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Professor sees film, literature as much of same

By Staff | Feb 18, 2011

Shepherd University professor Rachel Ritterbusch believes film and literature can be looked at comparatively.

“The approach I take to film is the same I take to literature,” said the assistant professor of French, who this semester teaches the course The History of Horror Film.

Ritterbusch said the two, words and film, create the same effect on the viewer.

But, she said, the difference is in film, there is audio and visuals and her students can look at the film beyond “face value.”

“I think it’s important to look at the context … but also to ask the students what do you think?” she said.

Ritterbusch wants her students to go beyond what the plot of the film is and to look at techniques such as color, shot composition and casting.

Ritterbusch said Shepherd has offered some form or another of the course, listed under English and French.

But what sold Ritterbusch on horror movies this time around, besides her own personal interest, was the recent reemergence she noticed of zombies and vampires in pop culture. She recognized students’ fascination with the subject and knew they would be interested.

“It’s something they feel confident about rather than things they find more daunting,” Ritterbusch said.

But, don’t expect “Twilight” and “Hostel” to be screened in this class.

Ritterbusch’s class views films dating back to the early 1900s. The first film students watched was “Nosferatu, Symphonie des Grauens” from pre-World War II Germany. Ritterbusch also showed another version of “Nosferatu” from 1970s Germany.

Ritterbusch wanted her students to be able to compare and contrast the two films.

“Had I just shown them the 1979 film, they might have enjoyed it, but they wouldn’t have understood the reference,” she said.

The course, which meets Tuesday evenings, isn’t just for students. Ritterbusch opens the viewing and post-film discussion, which begin at 7:30 p.m., to the public.

Marissa Leaper, a senior English major, admits she doesn’t particulary care for horror films, but she said Ritterbusch’s class has opened her up to looking at films a different way.

“I’ve become more curious and interested in not so much horror, but the progression of all film genres and how they overcame censorship restrictions and gender stereotypes throughout the years,” Leaper said. “Writing the critiques forces me to see how much I take movies with sound that are in color for granted.”

For more information about the screenings, contact Ritterbusch at rritterb@shepherd.edu.