We’ll be studying the relationship between the popular literary category once known as “pulp fiction” and the dark, violent American crime movies that French cinephiles called “film noir.” This name derived from the “Serie Noire,” an imprint from the French publishing house Gallimard Editions, which featured the most celebrated works of popular writers of “hard-boiled” American crime fiction, such as Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Horace McCoy, and W.R. Burnett. These writers had made their names in the notoriously tough, cheap, lurid American publishing world of the “pulps.”
A significant number of influential films noirs were direct adaptations of the short stories and novels of pulp fiction writers; some were based on scripts written by pulp fiction writers lucky enough to “break out” and land Hollywood screenwriting contracts; and many more of them were more indirectly inspired by the cynical action-packed pulp fiction style.
We’ll be looking at the impact of Hollywood censorship codes on adaptations of pulp fiction, as well as the slow development of the fractured narrative and dark, disorienting visual style that we now consider definitive of film noir. This cinematically radical “noir style” was at least partly the result of attempts to approximate the impact of pulp fiction writing.
There will be a mid-term exam, a final paper, and several short assignments. We will be doing a lot of reading, writing, viewing, and discussing. There is a required weekly film screening. Attendance is a must!Required Reading
• Cain, James M. Double Indemnity. Vintage: Reprint Edition, Paperback. May 14, 1989.
• Chandler, Raymond. The Big Sleep. Fontal Lobe Publishing, Paperback. September 22, 2011.
• Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. Vintage, Paperback. July 17, 1989.
• Hughes, Dorothy B. In a Lonely Place The Feminist Press at CUNY, 1st Edition, Paperback. November 1, 2003.
• McCoy, Horace. They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? Serpent’s Tail Classics, Paperback. May 17, 2011.