Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Theories and Traditions in Film Studies
Academic Year
Semester 1
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Seminars / Tutorials 10 x 2-hour seminars
Other 9 x 3 hour film screenings linked to content


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment Individual oral presentation plus write-up  (10-15 minutes, with accompanying critical reflection of 1000 words)  40%
Semester Assessment Critical Essay on a particular research tradition  (3000 words)  60%
Supplementary Assessment Resit of Presentation/Write-Up to a different topic  40%
Supplementary Assessment Resit of Critical Essay to a different topic  60%

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

1. Demonstrate a clear and advanced understanding of the key film theories that have established Film Studies as an academic discipline, and their capacity to contribute to our knowledge and understanding about different aspects of films and the cinema.
2. Critically evaluate the concepts and approaches at the heart of different film theoretical traditions, in light of their application to films and/or film-related materials
3. Demonstrate comprehensive and systematic understanding of a range of theoretical and conceptual issues that cross and inform different theoretical paradigms within film studies.


This module will give students an essential grounding in a range of theoretical traditions (and their associated concepts, questions and approaches) that have established, shaped and developed film studies as a discipline. Throughout the module, students will encounter important canonical writings and theoretical approaches within film studies, will consider how these theories can be approached and critically evaluated, and how they can be employed to inform the analysis of film texts and other film-related materials and to explore the range of ways in which film can be seen to have aesthetic, ideological, cultural and historical significance.

Brief description

This module will look at the range of ways in which films and the cinema have been studied over time (through a focus on theoretical approaches to essential areas of study within film studies, such as the study of realism, gender and sexuality, film genre, authorship and stardom, narrative, and spectator engagement and reception). It will thus stress particular traditions within film studies, focusing on the critical analysis of different approaches that have proven influential within historical moments and their relation to wider theoretical paradigms that have informed and influenced the study of film (from psychoanalysis and cognitive psychology, to structuralism and philosophy, to cultural and historical reception studies) and the dialogue and debate that has occurred between these traditions and paradigms. It will encourage students to critically reflect on these ways of approaching films and the cinema. In particular, the module will encourage students to consider how these theoretical traditions (and their associated principles and concepts) might inform types and forms of analysis and interpretation within film studies (through the questions that particular theorists ask about films and the cinema, and the elements of films and the cinema that their theories focus upon).


Week 1: Identifying and Exploring the Purposes and Agendas of Film Theory (with screening)
Week 2: Classical Film Theory: Case Study: Realism (with screening)
Week 3: Screen Theory and Psychoanalysis: Case Study: Gender and Representation (with screening)
Week 4: Structuralist Film Theory: Case Study: Genre (with screening)
Week 5: Cognitive Film Theory: Case Study: Narrative (with screening)
Week 6: Can Film ‘Do’ Philosophy? From Stanley Cavell to Gilles Deleuze (with screening)
Week 7: Theories of Sensation and Embodied Viewing (with screening)
Week 8: Film Studies and Cultural Studies: Case Study: Stars and Stardom (with screening)
Week 9: Historical Reception Studies (with screening)
Week 10: Revisiting Traditions and Theories

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number N/A
Communication Students will be expected to contribute to in-class group discussions on the questions and concepts that inform different theories and traditions, and to present an assessed presentation on one of the module’s topics (at the beginning of the relevant seminar session).
Improving own Learning and Performance Throughout the module, students will be asked to critically reflect on their understanding of key theories and associated critical readings, as well as how their own research for their critical essay is progressing.
Information Technology Students will be encouraged to use the vast information resources within the library (such as e-journals and LexisNexis) within their preparatory work for sessions on the module.
Personal Development and Career planning Students will be encouraged to develop critical evaluative skills, presentation skills, engage in group work, develop their writing skills and reflect on the development of their learning throughout the module. These attributes will feed into their development as effective academic writers and researchers, which will be particularly suited for an academic career or a career within the field of media arts.
Problem solving Students will need to think about the ways in which film has been, and continues to be, theorized and conceptualized within a range of different theoretical traditions, and to compare and to critically evaluate such approaches (through application to film texts and other related materials).
Research skills This element is developed through students' own critical investigations into written and audiovisual material that they can bring to bear upon the module and their assignments.
Subject Specific Skills
Team work The module teaching sessions will encourage students to work together as a group, in order to share and negotiate ideas and opinions on relevant readings and their potential application to film texts and other relevant materials.

Reading List

Recommended Text
Aitken, Ian (2001) European Film Theory and Cinema: A Critical Introduction Edinburgh University Press Primo search Bordwell, David and Carroll, Noel (1996) Post-Theory: Reconstructing Film Studies University of Wisconsin Press Primo search Collins Jim, Hilary Radner and Ava Preacher Collins (eds) (1993) Film Theory Goes to the Movies Routledge Primo search Elsaesser, Thomas and Malte Hagener (2010) Film Theory: An Introduction Through the Senses New York: Routledge Primo search Elsaesser, Thomas and Warren Buckland (2002) Studying Contemporary American Film: A Guide to Movie Analysis London: Arnold Primo search Gledhill, Christine and Linda Williams (eds) (2000) Reinventing Film Studies London: Arnold Primo search Grieveson, Lee and Haidee Wasson (eds) (2008) Inventing Film Studies Duke University Press Primo search Hill, John and Pamela Church Gibson (eds) (1997) The Oxford Guide to Film Studies Oxford University Press Primo search Hollows, Joanne and Mark Jancovich (eds) (1995) Approaches to Popular Film Manchester University Press Primo search Hollows, Joanne, Peter Hutchings and Mark Jancovich (eds) (1995) The Film Studies Reader London: Arnold Primo search Lapsley, Robert and Michael Westlake (2006) Film Theory: An Introduction 2ned edition Manchester University Press Primo search Miller, Toby and Robert Stam (eds) (1999) A Companion to Film Theory Blackwell Primo search Miller, Toby and Robert Stam (eds) (2000) Film Theory: An Anthology Blackwell Primo search Sobchack, Vivian (1991) The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience Princeton University Press Primo search Staiger, Janet (2005) Media Reception Studies New York University Press Primo search Stam, Robert, Robert Burgoyne an Sandy Flitterman-Lewis (eds) (1992) New Vocabularies in Film Semiotics: Structuralism, Post-structuralism and Beyond London: Routledge Primo search Turner, Graeme (1988) Film as Social Practice London: Routledge Primo search Wartenberg, Thomas E. and Angela Curran (eds) (2005) The Philosophy of Film: Intoductory Texts and Readings Blackwell Primo search


This module is at CQFW Level 7