus terminals, piers; sensuous textures -- neon- lit streets, windshields streaked with mud or rain, shafts of light; harsh lighting contrasts, jagged shapes; etc.
  • Understand and discuss the relationship between and the cross-fertilization of film as a narrative device, a vehicle for cultural themes, and social institutions, history, societal norms, social behavior, cultural myths and mythic figures, etc.
  • Differentiate between descriptive and analytic writing, and, using both styles, prepare written critiques of films or other narrative forms.

Students with Disabilities:
Students seeking special accommodations due to a disability must submit an application with supporting documentation, as explained under this subject heading in the General Catalog. Instructors are required to provide such accommodations if they receive written notification from the University.

Writing Across the Curriculum:
Students are expected to demonstrate writing skills in describing, analyzing and evaluating ideas and experiences. Written reports and research papers must follow specific standards regarding citations of an author's work within the text and references at the end of the paper. Students are encouraged to use the services of the University's Writing Center when preparing materials.

The following website provides information on APA, MLA, and other writing and citation styles that may be required for term papers and the like:

National University Library:
National University Library supports academic rigor and student academic success by providing access to scholarly books and journals both electronically and in hard copy. Print materials may be accessed at the Library in San Diego or through document delivery for online and regional students. Librarians are available to provide training, reference assistance, and mentoring at the San Diego Library and virtually for online or regional students. Please take advantage of Library resources:


Contact the Library:

  • (858) 541-7900 (direct line)
  • 1-866-NU ACCESS x7900 (toll free)

Use the Library Training Tools (on the Library Homepage) for additional help

  • Recorded class presentations
  • Tutorials & Guides (APA/MLA, Peer-Review, and more)

Plagiarism is the presentation of someone else's ideas or work as one's own. Students must give credit for any information that is not either the result of original research or common knowledge. If a student borrows ideas or information from another author, he/she must acknowledge the author in the body of the text and on the reference page. Students found plagiarizing are subject to the penalties outlined in the Policies and Procedures section of the University Catalog, which may include a failing grade for the work in question or for the entire course. The following is one of many websites that provide helpful information concerning plagiarism for both students and faculty:

Ethical behavior in the classroom is required of every student. The course will identify ethical policies and practices relevant to course topics.

Students are expected to be competent in using current technology appropriate for this discipline. Such technology may include word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation software. Use of the internet and e-mail may also be required.

Learning to work with and value diversity is essential in every class. Students are expected to exhibit an appreciation for multinational and gender diversity in the classroom.

As a diverse community of learners, students must strive to work together in a setting of civility, tolerance, and respect for each other and for the instructor. Rules of classroom behavior (which apply to online as well as onsite courses) include but are not limited to the following:

  • Conflicting opinions among members of a class are to be respected and responded to in a professional manner.
  • Side conversations or other distracting behaviors are not to be engaged in during lectures, class discussions or presentations
  • There are to be no offensive comments, language, or gestures