The Films of Spike Lee

Before you get started, please read our Welcome Letter!

I. Course Info

II. Student Writing Assignment

III. Course Calendar

IV. Feedback

V. Recording Audio Feedback

Course Information

One of the most significant figures in modern American cinema, Spike Lee is today’s most prolific black American film-maker. With 35 films to his credit, Lee’s filmography indexes the broad and tangled history of public debate over race, class, gender, and commercial cinema since the 1980s.

This course will consider the evolution of the themes, genres, techniques, and artistic philosophy reflected in Lee’s work as director, producer and cultural critic over the same period. We will also be concerned to highlight the tensions accruing to the seeming contradiction of Lee’s reputation as an ‘independent’ film-maker and his prominence as a commercially successful ‘mainstream’ director. We will view several major and lesser-known films, from blockbusters like Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X to the obscure Joe’s Bed-Stuy Barbershop and more recently Miracle at St. Anna. We as also consider Lee’s documentary projects 4 Little Girls and When the Levee’s Broke among other important Lee works (including television ads). The goal of the course is to critically situate ‘the Spike Lee phenomenon’ in the history of black American cinema and in the wider context of global filmmaking in the 21st century. We will read articles and essays by James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Houston Baker, Manthia Diawara, bell hooks, Wahneema Lubiano, Mark Reid, W.J.T. Mitchell and others.

Student Writing Assignment

Here is information about the kind of writing students will be doing in this course and the expected context for that writing. This should help both students and their readers understand the aims of this particular writing task.

Context for student writing assignment

What are students writing? Films reviews, comparisons
For whom? Film producers, Directors, Readers with an interest in film
Where would such writing typically be found? NYTimes or New Yorker Film Review
Why would someone usually read it? To read an in-depth analysis of a filmmaker’s works or a comparison of films in a given genre

Course Calendar

Oct 9: Student-reader matches announced.

By Oct 14: Students and readers schedule their Introductory Meeting.

By Oct 19: Introductory Meeting completed.

By Oct 29: Student sends rough but coherent draft of first paper to reader; reader gives feedback ASAP but within one week.  (Please see note on Feedback  below.)

Nov 12: First paper due to professor and reader.

By Nov 30: Student sends rough but coherent draft of second paper to reader; reader gives feedback ASAP but within one week.  (Please see note on Feedback  below.)

By Dec 9: Students and readers to meet (via webcam, skype, phone…) to discuss revisions and feedback.

Dec 14: Second paper due to professor and reader.

Note to Students: The earlier you submit the drafts the more time you will have to make use of reader feedback before turning in your work to your professor! You can also ask whether your reader will be available to give you less formal input at other points in the process, such as when you are considering options or developing particular ideas or wording.

Note to Readers: While you should provide feedback at the stages outlined above, you may also offer to give feedback  or chat informally with the student about the work in progess at other moments during the student’s work on this paper. At some point,  feedback should be given either in person, webcam or phone to allow for discussion.


Giving feedback for students in the Reader Project requires special considerations.

READERS: Here is what we suggest you do before you look at a draft:

  1. Read our guide to giving feedback
  2. Let the student know what form of feedback you plan to use.
  3. If you choose to use our recommended form, think-aloud response, please see How to Do a Think Aloud Response before you begin. An instructional video on how to record this response is also available.
  4. If you choose not to record a Think Aloud Response, email the student and the Project Manager ( a copy of your written feedback.


  1. Find out whether your reader is planning on doing a “think-aloud response” for you. If so, please read “How to Use a Think-Aloud Response: A Guide for Students.”
  2. Regardless of the type of feedback your reader provides, it is crucial that you maintain ownership of the document. This means that you should take the reader’s comments seriously, but that you should decide on (and take responsibility for) all changes to your document. When in doubt, ask you instructor.

Recording Audio Feedback

To record or listen to audio feedback for this course, click the link below. Then enter your name in the upper box marked SCREEN NAME and click SUBMIT.

Enter voice recorder >

If the recorder page does not open, or if it does not work properly, contact the project manager immediately (see the CONTACT US tab).

If you want to practice using the recorder, click here.