With this essay, you will formulate and explore a substantial research question or analytical problem related to the films of Alfred Hitchcock. You have considerable freedom in defining your topic, which may focus on an individual film, a group of films, a period of Hitchcock’s career, thematic trends, or critical/theoretical approaches to film authorship as related to Hitchcock. I strongly suggest that you discuss your proposed topic with me individually, well in advance of the due date. Some possible areas of inquiry include (but are not limited to): – An in-depth analysis of the interplay between aspects of film style (mise-en-scene, editing, sound, cinematography, etc.), narrative form, and/or historical context in a particular film or films. These may be films we have screened for the class, or not. (If you do analyze a film that we’ve discussed in class, please take care not simply to repeat points made during those discussions. I also caution you against merely repeating material covered in the assigned readings.) – An historical approach to a particular “period” of Hitchcock’s career, which may explore Hitchcock’s relationship to the Hollywood studio system or the British film industry, etc. – A consideration of one of Hitchcock’s literary or theatrical adaptations (but NOT Strangers on a Train, since you have already written about that adaptation). To what extent does the film remain “true” to its literary source material? To what extent does Hitchcock transform the source into a cinematic work of his own?
– A theme-based approach, in which you consider some ideological or cultural factor (such as gender/sexuality, class, psychology, etc.) across a number of Hitchcock’s films. I encourage you to come up with ideas that depart from these suggestions; but you are welcome to stick to one of these recommended topics. Regardless of your approach, your essay will involve a moderate amount of academic research, and you must draw from reputable sources, including books, essays from academic journals, magazines, newspapers, or reliable web sites. You should use a minimum of two sources beyond the assigned readings; and at least one of those must be a scholarly source (from an academic book or journal). (If in doubt about the suitability of a particular source, please check with me early on.) You will cite these sources according to the guidelines set forth in the MLA style manual (found in the St. Martin’s Handbook and elsewhere). Please also follow the MLA guidelines for your first-page header (name, course info, etc.). If you prefer not to come up with your own topic, here are a couple of specific prompts that you may use to guide your essay. (You should feel free to modify these to fit your interests): Option A: Compare and contrast the 1934 and 1956 versions of The Man Who Knew Too Much. What was so appealing to Hitchcock about this story that he decided to remake it? How do the two versions represent two very different phases of Hitchcock’s career? What do their commonalities reveal about the consistency of his approach to storytelling? And what do their differences reveal about his development as a filmmaker? Option B: Three of Hitchcock’s films are largely restricted to a single locale: Rope, Dial M for Murder, and Rear Window. Compare and contrast at least two of these films, and analyze how Hitchcock uses that self-imposed limitation to his artistic advantage. Your discussion of the films may bring in other aspects of style, including performance, editing, cinemtatography, etc,, as well as narrative and thematic elements. Option C: Hitchcock often returned to the “double chase” narrative form, in which the protagonist is being pursued by the authorities while at the same time trying to track down the real criminals. Films in this vein include The 39 Steps, Saboteur, and North by Northwest. Compare and contrast at least two of these films in terms of Hitchcock’s approach to narrative and cinematic style. Again, feel free to amend these prompts to suit your own interests; or better yet, come up with your own topic. 😉
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