D4 Class 1.2

May 26

Practicing Mise-en-Scene Analysis

Start by reading the handout and watching the video I've posted on this page. I'd hoped to show the video during our last class, but there just wasn't time.

For HW, write a response to BOTH of the following prompts.

Working with Symbols & Metonyms
One of the most valuable insights in Finley's video (linked above) is his account of how movies can dramatize abstract events by reference to concrete objects, as for example when the heroine in The Devil Wears Prada quits her glamorous boss by throwing her cellphone into a fountain.

As a further instance, what do you make of the recurring references to the Statue of Liberty in this 9:15 clip from "The Chinese Exclusion Act," an episode from PBS's documentary series, American Experience? In a brief response (3-5 sentences max) focusing on a particular moment in the clip (include the time signature), talk about how the documentary manipulates the statue to say something about America's commitment to the ideals the statue symbolizes.

Imagining the American South
We watched a short clip from Gone with the Wind in our last class, taking note of how that movie conjures up an idealized image of life under slavery. (The full movie is available for viewing on the Humanities Blackboard site, if you're curious, but it is NOT a course requirement.)

As a counter to that piece of Lost-Cause propaganda, read this excerpt from Richard Wright's 12 Million Black Voices, a 1941 book-length essay illustrated using photographs of rural and urban poverty taken by the FSA, a Depression-era government agency. In a brief response (3-5 sentences max) focusing on a particular visual—one conjured by the text or in a photo—how does Wright use images to fight back against the myth of Dixieland promulgated in movies like Gone with the Wind?

In Class

Mao Sculptures


  • What rhetorical message(s) were these sculptures erected to express?
  • What message does photographer Cheng Wenjun express by documenting them so exhaustively?
Columbus Sculpture Defaced


  • This sculpture was erected in 1979 by the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic organization with strong Italian-American roots, in Boston’s North End, a historically Italian neighborhood. What rhetorical message does it express?
  • What message(s) do you sense in the action of vandals?
Tiawan's Solution
This 2017 NYTimes article details how Taiwan has dealt with a plethora of statues of former nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek. Read the article, then join in discussion.

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