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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 film in academic writing and oral presentations
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Communicate effectively in writing and speech
  • 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 comparative essay 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

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

Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010). 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mood Indigo. Michel Gondry, 2013. 

Duel. Steven Spielberg. USA. Universal. 1971. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her. Spike Jonze, 2013. 

The Others. Alejandro Amenábar. 2001. 

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

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

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

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

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

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



MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (1000 words) 50%
Essay  (2000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal

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