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The University of Southampton

PAIR3044 Cinema and Political Theory

Module Overview

This module explores the relationship between cinema and political theory. More specifically it addresses cinema as a distinct medium of political theorizing or political education. The module explores this topic through critical engagement of SOME of the following ‘genres’ of cinema: Westerns, Film Noir, Comedies of Re-Marriage, Science Fiction, War, Gothic, Horror in conjunction with selected topics in political theory, drawing on work in both film studies and political theory. (Examples of the kind of films we address would include: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence, My Darling Clementine, The Maltese Falcon, Blade Runner, The Philadelphia Story, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Apocalypse Now, Ghost Dog, Days of Glory.)

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Draw on, and critically engage, debates in film studies and political theory with respect to cinema as a medium of political thought and to demonstrate this through evaluations of different accounts of cinema as political theory and of different readings of particular films
  • Evaluate particular films as contributions to political thinking


Introduction: Cinema as a medium of political thought (wk1) 1. Genre 1 (e.g., The Western: Foundings and Social Contracts) (wks2-4) 2. Genre 2 (e.g., Film Noir: Alienation, Corruption and Ethics) (wks 5-7) 3. Genre 3 (e.g., Comedies of Re-Marriage: Publicity, Education and Democracy) (wks8-10) 4. Debating Cinema as Political Theory (wks11-12)

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

One lecture, one seminar and one film showing each week.

Preparation for scheduled sessions24
Completion of assessment task50
Supervised time in studio/workshop30
Wider reading or practice22
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Stanley Cavell (2005). Cities of Words. 

Robert Pippin (2012). Fatalism in Film Noir. 

Joshua Foa Dienstag (2016). Cinema, Democracy, Perfectionism. 



MethodPercentage contribution
Critical Analysis  ( words) 45%
Essay  ( words) 55%


MethodPercentage contribution
Exam  (2 hours) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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