Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

FILM1018 Theory, Culture and Society

Module Overview

The module will introduce you to some of the debates key to film criticism, by reference to influential film theorists and to some fundamental ideas from which contemporary critical approaches have been developed, focusing in particular on selections from the work of Marx, Freud, and Saussure.

Aims and Objectives

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 cultural 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
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • outline the key ideas of 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
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • locate and use appropriate critical resources
  • write critically, reflectively and accurately
  • argue your case coherently and confidently


This module will introduce you to some key thinkers, whose approaches have been used and developed in film criticism. We will begin with a survey of the ideas of 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 trace the development of their ideas from their origins in the work of Saussure, Marx, and Freud. 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 then progress to consider the work of contemporary cultural critics who are significant to film studies. Indicative critics might include Bordwell, Dyer, Gramsci, Hall, Fiske, Geraghty, and Mulvey. 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 nostalgia, community, class, ethnicity, 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 • seminars, involving a mixture of whole class and small group discussion • guidance on presentation requirements, techniques and criteria • weekly screenings of selected films • opportunities for one-to-one discussion with a tutor in office hours Learning activities include • individual study/research • preparing and delivering a short presentation • 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, and oral presentation.

Independent Study228
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

Bordwell, David, and Kristin Thompson (2004). Film Art: An Introduction. 

Geraghty, Christine, and David Lusted, eds (1998). The Television Studies. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Adorno, Theodor, and Max Horkheimer (1999). 'The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception. The Cultural Studies Reader. , pp. 31-41.

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

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

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

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


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 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 different theories and 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 essay 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.


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay 60%
Essay 40%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules


Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo
Privacy Settings