Tanya Goldman

Undergraduate Discipline

Film History

BA, MA, Tulane University. PhD, New York University. A guest faculty member at the College, Goldman's research focuses on the history of documentary and educational film distribution as a political and cultural practice. Her essays have appeared in Cineaste, Feminist Media Histories, Film History, and Historical Journal of Film, Radio, and Television, among other publications. SLC, 2021–

Previous Courses

Film History

American Feminist Film History

Open, Large Lecture—Fall

This course explores the history of American cinema by examining the contributions of female directors, producers, actresses, and behind-the-scenes workers from the silent era to the end of the 1990s. In surveying this history, the class will ask what it means to be a feminist filmmaker and woman worker, as well as a feminist-oriented media historian. This course will investigate a range of interrelated questions: What types of work have women performed within the film industry? In what ways have opportunities for women evolved over time? How have social, cultural, political, and industrial factors shaped opportunities available to women and the types of work that they create? How have women addressed racial, ethnic, gender, and sexual identities both on screen and in the workplace? Are there distinctive stylistic or narrative preoccupations that characterize films directed and produced by women? In what ways has “difference” affected opportunities available to diverse women and the stories that get to be told? What does it mean to practice “feminist” filmmaking, criticism, and history? And, finally, how might highlighting the experiences of women directors and other participants in the film world cause us to rewrite dominant film histories? To address these questions, we will study a diverse body of feature films, shorts, documentaries, and avant-garde films created by the labor of both the renowned and the unsung.


Experimental Documentary

Open, Seminar—Fall

This seminar explores the intersection between documentary and experimental film. While these two practices may initially seem at odds, artists have long combined cinema’s ability to capture nonfiction footage with the capacity to retrain perception and present “reality” in visually and aurally inventive ways. In this course, “experimental documentary” suggests ways in which the documentary form has evolved over time and the different ways that we might reinterpret creative film traditions and movements through the lens of the “documentary impulse.” How does reading experimental films that make use of nonfictive footage cause us to rethink the experimental media and documentary genres and their histories? The course will explore this question by considering city symphonies, compilation films, educational films, essay films, nature films, and more. Screenings will include works by Santiago Alvarez, Stan Brakhage, Su Friedrich, Harvard Sensory Ethnography Lab, Jonas Mekas, and Dziga Vertov, as well as many contemporary artists working today.


The Action Genre

Open, Lecture—Spring

Often derided as formulaic, politically conservative, overly macho, or just downright “dumb,” action films are often considered of low cultural value. But, increasingly, scholars have shown that action movies are a fruitful site for investigating the politics of race, gender, and sexuality. This course will begin by historicizing the roots of cinema as a spectacular form, briefly surveying early generic constructs such as chase films, female-driven silent serials, swashbuckling adventures, westerns, and sword-and-sandal epics. We will then turn our main focus to contemporary examples of action cinema from the 1980s to the present and consider the evolution of formal style and special effects, the popularity of global film franchises, stardom, and transcultural exchange. Through close readings of depictions of tropes such as the ’80s “hard-bodied” action hero, strong female leads, superheroes, buddy cops, and villainous “others,” we will consider how the action genre defines and deconstructs notions of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and the corporeal—and, in turn, how their representations reflect historical, political, social, and cultural anxieties. In-class screenings will include recent action films, such as Fate of the Furious, Mad Max: Fury Road, and Terminator: Dark Fate, and works by directors such as Kathryn Bigelow, Michael Bay, and John Woo, among others.


Virtual Voyages: Travel Cinemas From Silent Film to Social Media

Open, Seminar—Spring

This course surveys the history of cinema as a mode of travel from the 1890s to the present. The movie camera, by its very nature, is a device that represents time and space. The exploration of the world through images (and later sound) has always been one of cinema’s primary features. While genres of early cinema, such as travelogues and scenics, were eclipsed in popularity by narrative features by 1910, travel cinema lives on in documentaries, ethnographic films, home movies, wildlife television shows, IMAX productions, and, more recently, social media feeds. As COVID-19 abruptly restricted global travel, the lure of viewing distant places on a screen from one’s home allows us to approach film anew as a surrogate for physical travel and the experiential economy. This course takes a broad view of travel film, studying both media texts and historical context. The course will examine an eclectic body of filmed content to analyze how filmmakers, companies, and other groups have used moving images to represent desirable destinations and impressions of spectacular and distant lands for artistic, commercial, and noncommercial purposes. We will also investigate the history of travel cinema by examining the colonial ideologies and other power relations embedded within a representational mode that reflects the worldview of those privileged enough to travel and record their experiences. All the while, we will also attend to the rise and evolution of travel films amidst historical developments in media technology, transportation, the tourism industry, leisure, and more. Screenings will span the classic and the contemporary, from documentaries Grass (1927) and Baraka (1992) to recent television shows Planet Earth and Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown, among many, many others.