Course Description

This course is a survey of artistic, technological, and industrial development of cinema in America. The films screened are representative of major developments in American film history: technological, aesthetic, industrial, and socio-cultural. Through readings and screenings, the student considers such topics as major genres that reflect and project American attitudes and values, and the work of great American film artists.

This course satisfies the CUNY Pathways: Flexible Core-U.S. Experience in its Diversity

Learning Objectives

  • To provide the student with an overview of film history and cultural history;
  • To develop the student’s understanding of the technological advances in film by helping them trace through time those films in which major cinematic techniques have developed;
  • To help the student understand the forms and functions of various types of films, and help them trace the development of each type;
  • To acquaint the student with the works of major film movements in American cinema;
  • To help the student’s ability to analyze the relationship of a film and the socio-historical context in which it was produced;
  • To encourage logical thinking, poetic interpretations, and personal reflection on film as an art and medium of expressions.

In-Person Course

This course will meet in-person each week.

  • Tuesdays and Thursdays
  • 11:45 AM - 2:00 PM
  • Main 110

All course material, including links to graded assignments, is available on the course website at

We will not be using Blackboard.


Juan Monroy

Office Hours

Office hours are held both in-person and remotely.

Sign up for an appointment at

  • In-Person: Thursdays, 2:00–3:00 PM, C–740
  • Remote via Zoom: I will email you a Zoom Meeting link for you to join the meeting

Microsoft Teams

We will use Microsoft Teams to submit your assignments. We will not be using Blackboard.

To access our course on Microsoft Teams, follow these steps:

  1. Go to
  2. When you see the Microsoft Sign In page, enter your username: Note: This is not the same as your username.
  3. When you see the CUNY Web Applications Login page, enter your CUNY Login username and password and complete the two-factor authentication.
  4. Locate our Team: American Film, Fall 2023.

If you’re having trouble, note the following:

  • Make sure you’re logged into your not your account. 
* You can add another account to switch to the correct account.
  • Microsoft Teams doesn’t work on Mac or iOS Safari. You can download the Microsoft Teams apps or use another browser, such as Chrome or Firefox.
  • Make sure you’re not signing in to domain. Those are for personal accounts. The correct URL is for your CUNY account.

Chromebooks Available To Borrow

You can borrow a Chromebook for the entire semester. See this page for more information:


The learning activities are divided into twelve modules.

For each module, there are:

  • work you complete on your own outside of class
    • assigned readings from the textbook, listed in the course schedule on the course website
    • written responses to the films we studied in class
    • written essays on the course material we’ve studied in class
  • work we complete together during our weekly class session
    • film screenings
    • lectures about the technological aesthetic, industrial, and socio-cultural characteristics of American film
    • discussions and occasional group work reinforcing what we’ve learned in the module


Attendance and Participation

Attendance is required.

We will be trekking to class twice a week—on Tuesdays and on Thursdays—to work together for this class. Let’s make it worth the effort and be present during the class session:

  • put away the smartphone
  • silence the notifications on your computer
  • pay attention and contribute your own thoughts and insights about what you read in the textbook, what you heard the professor share, and what you saw in a film.

In other words, participate in the classroom experience.

There are no excused or unexcused absences, but everyone is allowed to miss two (2) classes without penalty.


For each module, there are assigned readings from the following textbooks:

  • Lucia, Cynthia. American Film History: Selected Readings, Origins To 1960. Newark, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2015.
  • Lucia, Cynthia. American Film History: Selected Readings, 1960 to the Present. Newark, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, 2015.

The course schedule listed below links to the chapters from the ebooks available at zero cost from LaGuardia Library.


As this is a film class, we will be watching films each week.

Most films will be screened in class and available on CUNY OneDrive for further study. Use your account to access these films.

Some titles available on Kanopy for you to watch on your own and for further study. Contact the Library for information if you’re having trouble accessing Kanopy using your LaGuardia account.

Historical Events Quiz

In our first class, we will work together in groups to locate the year in which certain important historical events—that are relevant to American film—occurred.

Reading Quizzes

There are tweleve quizzes available on Microsoft Teams on that module’s assigned readings and consist of a mix of objective (multiple-choice) questions and of subjective (short answer) questions.

