Understanding the Arts: Literature and Cinema

Level: Open to students entering grade 9 or 10 in fall 2015.
Session: I, June 29–July 17, 2015
Days & Time: Monday–Friday, 10:10 AM–12:00 PM and 2:10–4:00 PM.
Peter Conolly-Smith ,
George LaVoo,
Related Courses:

Students interested in this course might also be interested in Understanding the Arts: Art History and Architecture or Introduction to Creative Writing.

[I have] a new perspective on the arts and films…. I feel a deeper connection to the materials now that I’ve learned the skills to analyze and critique literature and film.— Emily Dosal, 2014

Course Description

A two-course curricular option for students wishing to develop their appreciation of film and literature. Both courses meet daily, one in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

What is Great Literature?
Peter Conolly-Smith

Students attempt to answer this question by examining a number of literary works, seeking to determine what differentiates great literature from mere entertainment. They analyze selected scenes from Shakespeare and examples of his poetry, as well as works by writers such as Keats, Shelley, Emerson, Poe, Melville, Stevenson, Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Through readings, class discussion, film clips, and short essays, students enhance their ability to write, speak, and think effectively about literature.

The Art of Moving Pictures
George LaVoo

In this course students explore film as a serious mode of artistic expression and a rich source of cultural information while taking into account its role as a phenomenally popular form of entertainment.  Students learn the basics of film language through brief lectures, discussions, and screenings of a variety of film clips, short films, and feature films. Each class gives participants the opportunity to compare and contrast the cinematic elements at work. Students come away having increased their visual literacy and having heightened their knowledge of the methods filmmakers use to tell stories visually. They gain full comprehension that cinema is an art of “moving pictures.”  Students keep a daily film journal and work on final projects which are presented orally with film clips (readily available) to support their explorations and discoveries.  


Peter Conolly-Smith

Peter Conolly-Smith received his Ph.D. in American Studies from Yale University. He has worked extensively in fiction and documentary film and teaches history, culture, and film at CUNY-Queens College, where he received the 2009 President's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. He is the author of Translating America (Smithsonian Press, 2004), as well as numerous academic articles on ethnicity, culture, film and history.

George LaVoo

George LaVoo wrote and produced Real Women Have Curves, winner of the Sundance Film Festival Audience Award for Best Film. Real Women was selected for over 50 international film festivals, and a print of the film is in the collection of the Museum of Modern Art. For HBO Films he directed the feature film A Dog Year, staring Jeff Bridges (Best Actor Emmy Nomination). For the SyFy Channel he wrote the original screenplay for the shoe-string budgeted thriller Blood Monkeys, starring Oscar-winner F. Murray Abraham. He was the producer of the micro-budget film Getting to Know You staring Zach Braff. Festivals that have shown his films include Sundance, Toronto, New Directors New Films @ MOMA, Venice, Berlin, San Francisco, Seattle, San Sabastian, London, Stockholm, Rotterdam, London, and Havana. LaVoo gained a broad range of experience in the film and television industry, including stints in marketing at an independent film distributor and as a story editor for New Line (producers of the Lord of the Rings films). At the Cannes Film Festival he received Variety's prestigious "Ten Producers to Watch" Award. He is an adjunct professor at the School of Visual Arts and a working indie filmmaker in Brooklyn with several projects in development. He is currently in post-production of a new feature film he wrote and directed titled In This Our Youth (starring Jared Gilman and Eric Roberts) and directing a documentary on Cuban culture, Cubano Amor,  for the producer of the Oscar-nominated documentary hit, Buena Vista Social Club. LaVoo received his B.F.A. in film from New York University.

Specific course information, such as hours and instructors, are subject to change at the discretion of the University.