American Yodas@JFK-I, Berlin

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July 14th, 2008: WE´RE DONE!


However, this webpage will remain in situ for future reference.


Welcome to AMERICAN YODAS, Alan Taylor`s Spring 2008 Seminar programme at the John F. Kennedy Institute for North American Studies, Freie University of Berlin. (Notice: Denzel Washington will not be attending this course).

Research Paper opportunities are designed to attract the professional interest and intellectual ambitions of students of psychology, pedagogic practice, and applied film/ media theory…


American Yodas (BA Vertiefungsmodul A, Vertiefungsseminar); (im Magisterstudiengang ist dies ein Proseminar, 2 SWS, 7 ECTS credits) Mo 12.00-14.00 – ZI JFKI Lansstr. 7-9, 340 (Hörsaal)

“The practical and ideological role of American formal education is pivotal in articulating the nation’s democratic assumptions and in forwarding its aspirations towards equal opportunity, a fact not lost in Presidential Election Year 2008. From Blackboard Jungle (Brooks, 1955) to The Great Debaters (Washington, 2007), the subject of schooling has, not surprisingly, emerged as a challenging and often lucrative Hollywood sub-genre that uniquely and explicitly addresses issues of hegemony, discourse, and resistance. Likewise, commentaries on such representations is prominent in recent book publications (The Hollywood Curriculum, Dalton; Tales Out of School, Keroes).

This course will include but then advance beyond these genre-specific accounts to consider American film form and narrative in general and through the prism of contrasting learning theories (from Watson/behaviorism, through Bruner/cognitive to Gigerenzer/heuristics).

The represented workings of such theories in Hollywood narrative will therefore inform our detailed exploration that will include analysis and discussion of two complete films and a range of sequences.

• In keeping with certain behaviorist principles, schein/credit rewards will be gained for 80% + attendance and the completion of two short essays. These will be written, and subject to written feedback during the course.

• To Repeat: Research Paper opportunities are designed to attract the professional interest and intellectual ambitions of students of psychology, pedagogic practice, and applied film/ media theory.”

Erasmus Student? Taylor courses tend to attract a healthy number of students from fellow EU countries. Please check here for admission details, etc with JFK-I colleague Professor Dr. Michael Hoenisch:


  • Where? Room 340
  • When? 12.15 – 14.15: 13 Mondays April 14th – July 14th, excluding May 12th.

As from April 2nd 2008, this webpag will serve as a `flat content` course guide, providing materials, links and information updates for all students – who are expected to check in at regular intervals. So for quick reference, you are strongly advised to bookmark the page.

The following updates NPR should fire the growing interest:-

National Broadcast Radio

from the 1980s to the present: an April 2008 review on` teen films` from NPR:

Our sequence from Dangerous Minds (Smith, 1995) effectively crystallises the key themes of the course: representation, pedagogy, film form, narrative.

And please note, research on representation & narrative by Dr. Beyerbach of OSWEGO, New York:-



Questions and Answers

Q1: Is there a reading package?

A: No. Internet links will direct students to required research areas for essays and Research Paper (see below). However, the listed reccommended books in the side bar are very useful for extended study.

Q2. Explain the essays.

A: Two essays. Essay 1. will be an analysis of a film sequence that will be posted here on this page, see below; Essay 2…will be an individual choice from the sequences that will be shown during the course. Each essay will be two sides, and are designed to engage students who are perhaps new to film study with technical and narrative terms (1,000 words).

Key reading source for these exercises is here:

Q3.The Research Paper (RP)?

A: The AT JFK-I Guidelines for the Research Paper 07-08 should serve most questions. The subject of the RP is rooted in a Conference Topic as chosen by each individual student from the links below – and MUST be grounded in an American Studies contexutal frame:

Abstracts of the RP are to be submitted to AT, Course Leader. These then become the subject of Guidance Sessions /Sprechstunden.

Q4: Sprechstunde?

A: Room 314, Mondays 4-6 p.m.


