Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

FILM1036 What is Cinema? Film, Art, Technology

Module Overview

This module addresses the question ‘What is Cinema?’ through an exploration of film’s emergence and continued development through a culture of sensation and the commodification of art, leisure and entertainment forms in Europe and the United States. This module identifies key historical developments that have shaped, and continue to redefine, cinema up to the present day. Film Studies is an interdisciplinary subject, and this module seeks to develop your understanding of cinema’s productive interconnection with the disciplines of literature, history, music, theatre studies, visual culture as well as the sciences. Examples of contemporary film and television will be used to explore this fascinating geneaology of influence and reinvention. At the end of the module you should have a broad understanding of the constellation of developments and discourses that have helped fashion what cinema is today.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• develop your understanding of the importance of history and social context in the study of film’s relationship to art and technology in Europe and the United States • enable you to understand the relationship between technology, art and film across specific historical contexts.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Demonstrate an awareness of how film has converged with or emerged from art forms and technological developments.
  • Understand critical methods of analysis of film texts and their connections with the other arts.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Engage critically with a range of theoretical materials, films, and cultural products
  • Apply this knowledge in the analysis of films
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Communicate effectively
  • Independently research appropriate resources
  • Critical analysis
  • Organise time effectively
  • You will learn to write in two distinct registers; an analytical essay on a film text and a research report on secondary sources.


The module introduces you to approaches to understanding the impact that technology and the arts have had on moving image entertainment forms from magic lanterns to digital streaming on smartphones and tablets. The syllabus will highlight specific narrative films that will encourage you to understand the connections these have with other art forms and technologies. The module explores the interactions between film and art forms such as painting, sculpture, literature, theatre, music and architecture. Running concurrently with this emphasis on aesthetics will be the impact of technologies that have characterised and expanded the definition of what cinema is. These could include examples ranging from panoramas, magic lanterns and optical toys to digital formats of image and sound, interactive video games, 3D and IMAX. Throughout the module the emphasis will be on developing ways of understanding the links between technologies and the arts that have informed cinema and proto-cinematic forms over the last two hundred years.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • lectures • seminars • screenings, • specific films and fictional texts form the basis of seminars each week. Learning activities include • unassessed group presentations (usually in twos) in seminar.

Wider reading or practice20
Preparation for scheduled sessions30
Practical classes and workshops30
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Oliver Twist. David Lean. Independent Producers. UK. 1948.. 

Letter From an Unknown Woman. Max Ophuls. Rampart. USA. 1948.. 

The Others. Alejandro Amenábar. 2001. 

Henry Jenkins (2006). Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide. 

Kittler, Friedrich (1999). Gramophone, Film, Typewriter, trans. Geoffrey Winthrop-Young and Michael Wultz. 

Nead, Lynda (2000). Victorian Babylon: People, Streets and Images in 19th Century London. 

Her. Spike Jonze, 2013. 

Smith, Grahame (2001). Dickens and the Dream of Cinema. 

Waxworks/Das Wachsfigurenkabinet. Paul Leni. Neptun-Film. Ger. 1924. 

Chun, Wendy Hui Kyong and Thomas Keenan, eds. (2006). New Media, Old Media: A History and Theory Reader. 

Mood Indigo. Michel Gondry, 2013. 

Strangers on a Train. Alfred Hitchcock. Warner. USA. 1951. 

Friedberg, Anne (2006). The Virtual Window: From Alberti to Microsoft. 

Gitelman, Lisa (2006). Always Already New: Media, History, and the Data of Culture. 

Zielinski, Siegfried (1999). Audiovisions: Cinema and Television as Entr’actes in History, trans. Gloria Custance. 

Musser, Charles (1994). The Emergence of Cinema: The American Screen to 1907. 

Malin, Brenton J (2014). Feeling Mediated: A History of Media Technology and Emotion in America. 

Collateral. Michael Mann. Dreamworks. USA. 2004.. 

Sterne, Jonathan (2012). MP3: The Meaning of a Format. 

Brewster, Ben and Jacobs, Lea (1998). From Theatre to Cinema: Stage Pictorialism and Early Cinema. 

The Conversation. Franicis Ford Coppola. Zoetrope Studios. USA. 1974.. 

Se7en. David Fincher. New Line. USA. 1995.. 

Sconce, Jeffrey (2000). Haunted Media: Electronic Presence from Telegraphy to Television. 

Brooks, Peter (1995). The Melodramatic Imagination: Balzac, Henry James, Melodrama and the Mode of Excess. 

Duel. Steven Spielberg. USA. Universal. 1971. 

Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010). 



MethodPercentage contribution
Analytical essay  (1500 words) 50%
Research Report  (1500 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.