In 1915, film pioneer D.W. Griffith famously declared that the cinema would replace books and libraries as the repository of historical knowledge. He also believed that films gave viewers direct access to historical truth. While most students would quickly argue that historical films are interpretations of history that echo the filmmakers’ perspective on the historical events, many of us still learn history through cinematic representation. In this course, we will therefore critically analyze this phenomenon and explore feature films as a form of historical narrative: different from historical novels or history books, but also mirroring many of their techniques. Thereby we will understand history as always narrated, and therefore dramatized and partial (Hayden White). In order to establish a historical perspective, all films discussed in this course will deal with US American history ca. 1850s – 1950s. Students will learn to use tools to analyze film, they will research historical contexts of selected films, they will engage with the reception of the films by contemporary audiences, and they will critically and creatively respond to films. For instance, we will analyze Griffith’s conceptualization of white supremacy during Reconstruction (1863 – 1877) in Birth of a Nation (1915), the protests its racism provoked, and the “answer” to this film by African American film pioneer Oscar Micheaux’s Within Our Gates (1920). Another likely pairing under consideration is Django Unchained (Q. Tarantino, 2012) and Twelve Years a Slave (S. McQueen, 2013); or The Searchers (J. Ford, 1956) and Meek’s Cutoff (K. Reichardt, 2010) – representations of Slavery and the Westward Expansion, respectively, that invite analysis about whose history is told, and by whom. Other films will be selected together in class. Students will explore projects individually and in groups. The course will be a hybrid of synchronous and asynchronous sessions. Please familiarize yourselves with the Moodle page and introduce yourselves to each other before our first meeting on Thursday, November 5th on Zoom. You will be invited to the Moodle site (and the Zoom sessions) at the end of the registration period.