Graduate Liberal Studies Program

Course Description

GLS 533: Philosophy through Film

Instructor: Gena McKinley

This course introduces students to some of the most pressing philosophical questions in the history of Western thought through the uniquely vivid medium of feature length films. We will study a variety of films that dramatize and explore questions such as the following: Do humans have free will? Why be moral? Does life have meaning? What is the nature of reality? What are the limits of human knowledge? What constitutes personhood? What role does memory play in identity? Although the main thrust of the course is philosophy through film, we will also occasionally engage in philosophy of film. Philosophers and film theorists alike pose questions about whether and how film conveys philosophical meaning, and these concerns wil at times figure into our interpretations.

These are some of the films we will study in the course:

  • Frank Capra's It Happened One Night (1934)
  • Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon (1950)
  • Fred Zinneman's High Noon (1952)
  • Ingmar Bergman's Persona (1966)
  • Woody Allen's Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)
  • Harold Ramis' Groundhog Day (1993)
  • Spike Lee's Clockers
  • The Wachowski Brothers' The Matrix (1999)
  • Michael Gondry's Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
  • George Nolfi's The Adjustment Bureau (2011)
  • Pawel Pawlikowski's Ida (2013)

Last Update: Feburary 16, 2015