The Cinema of Colonialism

Spring semester, 2006


5/4/06: See end of syllabus below, please


HIST419F Special Topics in History: Cinema and Colonialism; (3 credits) Grade Method: REG/P-F/AUD.

McKeldin Reserves


0101(37982) Paul Landau


Tu........ 2:00pm- 4:00pm (HBK 1st fl. proj. rm.)

Th........ 2:00pm- 4:00pm (SQH 1121)


The course focuses on the relationship between cinema(s) and modern colonial expansions and occupations and attempted occupations.  The course is also about how to watch movies.


We will look at a dozen major motion pictures—all but two are Hollywood productions—and we will read as a companion to the films.  You will get to express yourself in written form, in  short response papers due each week. 


We will undertake to figure out what imperialism is and was; not only as a set of neutral ideas, but more sensibly, in  the popular mind of the West, which we will discern from these commercial movies.  Europe is often the hegemon in our selections, but the United States plays that part when we consider Canton, the Vietnam war, and the American frontier.


I conduct upper level classes as if a group of adults are gathered together to make use of the chance to view motion pictures together with historical contextualizations.  Thus we — you—we all—will read a good deal touching on the colonialist historical context for each film.  We will all watch movies on Tuesdays, and you will need to watch some more on your own.  (You must like going to the movies to be in this course.)  Then, on Thursdays, after your professor issues his remarks under a succession of themes pegged to each week, hopefully with some logical coherence, you—we all—will discuss the readings, and the films, vigorously, for a full hour.


General course plan


The fine print: Required films are to be viewed as a class on Tuesdays at Hornbake’s Nonprint Media library.  On several occasions we will meet in Hornbake’s projection room and you will be required to have seen the film for the week already.  The readings corresponding to the movie are to be done by Thursday class. There will be no longer research paper, and no reading beyond that on the syllabus.   There will be a final exam.  This is an upper level History course, and the work load is commensurate.


Each Thursday I will lecture for the first 50 minutes and we will assemble for seminar-stye discussion for the second 50 minutes.  Attendance is mandatory: we can’t function as a discussive group if people come and go.  Let me know in advance if something major is up; otherwise, not attending class is to be taken as a voluntary failure.  Sign here if you understand this:




The task for us in that seminar will be to consider three elements, differently weighted depending on the week: the historical and period truthfulness of the movie (and what that means); the use of colonial and imperial ideas in the composition of the film; and the political context of the time the movie was made. You will write an essay on this same topic and hand it in at the very start of Thursday’s class-time, and no one will be permitted to hand theirs in more than 5 minutes after the bell.  That is, come to class, even if you are late, but your essay will be failed for that week if it is not on the desk in class at 2:05.


Sign here if you understand this:  ________________________________


Below are the min. 5, max. 8 books to be bought in advance of the beginning of the course.  Single copies of them will be at McKeldin Reserve.  All assigned films in filmography will be available for prior viewing at Hornbake non-print media.  They and others can also be rented from commercial vendors, or purchased for 10 or 15 dollars from  Attendance at the Tuesday screening is always mandatory, even if you have seen the movie before.


Sign here if you understand this: __________________________________




1. Michael Herr, Dispatches (Vintage; Reprint ed., 1991).  ISBN: 0679735259


2. Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness (Prestwick House Inc., 2004).  ISBN: 1580495753


3. Frederic Wakeman, Jr. Policing Shanghai 1927-1937 (University of California Press; Reprint edition (September, 1996)), ISBN: 0520207610


4. Michael Hunt, Ideology and U.S. Foreign Policy (New Haven: Yale University Press; Reprint edition, 1988). ISBN: 0300043694


5. Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979).  ISBN: 039474067X


Recommended (and on Reserve): C.A. Bayly, Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire (The New Cambridge History of India) (Cambridge University Press; Reprint edition,1990).  ISBN: 0521386500 (esp. chs. 5, 6, and conclusion).


Recommended (and on Reserve): David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw their Empire (OUP, 2001).  ISBN: 0195146603.  (esp. ch. 4, “India,” and Pt. 3 (ch. 7-10), pp. 85-150.


Recommended (and on Reserve): Siegfried Kracauer, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality Oxford University Press (December 14, 2005) ISBN: 0195007212 (esp. 41-102)




North by Northwest (Hitchcock, 1959)

The Searchers (LeMay/Ford, 1957)

King Kong (Cooper, 1933)

Congo Jazz (cartoon short).

