Going Psycho over The Birds: CentreTerm course explores Alfred Hitchcock

RELEASED: December 31, 2009

By Abby Malik

DANVILLE, KYOne of the offerings of CentreTerm this January examines the psychology of Alfred Hitchcock films, a unique topic for any college course. The three-week class is being taught by Dr. Mary Gulley, assistant professor of psychology and assistant dean for advising.

Gulley's inspiration for designing the course is her love of Hitchcock's films.

"In fact, The Birds may be one of the first real movies I remember seeing as a kid," she says. "I became truly hooked on Hitchcock when I saw Rear Window in 1984 when it was re-released to theaters."

She says she researched Hitchcock and his films when she was in college and in graduate school with the idea of understanding how he was able to affect audiences. 

She discovered that Hitchcock preferred to film stories "with lots of psychology."

"Which, of course, draws me in as a psychologist," Gulley says.

She hopes that the course will give students one more way to think about psychological concepts in practice.

"This is a very interactive course, given the fact that we will watch Hitchcock's great films, learn about his talent and craft and tease out what his films show psychologically and how he was able to create such engrossing visual expressions of how humans think, feel and behave," Gulley says.
Students will experience 12 Hitchcock films and a few of the Alfred Hitchcock Presents television episodes that he directed himself.

 They will also discuss his treatment of various psychological principles, including emotion, motivation, cognition, perception, states of consciousness, personality, memory, morality, identity, psychopathology and social behavior. 

The course is structured so that class members will watch films in the afternoon and then read about them that night. 

"I want students to watch the films prior to reading about them in-depth so that they can examine their own reactions to the films without knowing too much about the films beforehand," Gulley says. 

Students will also keep "viewing diaries" and share their writings in class the following day. They will read three full texts and chapters from 12 other books, in addition to exploring many wonderful websites and blogs from Hitchcock experts and film critics.

For more information on CentreTerm, the College's unique three-week winter term, click here.

Have comments, suggestions, or story ideas? E-mail leigh.ivey@centre.edu with your feedback.

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Founded in 1819, Centre College is ranked among the U.S. News top 50 national liberal arts colleges. Consumers Digest ranks Centre No. 1 in educational value among all U.S. liberal arts colleges. Centre alumni, known for their nation-leading loyalty in annual financial support, include two U.S. vice presidents and two Supreme Court justices. For more, visit http://archive.centre.edu/web/elevatorspeech/

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