EAF1501 - Major Debates in Film Theory

2019/0 Module description

StaffDr Debra Ramsay - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

This module will introduce you to some of the key debates and concepts in film theory, such as the notion of realism, the idea of film as a language, issues of authorship and genre, and the impact of digital technology, together with approaches to understanding film such as ideology and the philosophical concept of affect.  It will investigate what questions about film emerged as the most pressing at each juncture in the history of film and of film studies, and how theoretical approaches evolved in response to technological, social and industrial changes to the medium itself. Together, these ideas will allow you to build a conceptual framework for understanding film's relationship to reality, other forms of visual media, individuals, and society at large. The module will introduce you to these theoretical debates, and situate them in the broader development of film studies as an academic discipline. It will demonstrate how they can be productively applied to film analysis, and develop your understanding of film, and what’s more, of the world around you, in new and diverse ways.

Module aims

  • To introduce you to a series of major debates in film theory from issues of realism and film language to stardom and genre.
  • To familiarise you with these theoretical approaches, situate them in the broader development of Film Studies as an academic discipline, and demonstrate how these theories might productively be applied to analyse film texts in new and different ways.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of key interventions and developments in film theory (eg. realism, digital cinema, authorship, genre)
  • 2. Demonstrate skills in applying film theory to reading film as a visual medium
  • 3. Demonstrate an understanding of the significance of these theoretical approaches in the wider development of film studies as an academic discipline

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate an ability to analyse film from different periods and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to the creation of meaning within film and its surrounding texts
  • 5. Demonstrate skills in the close formal, thematic, generic, and authorial analysis of different kinds of films
  • 6. Demonstrate skills in the research and evaluation of relevant critical and historical materials for the study of film
  • 7. Demonstrate an ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 8. Demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to films

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Through seminar work, group presentations, and final exam, demonstrate communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 10. Through essay-writing and final exam, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 11. Through research for seminars, essays, and final exam demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 12. Through seminar discussion, essay writing, and final exam demonstrate a capacity to make critical use of secondary material, to question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to critically reflect on their own learning process
  • 13. Through the final exam, demonstrate proficiency in research, and in the development, organisation, and analysis of research material under pressure of time

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

The Nature of Film:

  • Introduction: Film and Theory
  • What is cinema? Film and language
  • Ontology and Realism
  • Digital Revolutions Part One: The Death of Cinema?

Frameworks of Meaning

  • Digital Revolutions Part Two: Convergence and Transmedia Narratives
  • Film and the Culture Industries
  • Ideology

The Spectator

  • Psychoanalysis
  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Affect
  • Conclusion: Paratexts

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Weekly 1 hour lecture
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Weekly 2 hour seminar
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Two weekly half-hour introductions to screenings
Scheduled Learning and Teaching55Two weekly screenings
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11One weekly 1 hour workshop - guided study group work
Guided independent study190Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation and seminar discussion20 minutes1-9, 11-12Cohort feedback in seminars with opportunity for office hours follow-up.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay451500 words1-8, 10-12Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up.
Examination - Take-home paper: Group Wiki on a selected theory, compiled of individual, interrelated contributions of 1000 words each454000 words (group and individual elements)1-8, 12-13Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up.
Seminar participation10Continuous1-9, 11-12Oral feedback from tutor and opportunity for office hours follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8, 10-12Referral/deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-8, 12-13Referral/deferral period
Seminar participationSeminar participation1-9, 11-12Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Braudy, Leo and Marshall Cohen eds. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. 7th edition. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.  2009. Print.
  • Gledhill, Christine and Linda Williams (eds). Reinventing Film Studies . London: Hodder-Headline Group, 2000.
  • Stam, Robert.  Film Theory: An Introduction .  Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2000.
  • Stam, Robert and Toby Miller (eds).  Film and Theory: An Anthology.  Malden, Mass., USA, and Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.

Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative Viewing:

  • Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles, 1941)
  • North by Northwest (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
  • A Man Escaped  (dir. Robert Bresson, 1956)
  • District 9 (Dir. Neill Blomkamp, 2009)
  • Tout va Bien (dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 1972)
  • Lost in Translation (dir.Sofia Coppola, 2003)
  • Let the Right One In ["Låt den rätte komma in] (dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
  • Persona (dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
  • Fight Club (dir. David Fincher, 1999)
  • The Mirror [Zerkalo] (dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975)

Available as distance learning?


Last revision date


Key words search

film theory debate film studies

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