This seminar explores the proposition that cinema (in general? particular kinds of cinema?) during the first decades of the 20th century represented a form of "vernacular modernism" -- an aesthetic expression of, and response to, the social and cultural experience of modernity and modernization that was primarily market-based and at once threatened, influenced, and by-passed the institutions of art and literature. In addition to a sample of Hollywood films (slapstick comedies, Traffic in Souls, The Crowd, Gold Diggers of 1933), we will discuss films from Soviet Russia, Germany, France, and, depending on availability, China and Japan. In addition to thematic concerns such as crises of gender, sexuality and class, the contradictions of consumption, industrial labor and urban living conditions, we will focus on the formal and stylistic ways in which these films articulate the material fabric of everyday life, a new relation with things, a specifically modern sense of character, identity, and performance, as well as the ways in which they address and ENGLage their viewers. Readings will include debates on modernism and mass culture as well as more contemporaneous texts (Kracauer, Benjamin, Epstein, Dulac, Kuleshov, Shklovsky, selections from the magazine Close-Up).