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The University of Southampton

FILM1037 What is Cinema? Film, Art, Technology 2

Module Overview

This module addresses the question ‘What is Cinema?’ through an exploration of how cinema has converged with art and technology from its earliest manifestations to the digital forms of the present day. It traces film’s emergence and continued development through a culture of sensation and the commodification of art, leisure and entertainment in Europe and the United States. You will be introduced to key methods of understanding these developments that will deepen your knowledge of the history of cinema as an art and as an entertainment culture. Film Studies is an interdisciplinary subject, and this module seeks to develop cinema’s productive interconnection with the disciplines of literature, history, music, theatre studies, visual culture as well as the sciences. In most cases, examples of contemporary film and television will be used to deconstruct this fascinating genealogy of influence and reinvention. Through researching and examining a range of specific historical case-studies you will gain a broad understanding of the constellation of developments and discourses as well as the technologies and aesthetic practices that have helped fashion what cinema is today.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • Demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between technology, art and film across specific historical contexts.
  • Understand critical methods of analysis of film texts and their connections with the other arts.
  • Use selected research techniques which will allow you to develop your understanding of a range of historical contexts where cinema has converged with or emerged from art forms and technological developments.
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 to specific moments of technological and/or aesthetic innovation
  • Critically research and analyse film in academic writing
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Communicate effectively
  • Independently research appropriate resources
  • Critically analyse films and academic texts
  • Organise time effectively
  • Utilise research techniques which will allow you to develop your understanding of a range of historical contexts where cinema has converged with, or emerged from, art forms and technological developments and innovations.
  • Write in three distinct registers, a research report, an analytical essay and a comparative essay
  • Compose a competent comparison of two 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. • a specific workshop to introduce research through on-line archives and databases.

Practical classes and workshops30
Preparation for scheduled sessions60
Wider reading or practice60
Total study time300

Resources & Reading list

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

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

Mood Indigo. Michel Gondry, 2013. 

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

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

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

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

Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010). 

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

Her. Spike Jonze, 2013. 

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

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

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

The Others. Alejandro Amenábar. 2001. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Duel. Steven Spielberg. USA. Universal. 1971. 

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



MethodPercentage contribution
Analytical essay  (1500 words) 40%
Essay  (2000 words) 40%
Research Report  (1500 words) 20%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Resubmit assessments  (3000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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