Philosophy 281: Marxism and Film/ Spring 2012


Instructor Information

Instructor: Gary Zabel, Ph.D.

Department of Philosophy, UMB

Office: Wheatley 5/040

Office Hours: Wed 3:30-5:30 and By Appointment


Website 1:

Website 2:

Facebook site (add Gary Zabel as a friend if you like)

Skype Name: Gary Zabel

Course Description

Marxism as an established practical and theoretical approach to philosophy, economics, and politics, and cinema as the characteristic art form of the modern period are both born at the end of the nineteenth century, twin children of a capitalist social order in the throes of modernizing industrialization. But not only are these twins born together; their subsequent histories are characterized by an ongoing force field of dynamic interaction. In this course we will focus on four key phases in the development of this force field, in an attempt to understand the relationship between Marxism and film:

1) The theory and technique of dialectical montage as developed by the early Soviet avant-garde directors, Vertov, Eisenstein, Pudovkin, and Dovzenko.

 2) The role played by Marxism in the development of the post-World War Two school of Italian Neo-realism, especially in the work of  Viscontini, Di Sica, Bertolucci, and Pasolini.

 3) Jean-Luc Godard’s Maoist-inspired filmmaking of the late 1960s and early 1970s, and the associated theoretical work of the French journal,
Cahiers du cinema.

4) The development of Marxist aesthetic-theoretical frameworks from the 1950s down to the present for interpreting classical Hollywood film and its aftermath.

Throughout our investigations, we will be reading and using the work of such philosophers as Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Gilles Deleuze, Slovoj Zizek, and, of course, Marx himself.


1. Each week students will read the assigned book chapters and view the assigned films.  the Course Session modules. The readings can be accessed through our  Blackboard site, and the films through links on this website, with two exceptions:

La chinoise (Session 10) and Tout va bien (Session 11), both films by Jean-Luc Godard. You will have to get access to these through Netflix, or through a good video store or public library.

2. Each week students will participate in written discussions of the course material in an electronic discussion group hosted by our Black Board site. Each student will write at least three paragraphs on a topic to be assigned each week, as well as respond in writing to the postings of at least two other students.

3. Each week students will listen to or read a lecture by the instructor on the readings and relevant films, archived as podcasts or short papers on our Black Board site.

4. Students will write a midterm essay (approximately 6 double-spaced pages) based on the readings.

5. Students will produce a final paper (15 to 20 double-spaced pages) addressing questions in the philosophy of cinema based on the course readings, lectures, films, and discussions.


The course requirements have the following weight in determining the final grade for the course:

Midterm exam = 30%

Participation in group discussions = 20%

Final paper = 50%