1. April 14th, Intro.

Overall scope, depth and purpose of the course. Including, working practices, expectations and outcomes. We will have some kick-off film sequences to analyse and discuss, ie: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence (Ford, 1961); The Bad and the Beautiful (Minnelli, 1953) & Broadcast News (Brooks, 1987).

Our Intro Powerpoint is here: yodas-introthematic.ppt

2. April 21st: Basic introduction to sequence analysis. For the purposes of the whole course, all students are expected to be using/studying/reflecting on:-

Today we consider Hollywood moguls in their pedagogic role as purveyor of American values – the Oscars are awarded by `The Academy`. Our main sequence will be the Act One opening of Blackboard Jungle (Brooks, 1955).

The First Essay is to be an analysis of the opening sequence of Alfred Hitchcock`s Shadow of A Doubt (1943). The sequence is sourced from the Internet Archive, public domain.

As we discussed, the exercise is to test student`s initiative in linking chosen theory with core elements of film textual analysis (mise-en-scene…) and as based on individual interests. Two pages (800 words), with bibliography, & evidence of background research made relevant to specific argument.

Insights into how the sequence might fit into our study of American Yodas would be welcome!

Deadline May 19th & returned for class discussion June 2nd. The sequence is here:-

3. April 28th: Film Viewing Number 1 / part one. “Dead Poets Society (Weir, 1989)


4. May 5th: Film Viewing Number 1 / part two. “Dead Poet`s Society (Weir,1989)” Please note we are in Room 319 for this session..

5. May 12th, SCHOOL`S OUT!

6. May 19th: Story Narrative & Deadline:- First Essay is due today.

7. May 26th: AT on genre, narrative and film form, and, for the record…look what won Cannes this weekend:-

Hollywood style, narrative and theories? The Powerpoint presentation for today`s session can be accessed here:

8. June 2nd: A Rich Mix Session: No 1 essays returned, selected readings, sequence analysis & class discussion: Katie has agreed to read her essay on the Dangerous Minds sequence (above), we will also consider an Act 2 sequence from The Blackboard Jungle (1955), and have a class reading of Shale essay from 2002 Oxford University publication, thus setting the scene for our subsequent research & discussion on learning theories next week:-

9. June 9th: AT leads on Learning Theories. Student contributions based on prepared notes on Pavlov, Watson, Skinner, Bruner, Bandura, Gigerenzer…..the following link/s should be very useful for our discussion:-

Also….Deadline for RP Abstracts, though these are now accepted to the end of the line…

10. June 16th: Second Film Viewing, “American History X” (Tony Kaye, 1998).

As we now engage critically with our second film text, opening prompt questions should be,

who is teaching whom, when and how…?

and who, of course, is doing the learning, when and how…?

11. June 23rd: Second Film Viewing, “American History X” (Tony Kaye, 1998) & class discussion, part 2

12. June 30th: Reflective Overview, including RP discussion/guidance. This will incorporate review on auteur theory (Weir, `Green Card`) and Structuralism/Propp (`Up, Close and Personal`, 1996).

We will also be analysing sequences from `American History X` and Ford`s `The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence`. We will try again the key learning sequence in Act 2 of `Blackboard Jungle`.

So students have the rare and unique opportunity for prep during the half time break of tonight`s game, Germany vs Spain. They may also consider over the post-match beers how the representation of sport, war and history concurs with certain structuralist narrative principles.

13. July 7th: Deadline Essay 2, based on class viewing of film/sequences. Students will be invited to read out their finished work. We will also return to auteur thoery, missed form last week, Peter Weir, and deal more explicitly with Research Paper planning. Home run already!

14. July 14th: Final session, Q & A, guidance on further study, adieus.


For future reference, autumn 2008, BA Advanced: look out on this website for HOLLYWOOD SNOOPS – Welles, Hitchcock, Fuller and Errol Morris (see sidebar for useful links).


Alan`s season of documentary viewings at the JFK-I resumes on May 19th.


The full Summer schedule, featuring Altman, Welles, Mailer, Price, Hawks, Little Richard and the City of Chicago, is HERE!