Becoming Women: Social Mobility and the Hollywood Diva

Elective Courses

CINE 201 - Becoming Women: Social Mobility and the Hollywood Diva

601 |Todd Nothstein |W 5:30-8:30pm

A striking thematic unity emerges from Hollywood in the 1930’s in the films of that era’s legendary female stars. From Franklin to Fitzgerald and Faulkner American literature frets over the idea of social mobility. It’s a commonplace assertion that the self-made man is a defining feature of American literature. This course will explore the idea that Hollywood develops a parallel and complex genre of theself-made woman through its creation of the Hollywood diva as a particular kind of top-billed actress. We will sample the literature of social mobility from authors such as Crane, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner with special attention to the visual aesthetics of their work, and we will discover the impact of gender on the theme of social mobility as we study films featuring such stars as Greta Garbo, Marlene Dietrich, Jean Harlow, Joan Crawford and Bette Davis. Repeatedly the films of the Hollywood diva depict women forced to fend for themselves and make their way however they see fit—in a man’s world. Such characters often struggle against the historically limited career options of women, as well as class-based snobbery. We will consider why these stars seem to enjoy a special appeal, and whether their contribution to culture can be described as feminist or socially transformative.

last updated 06/23/2014 - 9:05am

Cinema Studies Program
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