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The University of Southampton

FILM3018 Framing the Past:Stardom, History and Heritage in the Cinema

Module Overview

This module explores cinema’s relationship to the past, whether distant, as in that of ancient Greece, Rome or Egypt, or from a more recent history.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • the history of fame and celebrity from antiquity to the present
  • how stars and other leading cultural figures have been constructed at different moments of Western art history
  • the varied ways in which the past has been represented in film and its cultural significance in different eras
  • the different ways that critics and audiences have responded to constructions of fame and the past across different eras
  • the interdisciplinary nature of the filmic case studies discussed on the module, including history, literature, archaeology, photography and art
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • engage critically with a range of theoretical material and historical sources
  • establish links and influences between the cultural figures and art objects of different eras and countries
  • undertake detailed analysis of film texts, publicity images, and reception material, showing awareness of cultural context
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • communicate effectively, accurately and critically to an appropriate level in written and oral forms
  • work effectively as an individual and as part of a team, leading seminar discussion where appropriate, seeking innovation to engage different audiences
  • independently research, locate, and assess appropriate critical resources, making effective use of library, archival and internet resources
  • use blogging and other online media effectively to engage others with your ideas and research
  • organise your time successfully, respecting and meeting deadlines
Subject Specific Practical Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate competence in analysing audio-visual texts through the study and interpretation of mise- en-scène, narrative, and sound in films


This module explores cinema’s relationship to the past, whether distant, as in that of ancient Greece, Rome or Egypt, or from a more recent history. Its primary focus is on the use of stars in film’s negotiation of past and present, and how these idols of twentieth century modernity drew on constructions of fame, celebrity and cultural and political authority that go back at least to the rule of Alexander the Great. In exploring these issues through case studies selected from the silent era, classical Hollywood, European cinema and from contemporary cinema, film and its stars are placed within the wider cultural and artistic context to examine how and why a particular engagement with the past was undertaken at a particular historical moment. Issues of nostalgia – a sometimes painful longing for, as well as idealisation of, the past – and memory will be key throughout, and how shifts in technology, from the influence of photography and sculpture on films of the 1920s, to the digital realms of CGI and 3D that develop new ways of bringing the past, and its ideals, to ‘life’ in the manner of the Greek myth of Pygmalion. We will draw from writing by critics including Leo Braudy and Richard Dyer on the history of fame and stardom, as well as work by film scholars and historians such as Maria Wyke, Marcia Landy, Pam Cook and David Lowenthal on the use and representation of the past in cinema and other media. Films screened may include The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1926), Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ (Fred Niblo, 1925), One Touch of Venus (William A. Seiter, 1948), Journey to Italy (Roberto Rossellini, 1954), Cleopatra (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1963), Maurice (James Ivory, 1987), Titanic (James Cameron, 1997), Elizabeth (Shekhar Kapur, 1998), Gladiator (Ridley Scott, 2000), Alexander (Oliver Stone, 2004), 300 (Zack Snyder, 2007) and Hugo (Martin Scorsese, 2011). You will produce your own readings of a wide range of films and genres, and develop your understanding of how the films engage their audiences in a fascinating relationship to the past and a long history of cultural representation.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • plenary session, used to introduce key issues, themes, and concepts • seminars, involving a mixture of whole class and small group discussion • weekly screenings of selected films • one-to-one consultation with tutor Learning activities include • individual study and research • close reading and careful analysis of theoretical writings • engagement in seminar discussions as participator and listener • analysis of selected films and case studies in seminars, using appropriate theoretical material • preparation of written assignments • use of blogging and other online technologies to research, develop ideas and reflect on the module, present research findings and interact with fellow students and tutor. Your final blog post should be used to reflect on your blog and any comments across the module

Preparation for scheduled sessions20
Follow-up work20
Completion of assessment task59
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

John Boardman (2002). The Archaeology of Nostalgia: How the Greeks Recreated their Mythical Past. 

Leo Braudy (1986). The Frenzy of Renown: Fame and its History. 

Pierre Sorlin (1980). The Film in History: Restaging the Past. 

Richard Dyer (2001). Stars. 

Ana Carden-Coyne (2009). Reconstructing the Body: Classicism, Modernism, and the First World War. 

Pam Cook (2005). Screening the Past: Memory and Nostalgia in Cinema. 

Catherine Edwards (ed.) (2007). Roman Presences: Receptions of Rome in European Culture, 1789–1945. 

Frank M. Turner (1981). The Greek Heritage in Victorian Britain. 

Martin M. Winkler (ed.) (2004). Gladiator: Film and History. 

Maria Wyke (1997). Projecting the Past: Ancient Rome, Cinema and History. 

Edward Berenson and Eva Giloi (eds) (2010). Constructing Charisma: Celebrity, Fame, and Power in Nineteenth- Century Europe. 

Richard Jenkyns (1980). The Victorians and Ancient Greece. 

Giuliana Bruno (2002). Atlas of Emotion: Journeys in Art, Architecture, and Film. 

Marcia Landy (1996). Cinematic Uses of the Past. 

Michael Williams (2013). Film Stardom, Myth and Classicism: The Rise of Hollywood’s Gods. 

Andrew Higson (2003). English heritage, English Cinema: Costume Drama since 1980. 

Gideon Nisbet (2006). Ancient Greece in Film and Popular Culture. 

Lucy Fischer (2003). Designing Women: Cinema, Art Deco and the Female Form. 

Paul Grainge (ed.) (2003). Memory and Popular Film. 

Lynda Nead (2007). The Haunted Gallery: Painting, Photography, Film c.1900. 

David Lowenthal (1999). The Past is a Foreign Country. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessments designed to provide informal, on-module feedback - individual or group seminar leading, with the possibility of developing the ideas and research presented through the formally assessed blog - feedback on group exercises undertaken in class - you will have the opportunity to seek individual advice on your work in progress (such as essay plans, presentations) during your tutor’s weekly office hours and via email - guidance and advice on the preparation, completion and presentation of work will also be given in class - you will gain ongoing peer and tutor feedback via comments to blog posts Relationship between the teaching, learning and assessment methods and the planned learning outcomes - the module aims to maximise independent research and learning through a combination of plenary and seminar, which increasingly gives space to student-led activities, and assessment methods that integrate in-class with individual and group online activities. - alongside other Film final-year modules, the module aims to produce an active and innovative atmosphere that foreshadows that offered at postgraduate level and means of assessment that foster innovation and skills in writing and presentation in forms of increasing value in the workplace - many star and film case studies, and historical references, will be unfamiliar to most students, and so the module is structured to foster the acquisition of original knowledge through research and support learning on an ongoing basis Specifically: - plenary sessions will be interactive but tutor-led classes that introduce key ideas and concepts, define relevant terminology and outline socio-historical, cultural and intellectual contexts - the leading of the seminar by students will ensure the development and extension of your understanding of module material and the opportunity to explore the various ways in which key themes and concepts can be applied to films/case studies. - Listening to/participating in student led seminars will develop your knowledge of module material as well as building on knowledge of successful presentation and discussion techniques - 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 - written 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. - a key aspect of the module is the use of technology and social media (such as blogging) to aid individual research and reflection on topics but also to disseminate findings within the group and beyond. The discussion and materials developed will thus be of value to the whole class


MethodPercentage contribution
Blog  (2000 words) 50%
Essay  (2500 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Coursework 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Linked modules

FILM1001 or FILM2006 or FILM1027 or FILM1020

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