Professor Danny Unger                                                               Political Science 395

Office: 305 Zulauf                                                                       DuSable 246

Office Hours: T 1:45-2:45, Th 4:30-5:30                                     T 3:30-5:50, Th 3:30-4:20




Politics and Film



This course uses film as a vehicle to analyze politics.  There are no prerequisites for the course.  The course covers a variety of topics including slavery and class conflict, totalitarian political movements and the protection of political liberties, terrorism, racial politics in the United States, the impact of industrialization and urbanization on society, and war.  Three films and two assigned texts are devoted to films on Vietnam’s wars.   Films viewed in class and assigned readings will be used as the bases of discussions of these issues. 


In general, the long Tuesday meetings will be devoted to viewing films and, when time is available, informal discussions.  Thursday class meetings will be used for more focused class discussions on readings and topics assigned by the professor.



Undergraduate Writing Awards

The Department of Political Science will recognize, on an annual basis, outstanding undergraduate papers written in conjunction with 300-400 level political science courses or directed studies. Authors do not have to be political science majors or have a particular class standing. Winners are expected to attend the Department's spring graduation ceremony where they will receive a certificate and $50.00. Papers, which can be submitted by students or faculty, must be supplied in triplicate to a department secretary by February 28. All copies should have two cover pages - one with the student's name and one without the student's name. Only papers written in the previous calendar year can be considered for the award. However, papers completed in the current spring semester are eligible for the following year's competition even if the student has graduated.

Statement Concerning Students with Disabilities

Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.

Department of Political Science Web Site

Undergraduates are strongly encouraged to consult the Department of Political Science web site on a regular basis. This up-to-date, central source of information will assist students in contacting faculty and staff, reviewing course requirements and syllabi, exploring graduate study, researching career options, tracking department events, and accessing important details related to undergraduate programs and activities. To reach the site, go to 


Required texts


Graham Greene, The Quiet American, Penguin

Le Ly Hayslip, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, Plume

Christopher J. Koch, The Year of Living Dangerously, Penguin

Peter Matthiessen, At Play in the Fields of the Lord, Vintage Books

Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men, Harvest Books


Any additional readings will be on reserve at the library or will be distributed in class.  Students will be responsible for all readings.




-Class attendance and contributions to discussions. 

-One three-page paper analyzing political issues raised by one of the films viewed in class.  The paper is due at the beginning of class, Thursday, September 25th.

-One five-page paper that compares novel and film treatments of political issues in All the King’s Men or At Play in the Fields of the Lord. The paper is due at the start of class, Thursday, October 23rd.

-One eight-page paper comparing book and film treatments of political issues found in The Quiet American, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places, or The Year of Living Dangerously.  The paper is due at the start of class, Thursday, December 4th.

-Final exam, December 9th, 4-5:50, based on questions distributed in class on December 4th.


Rewrite policy Students may elect to resubmit any of their papers.  After the first resubmission, however, subsequent resubmitted papers will be graded down half a grade (five points out of 100.)


General guidance on papers Papers will be graded on the basis of the clarity and quality of their arguments, organization, presentation of relevant facts, and quality of research.  All papers must include full and complete citations, including citations of required course readings and lectures.  Any paper submitted with less than perfect citations will be returned for rewriting with a ten point (out of 100) penalty.  Be sure you understand how to cite sources (your high school practice may not provide good guidance.)  Papers also should use standard margins and fonts and have page numbers. 




Grades will be determined as follows:


            Attendance and participation                                         15

            3-page paper                                                                10

            5-page paper                                                                15

            8-page paper                                                                20

            Final exam                                                                    40






Schedule of lectures, readings, and films


Assigned readings should be done prior to the class meetings for which they are assigned.



August 26, Introduction to the course, politics, and film

            Birth of a Nation, Triumph of the Will, The Great Dictator, Bamboozled

August 28, Analyzing politics

Library reserve: Gabriel A. Almond, G. Bingham Powell, Jr., Kaare Strom, Russell J. Dalton, Comparative Politics, A Theoretical Framework, 4th edition (New York: Pearson/Longman, 2004) pp.1-38


September 2, Industrial society and its ills, Modern Times

Michael A. Genovese, Politics and the Cinema: an Introduction to Political Films, pp.1-26

September 4


September 9, Power crossing cultures, At Play in the Fields of the Lord

            Peter Matthiessen, At Play in the Fields of the Lord

September 11


September 16, Totalitarianism: comparing depictions of Animal Farm 

September 18


September 23, Means and ends, All the King’s Men

            Robert Penn Warren, All the King’s Men

September 25

            Three-page paper due


September 30, Nationalism, propaganda, and historical fulcrums, Enemy at the Gate

Antony Beevor, Stalingrad, The Fateful Siege: 1942-1943 (Penguin, 1998) pp.21-30, 84-85, 166-167, 187-190, 201-206, 223-225

October 2


October 7, Securing the collectivity; securing individual rights, The Siege

            October 9


October 14, Politicians’ privacy and the double standard, The Contender

October 16


October 21, Class as a political category, Remains of the Day, Grand Illusion

October 23

            Five-page paper due


October 28, Riding the mobilization tiger, The Year of Living Dangerously

            Christopher J. Koch, The Year of Living Dangerously

October 30


November 4, Revolt without revolution, Spartacus, Amistad

Keith R. Bradley, Slavery and Rebellion in the Roman World, 140 B.C.-70 B.C., pp.2-17, 93-101

November 6


November 11, The morality of individuals and of history, The Quiet American

            Graham Greene, The Quiet American

November 13


November 18, Sustaining humane values amid the horror, Heaven and Earth

            Le Ly Hayslip, When Heaven and Earth Changed Places

November 20


November 25, Anarchy and deterrence; rationality and genocide, Dr. Strangelove, Shane

Jack Hitt, “Battlefield Space,” New York Times Magazine, August 5, 2001, pp.30-35, 55-56, 62-63

Robert J. Lieber, No Common Power, Understanding International Relations, 2nd edition (Harper Collins, 1991) pp.5-10


December 2, Power and plenty confront community, Apocalypse Now

December 4

            Eight-page paper due


December 9, final exam, 4-5:50