The University of Southampton
Courses

FILM1020 Film theory and visual culture: introduction to psychoanalysis

Module Overview

This module will introduce you to some key thinkers, whose approaches have been used and developed in film criticism. We will begin by examining ideas in the work of Freud and Saussure. The development of those ideas will then be traced to critics such as Barthes, Althusser, and Lacan, to locate each of these critics within his own socio-historical context, and position him within the field of cultural criticism.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• introduce you to some of the psychoanalytic debates key to film criticism • introduce you to some fundamental ideas from which contemporary critical approaches have been developed, focusing in particular on selections from the work of Freud and Saussure • introduce you to some key concepts from the work of Barthes, Lacan, and Althusser, to demonstrate how these can be applied in film criticism • introduce you to a range of key contemporary critics, such as Mulvey, Bordwell, Creed, and Žižek • familiarise you with the theoretical underpinnings of the conflicts between the critics' differing positions • encourage theoretically informed analyses of filmic texts across a range of appropriate contexts • widen your understanding of how representation functions in film

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • the work of some key contemporary psychoanalytic critics relevant to Film Studies
  • the socio-historical and intellectual contexts in which those critics work
  • the positions those critics represent and the concepts involved
  • the conflicts between different positions
  • the specialised terminology used to articulate these ideas
  • fundamental concepts concerning representation in film
  • how you can usefully translate these concepts to a range of texts and contexts
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • locate and use appropriate critical resources
  • participate constructively in academic debate
  • write critically, reflectively and accurately
  • argue your case coherently and confidently
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • outline the key ideas in a selection of theoretical works
  • engage critically with theoretical material
  • recognise and use appropriate specialised terms and concepts
  • apply fundamental theoretical notions from these theorists to practical examples drawn from film and television
  • begin to produce a theoretically informed reading of a film text using appropriate terminology
  • use theoretical material to interpret the ways audiences engage with media productions

Syllabus

This module will introduce you to some key thinkers, whose approaches have been used and developed in film criticism. We will begin by examining ideas in the work of Freud and Saussure. The development of those ideas will then be traced to critics such as Barthes, Althusser, and Lacan, to locate each of these critics within his own socio-historical context, and position him within the field of cultural criticism. In particular, we will apply these ideas to selected filmic texts in class and you will be strongly encouraged to develop your own readings of some film and/or television texts of your choice. We will also examine the work of contemporary cultural critics who are significant to film studies. Indicative critics might include Bordwell, Creed, Hall, Mulvey, Stam, and Žižek. Exploring these works will equip you with a range of analytical tools and vocabulary essential to the critical interrogation of film and television texts. In considering these critics, you will examine a number of themes, such as spectatorship and gender, as well as the negotiation of hegemony in the cultural field. You will engage in producing your own readings of a variety of film and television texts, from high, popular and mass culture, experiencing the synthesis of theory and practice across a range of genres.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • lectures, used to introduce key issues, themes, and concepts • seminars, involving a mixture of whole class and small group discussion • weekly screenings of selected films • one-to-one consultation with tutor Learning activities include • individual study/research • close reading and careful analysis of theoretical writings • engagement in seminar discussions as participator and listener • analysis of selected films in seminars, using appropriate theoretical material • preparation of written assignments.

TypeHours
Independent Study114
Teaching36
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Stam, Robert, et al., eds (2006). New vocabularies in film semiotics: structuralism, post-structuralism and beyond. 

Storey, John (1998). Cultural Theory and Popular Culture: A Reader. 

Hall, Stuart (1997). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. 

Jameson, Fredric, ‘Postmodernism and Consumer Society’, from E. Ann Kaplan, ed (1988). Postmodernism and its Discontents. 

David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson (2007). Film Art: An Introduction. 

Braudy, Leo, and Marshall Cohen (2004). Film Theory and Criticism. 

Lapsley, Robert, and Michael Westlake (2006). Film Theory: An Introduction. 

Stam, Robert (2000). Film Theory: An Introduction. 

Stam, Robert, and Toby Miller, eds (2004). A Companion to Film Theory. 

Hall, Stuart, and Jessica Evans, eds (1999). Visual Culture. 

Stam, Robert, and Toby Miller, eds (2000). Film and Theory: An Anthology. 

Assessment

Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback ? Feedback on group exercises undertaken in class ? You will be encouraged to discuss preparation for your formal assessments; for example, draft plans ? You will have the opportunity to seek individual advice on your work in progress by appointment with your tutor ? Guidance and advice on the preparation, completion and presentation of work will also be given in class Relationship between the teaching, learning and assessment methods and the planned learning outcomes • Lectures will introduce you to the work of the selected theorists, outline their socio-historical contexts, intellectual contexts, and define key terminology. • Seminars will concentrate on the practical application of the theoretical material and its methods to specific examples from film or television. • The small group exercises, which will include some individual research, will extend and develop your understanding and knowledge of the language used by the critics, their concepts, and the positions they represent. • Your own understanding and knowledge of the language used by the theorists, their concepts and their application will be extended and developed through your own individual research and exercises in the seminars. • Informal feedback of your research and that of your group to the rest of the students will enhance your understanding and theirs, as well as strengthening your key skills in research, assessment and selection of material, and presenting to the group. • Listening and responding to other students’ presentations will also develop your knowledge of the theory and its application, and you will begin to consolidate your appreciation of successful presentation techniques. Alongside seminar discussion, this will extend your analytical and listening skills. • The written assignments will give you the opportunity to develop and test your understanding of theories of your choice and explore their application in specific contexts, whilst developing your skill in using the appropriate language.

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Review  (2000 words) 50%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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