Summer Film Course | Topics in American Cinema: Queer Cinema

3 points
Session I: 
T, R: 6:30–9:30 pm
Instructor: Aaron Boalick

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LGBT subjects are enjoying an unprecedented level of visibility and legitimacy in contemporary visual culture. From Brokeback Mountain to Caitlyn Jenner, it appears the queer media moment has arrived. The present course seeks to contextualize this rapidly shifting cultural development, specifically within film history, by presenting students a thorough introduction to the difficulties of queer film historiography and a series of key theoretical concepts designed to make them more critical consumers of visual media with an eye toward issues of gender identity and sexual orientation.
Arguably, moving pictures have been queer nearly since their inception. Men dancing together, suspect cowboys, cross-dressing women, and a long line of sissies populated early cinema. Even during the years of Production Code censorship, in which explicit allusions to homosexuality were forbidden, the Queer managed to surface on screen, re-coded for those who knew how to read the signs. The covert nature of the arch of queer film history presents an interesting challenge: is queer film history the story of representations of LGBT people and life on the big screen, the history of queer filmmakers, actors, costume and set designers, and their filmographies, or is it the queer reception of the universal deviation from rigid sexual and gender norms that pervade even the most classical of film canons?
We will explore the importance, the strengths, and the weaknesses of each of these approaches to queer film throughout the semester, studying key films, figures, and movements. We will consider campaigns for positive representations of LGBT life in tension with celebrations of queer disruptions of hegemonic norms. Additionally, we will study melodrama, camp, HIV/AIDS cinema, intersections between race, class, and sexual identity, and the challenges global cinema presents to Western cultural notions of LGBT identity and sexuality before reassessing the contemporary moment in queer media.


Tuition & Fees

The 2016 Columbia summer tuition rate will be published in February. The 2015 rate was $1570 per credit, and we anticipate a 5% increase for 2016. 

Materials Fee: $30
For questions about School of the Arts course content, please write to our summer team at For all other Summer Program questions, including admissions, registration, and billing, please contact the School of Continuing Education summer team at, or 212-854-9666.

About the Instructor
Aaron Boalick completed his PhD in Spanish at the University of Michigan in 2013. He will receive his MA in Film and Media Studies from Columbia University in February 2016. Aaron specializes in Hispanic Film Studies and Queer Film Studies. 
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Columbia University School of the Arts offers MFA degrees in Film, Theatre, Visual Arts, and Writing, an MA degree in Film Studies, a joint JD/MFA degree in Theatre Management & Producing, a PhD degree in Theatre History, Literature, and Theory, and an interdisciplinary program in Sound Arts.