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FILM2002 Early and Silent Cinema, 1895-1929

Module Overview

This module is an exploration of the main issues and debates that surround the study of film in the period between 1895-1929.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

- introduce you to the approaches to the study of early film by bringing together an understanding of the economic and aesthetic developments of early cinema with their historical and cultural contexts. - develop skills in research and analysis through the study of film texts and primary source material in local and national archives.

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the main issues and debates that surround the study of film in the period between 1895-1928
  • the historical development of the Hollywood film industry in relation to the European film industry between 1895-1928
  • the historical development of local film exhibition practices in Britain between 1910-28.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • understand and engage with the critical debates concerning early film history and aesthetics
  • organise primary research within the framework of a reasoned and coherent argument
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • accurately summarise, primary research material as well as published arguments and reports found in secondary sources
  • verbally present ideas informally to seminar and engage in informed discussion concerning early and silent cinema
  • effectively research a topic or issue in a local or national archive
  • construct a reasoned, well written argument based on research and analysis of texts, critical material and primary research data.
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • apply and test the critical models associated with early film aesthetics.
  • Understand the salient historical developments in film history of this period and their significance
  • analyse early and silent film texts based on accurate historical understanding
  • undertake primary research in a national and local archive effectively in order to pursue a line of historical inquiry.
  • Place local historical archive work within the context of the national and international history of film during this period.


The subject of Early Cinema is a lively one and is a particular branch of Film Studies that has been a significant force in recent film and media scholarship. No longer the preserve of archivists, this subject has made an impact on cultural studies, social history, studies in aesthetics, reception studies and histories of technology. This module is an exploration of the main issues and debates that surround the study of film in the period between 1895-1928. In the first part of the module the focus is on the early period 1895-1912 and the move from novelty to narrative. The second part is organised around the development of the feature, the changing exhibition practices and the rise of the Hollywood industry from 1912-1920 with a particular focus on the cultural and historical context of exhibition and reception in Britain. The third part of the module utilises case studies of two films to explore the intertwining nature of the aesthetics and politics of the Hollywood silent films of the Twenties.

Special Features

The Archive research project: The object of this assignment is twofold. It is designed to introduce the techniques of primary research and to provide the opportunity to demonstrate knowledge of the debates and arguments about the development of the film industry by testing those concepts through your archive research. For this assignment you will research the local exhibition and reception of a film, a star or a local cinema of your choice which was current between 1910 and 1929. The results are written up as a final report. The relationship between the seminar, the lecture and the screening allows you to question and discuss the concepts and methods associated with the analysis of early and silent cinema. The first essay requires you to show an understanding of the approaches to analysis that have been applied to films of the period covered in the first seven weeks of the module (1896-1917). The research project builds on this work and applies it to a specific aspect or area raised by research into local archives and exhibition.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include - Lecture - Seminar - Screenings - Individual tutorials Learning activities include - Essay - Preparing and delivering presentations - Research Project - Individual study

Independent Study102
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Lee Grieveson and Peter Kramer (eds) (2004). The Silent Cinema Reader. 

David Robinson (1996). From Peep Show to Palace: The Birth of American Film. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback - You are required to comment in seminar each week on an aspect of the reading assignment and the film or films viewed at the screening. - informal presentation of their research in the final three weeks of the module in seminar. - advice on essay topics and plans guidance on oral presentations and feedback on performance


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (2000 words) 50%
Research project  (2000 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

FILM1001 or FILM1002 or FILM2006 or ENGL1079

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