Complete each quiz by the due date posted here and indicated on Microsoft Teams. No quizzes will be accepted once they close on Microsoft Teams.

Ten of twelve quizzes are required: I will drop your two lowest scores.

Film Responses

As we progress throughout the semester, there are film responses on Microsoft Teams that investigate a set of themes of the films listed below.

  1. Silent American Film
  2. Great Depression in American Film
  3. The Gangster Film and Film Noir
  4. Documentary Film
  5. New Hollywood
  6. Effects of 1989

Four of six responses are required: I will drop your two lowest scores.

American Film, Industry, and Culture

As a capstone for the semester, you complete a take-home assignment that engages what you learned about the history of American film over the course of the semester.

This assignment is due on Microsoft Teams and counts as our final exam for the course. No late assignments will be accepted after the assignment closes on Microsoft Teams.


Assignment Weight
Attendance and Participation 10%
Historical Event Quiz 10%
Reading Quizzes 25%
Film Responses 40%
American Film, Industry, and Culture 15%

Course Schedule

Module 0: Welcome

  • Get the textbooks
    • American Film History: Selected Readings, Origins To 1960 (Amazon)(ebook)
    • American Film History: Selected Readings, 1960 to the Present (Amazon)(ebook)
  • Complete the in-class group assignment: Historical Events Quiz

Module 1: Invention of Cinema and Film Narrative

  • Read American Film History: Selected Readings, Origins To 1960, “Setting the Stage: American Film History, Origins to 1928”
  • Read American Film History: Selected Readings, Origins To 1960, “D. W. Griffith and the Development of American Narrative Cinema”
  • Complete Reading Quiz 1 on Microsoft Teams
  • Watch Edison films in class
    • Dickson Greeting (1891)
    • Men Boxing (1891)
    • Edison Kinetoscopic Record of a Sneeze (1894)
    • Athlete with Wand (1894)
    • The Boxing Cats (Prof. Welton’s) (1894)
    • Fire Rescue Scene (1894)
    • John C. Rise–Mary Irwin Kiss (1896)
    • Firemen Rescuing Men and Women (1899)
    • A Wringing Good Joke (1899)
  • Watch The Great Train Robbery (1903, Edwin S. Porter, 10 min.) in class
  • Watch Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest (1908, J. Searle Dawley, 7 min.) in class
  • Watch An Unseen Enemy (D.W. Griffith, 1912, 15 min.) in class
  • Review Slides (PDF) from this module’s presentation

Module 2: American Silent Film

Module 3: Coming of Sound

  • Read American Film History: Selected Readings, Origins To 1960, “Synchronized Sound Comes to the Cinema”
  • Complete Reading Quiz 3 on Microsoft Teams
  • Watch Dickson Experimental Sound Film (WKL Dickson, 1894/1895) in class
  • Watch A Few Moments with Eddie Cantor A Few Moments with Eddie Cantor, Star of “Kid Boots” (Lee De Forest, 1923) in class
  • Watch Don Juan (Alan Crosland, 1926, excerpt) in class
  • Watch Introductory Speech by Will H. Hays (1926, 4 min.) in class
  • Watch Lambchops (Murray Roth, 1929, 9 mins. in class
  • Watch The Jazz Singer (Alan Crosland, 1927, excerpt) in class
  • Watch Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (F.W. Murnau, 1927, excerpt) in class
  • Review Slides (PDF) from this module’s presentation

Module 4: Golden Age of the Hollywood Studio System

Module 5: The Hollywood Gangster Film

Module 6: Film Noir

Module 7: The End of the Studio System

  • Read American Film History: Selected Readings, Origins To 1960, “Setting the Stage: American Film History, 1945–1960”
  • Complete Reading Quiz 7 on Microsoft Teams
  • Watch Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly, 1952, 103 min)
  • Review Slides (PDF) from this module’s presentation

Module 8: The Whole World is Watching

Module 9: New Hollywood and Youth Culture

Module 10: Second-Wave Feminism and American Film

Module 11: 1989…and After

Module 12: American Film in the 21st Century

Finals Week Meeting

We will be meeting today for our final meeting of the semester.