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FILM8007 Postclassical Film Theory: Film Theory and Cinephilia

Module Overview

Following an emphasis on psychoanalysis and post-structuralism in the 1970s, academic writing on film since the mid-1980s focussed increasingly on the role of history in the interpretation of cinematic texts, accompanied by a ‘return to the archive’. Engagement with a new range of empirical sources and a multiplicity of ‘voices’ intensified the debate around the question where meaning resides (especially whether there is a singular and identifiable origin or source of meaning). Reception studies interrogated the traditional critical priority given to concepts such as the ‘auteur’, to psychoanalytical frameworks, and even the status of the filmic text itself. This module aims to discuss the challenges of these interventions. We will investigate what motivates particular trends in film theory, and how and why certain critical perspectives become dominant. Some of the most prominent questions this module addresses are: How have the radical technological changes over the past decades impacted on the study of cinema? What is the status and relevance today of cinema’s 20th century ‘classical’ back catalogue? What is the value of ‘old’ films, and if cinema is ‘dead’, as some commentators claim, what are the prospects for film in a post-cinema, YouTube, iPhone, NetFlix, and Wikipedia age? Looking beyond academia, what effects have these changes had on the practices of cinephilia (the love of/for cinema)?

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

• to investigate the impact of historical determinants on the interpretation of cinematic texts • to provide an overview of different theoretical paradigms in film studies, with a particular emphasis on critical models of understanding cinematic reception • to study processes of reception across cultural, national, and social boundaries • to train students in context-activated interpretation, with particular recourse to empirical research • to interrogate processes of canon formation in film history, with a particular emphasis on the way the notion of the auteur and categories of genre impact on such processes

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

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

  • different theoretical frameworks concerning methodological approaches towards cinematic production and reception
  • a variety of culturally and historically specific contexts of film interpretation,
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • evaluate different theoretical and methodological approaches in Film Studies, and test their effectiveness in your own right.
  • develop coherent, original, and intellectually persuasive critical arguments in discussions and in writing, carefully balancing primary evidence and theoretical frameworks

Syllabus

Typically the syllabus will include: in the first weeks we will look at classic categories such as the ‘auteur’ and at the creation of ‘canons’, and how such concepts have helped in assigning value to cinematic texts. We will then discuss how film studies moved away from such notions, towards a focus on historical contexts and modes of reception. We subsequently deal with specific varieties of reception, and discuss the theoretical paradigms that aim to make sense of audiences and their expectations. We will analyse how reception is fashioned through social and cultural conventions, industrial practices, and changing aesthetic preferences. The second part of the course is concerned with recent developments in film studies since the beginning of the 21st century. This involves a reconsideration of what the object of study should be in the digital age (film as text, as social practice, or as individual experience, ‘platform’, or ‘network’?).

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include • plenary seminar discussion • tutor-supported individual work

TypeHours
Independent Study110
Teaching40
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Jackie Stacey (1994). Star Gazing. Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship. 

Barbara Klinger (1997). Film History: Terminable and Interminable. Screen. ,38 .

Janet Staiger (2005). Media Reception Studies. 

Marijke de Valck and Malte Hagener (eds.) (2005). Cinephilia. Movies, Love and Memory. 

Assessment

Summative

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4500 words) 100%

Referral

MethodPercentage contribution
Essay  (4500 words) 100%
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