Animal Crackers (Marx Bros. - V. Heerman, 1930)

Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, 1938)

Simba (Johnson - MNH, 1927)

Baboona (Johnson - MNH, 1930)

Beau Geste (Wm. Wellman, 1939)

A Passage to India (J. Ivory, 1988)

The White Countess (J. Ivory, 2005)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Spielberg, 1984)

The Verdict (Lumet, 1982)

Once Upon a Time in China (Hark Tsui, 1991)

Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979)

King Solomon’s Mines (C. Bennet, 1956)

The Gods Must Be Crazy (Uys, 1980)

Zulu (Cy Enfield, 1964)

Red Dawn (Milius, 1980)

Village of the Damned (Wyndam, 1960)

Triumph of the Will  (Riefenstahl, 1936)

Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001).




1.  Thurs. Jan. 26: Colonialism and Film’s Language (North by Northwest (Hitchcock, 1959))


for Tues., 1/31: 1893 Frederick Jackson Turner: Frontier Hypothesis


for Tues., 1/31: Reserve: The Searchers: Essays and Reflections on John Ford's Classic Western, ed. Arthur M. Eckstein and Peter Lehman, esp.: Eckstein, “Incest and Miscegenation,” and Douglas Pye, “Double Vision: Miscegenation and Point of View.” College Park Reserves


The American West and Race


2.  Tues. 31:  The Searchers (LeMay/Ford, 1957)


Reserve: Kracauer, Theory of Film, esp. 41-102 College Park Reserves


Reserve: Christian G. Appy, “ ‘We’ll Follow the Old Man’: The Strains of Sentimental Militarism in Popular Films of the Fifties,” in Rethinking Cold War Culture, ed. Peter Kuznick and James B. Gilbert (Smithsonian Books, 2001) ISBN: 1560988959 College Park Reserves


Reserve: James Brooks, “Violence, Justice, and State Power in the New Mexican Borderlands, 1780-1880,” in Power and Place in the North American West ed. by Richard White, John M. Findlay (Seattle: University of Washington Press, 1999), pp. 23-60.  ISBN: 0295977736, College Park Reserves and


Reserve: James Brooks, “That Don't Make You Kin!”: Borderlands History and Culture in The Searchers,” College Park Reserves in The Searchers: Essays and Reflections, above.


3. Thurs. Feb. 2nd: Searchers considered


for Tues., 2/7: Hunt, U.S. Foreign Policy and Ideology, chapters 1 to 3, up to p. 91


Wildlife photography, colonialism, and show business


4.  Tues., Feb. 7th: Congo Jazz (cartoon short); King Kong (Cooper, 1933)


M. Johnson, “The Bravest Animal in Africa,” from Camera Trails (58-71) CLICK HERE


Landau, “Photography and Administration,” in Landau and Kaspin, Images and Empires in Africa, CLICK HERE


5. Thurs., Feb. 9: King Kong considered (Animal Crackers (Marx Bros. - V. Heerman, 1930), Bringing Up Baby (Hawks, 1938), Simba (Johnson - MNH, 1927) and Baboona (Johnson - MNH, 1930)).

Farini and Robots: bonus


for Tues., 2/14: Read the first two chapters of Said, Orientalism, now.




6.  Tues. 2/14: Beau Geste (Wm. Wellman, 1939)


Said, Orientalism


Reserve: Alice Conklin, A Mission to Civilize: The Republican Idea of Empire – France and West Africa, 1895-1930 (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1997), pp. 1–37.


Reserve: Franz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth, “On Violence,” 35–top of 62.  College Park Reserves


7. Thurs. 16: Beau Geste considered in light of French colonialism / prep reading


The Raj: The British in India and Central Asia


8.  Tues. 21: Passage to India (Merchant/Ivory, 1988)


Reserve / Recommended for purchase: C.A. Bayly, Indian Society and the Making of the British Empire (The New Cambridge History of India), (1999), chs. 5, 6, and conclusion!


*Optional (on Reserve): Robert Aldrich, Colonialism and Homosexuality (Routledge, 2003), pp. 302-328 (on personal world of E.M. Forster, au. of Passage to India)!!  College Park Reserves


9.  Thurs. 23: Forster, sex, and India (Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Spielberg, 1984))


*Optional: See The White Countess (J. Ivory, 2005) by Tues. Feb. 28th’s class.


Reserve / Recommended book: David Cannadine, Ornamentalism: How the British Saw their Empire (Oxford: OUP, 2001), ch. 4., and pt. 3 in its entirety!

College Park Reserves


Reserve: Bernard Cohn, Colonialism and its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1996), ch. 5, pp. 107-62!  Over 50 more! College Park Reserves


10/. Tues, Feb. 28.  The Man Who Would Be King (John Huston, 1975)


11/. Thurs, Mar. 2nd: The ongoing critique; the Caucasus Muslims.  The Verdict (Lumet, 1982), as narrative exemplar.


America in Asia


10. Tues., Mar. 7.  Once Upon a Time in China (Hark Tsui, 1991), pt. 1


Hunt, U.S. Foreign Policy and Ideology, 91 to 145.

for Tues., Mar. 14: Conrad, The Heart of Darkness, any edition


11.  Thurs., Mar. 9: Remember the Left?; Discussion of Hunt to p. 145; Once Upon a Time in China, pt. 2


Hunt, U.S. Foreign Policy and Ideology, 145 to 171.

reminder: for Tues., Mar. 14: Conrad, The Heart of Darkness, any edition


12.  Tues., Mar.14th: Apocalypse Now (Coppola, 1979), 4:00–7:00 pm dir.’s cut (Hornbake)


Hand-out: T.S. Eliot, “The Hollow Men.”


On line (tba): Edward Morel, “Red Rubber,” published report from the Congo


Reserve: Marilyn Young, The Vietnam Wars, 1945–1990 (Harper Perennial; repr. 1991), pages to be announced.




13.  Thurs. Mar. 16: The nature of U.S. intervention


Spring Break homework: *See *Gods Must Be Crazy (Uys, 1980) over break.   We will not see this dreadful movie in full in class!


14. Tues. Mar. 28: Street Angel (Yuan, 1937)


 Wakeman, Policing Shanghai, 1927-37


Reserve: Miriam Bratu Hansen, "Fallen Women, Rising Stars, New Horizons: Shangai Silent Film as Vernacular Modernism,” Film Quarterly 54, 1(Fall, 2000), 10-22


15.  Thurs. Mar. 30: China in the 1930s; why we don’t like Street Angel; & Tues eve


South Africa


16. Tues. April 4: King Solomon’s Mines (1956); excerpts of Gods Must Be Crazy (1980), 4:00–6:00 pm instead of regular time


Reserve: Robert Gordon, The Bushman Myth (Boulder: Westview, 2000), pp. assigned over e-mail.


On-line: Farini, In Search of the Lost City, via


17. Thurs. Ap. 6: Remoteness and selfhood, “lost city” and “bushmen” (A Kalahari Family (Marshall, 2000).


Michael Herr, Dispatches, all!


Reserve: John Laband, Rope of Sand: 68-106, 207-278, and the pictures.


18.  Tues. Ap. 11:  Zulu (Cy Enfield, 1964)


19. Thurs. Ap. 13: South Africa in the 19th century: paradigm for the ages / prep Lion Annuals and Tues eve below.


Hand-out: Jeanine Basinger, The World War II Combat Film, pp. tba.  A few pages will be available on Tuesday Ap. 11, evening via a link HERE.  The volume will be on reserve at McKeldin.

20. April 18th: Tues:  15 mins. of Red Dawn (Milius, 1984), and Village of the Damned (Wyndam, 1960) in its entirety, 4:00–6:00 pm instead of regular time


Reserve: Jeffrey Richards, “Imperial Heroes for a Post-Imperial Age,” in British Culture and the End of Empire, ed. Stuart Ward, pp. 128–43 (sorry about absent footnotes).


On same website as Farini above: “Lion Annual,” from the 1950s.  Find it.


21: Thurs. Ap. 20th: Reversals of fortune, or, having it both ways


for Tues. April 25: Susan Sontag, Fascinating Fascism

for Tues or Thurs:  further material (The People of Kau, Carol Beckwith) Will be posted here.




22.  Thurs., Ap. 25:  Triumph of the Will  (Riefenstahl, 1936)


23.  Tues. Ap. 27: Discussion of Kau images and Sontag; prep Kimba; Pizza


for Tues. May 2: Nothing to read but CATCH UP Please.


Cultural Products


24. Tues. May 2: Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001)


25. Thurs. May 4: Kurasawa, Shinto, Zen, and America

26. Tuesday  May 9: Kimba the White Lion; Star Wars; and bonus: A Walk in the Sun, another predicted globalism.

27.  Thursday  May 11: Pizza and review.  (You bring the questions).

FINAL EXAM: Wed. 10:30, place tba.