Theoretical Perspectives on Film module (EN31027)

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Module code


  • Level 3
  • Semester 2
  • English - School of Humanities
  • Coursework 100%
  • NEW Film Studies module


This new module builds on the existing provision of Level 1 and Level 2 film courses, complementing the historical and formalist approaches with a survey of theoretical movements from early cinema to the modern day. The first half of the module will engage with writings on the evolution of cinematic style; the second half will explore cinema's relationship to broader issues such as feminism, race, and embodiment in the age of new media. In pairing theoretical texts with representative films, the course will encourage reflection on the critical practice of film spectatorship itself.


Dr Ana Salzberg


This module will be taught by one weekly seminar (two hours) and lecture (one hour), with two film screenings per week.
Assessments will develop and test skills in close analysis, contextual analysis, independent research, and recall of key ideas and concepts.  Oral participation, both individually and in group work.


Coursework makes up 100% of the assessment, as follows:

  • Fortnightly Journal (50%)
  • Research Essay: 3,500 words (50%)


Content will engage with a range of film theorists, with works read alongside representative films:

Tom Gunning, "An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator" (1989); selected Lumiere Brothers films and Way Down East (D.W. Griffith, 1920)

Sergei Eisenstein, "The Dramaturgy of Film Form [The Dialectical Approach to Film Form]" (1929) and Vsevolod Pudovkin, "On Editing" (1926); Strike (Eisenstein, 1925) and Mother (Pudovkin, 1926)

Erwin Panofsky, "Style and Medium in the Motion Pictures" (1934); Prix de Beaute (Genina, 1930) and The Broadway Melody of 1929 (Beaumont, 1929)

Bela Balasz, "The Close-up" and "The Face of Man" (1945); Queen Christina (Mamoulian, 1933) and Poor Cow (Loach, 1967)

Natalie Kalmus, "Color Consciousness" (1935); The Women (Cukor, 1938) and Written on the Wind (Sirk, 1956)

Andre Bazin, "The Ontology of the Photographic Image" (1945), "The Myth of Total Cinema" (1946), "De Sica: Metteur-en-scene" (1953); La Bete Humaine (Renoir, 1938) and Shoeshine (De Sica, 1946)

Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" (1935); Show People (Vidor, 1928) and Contempt (Godard, 1963)

Christian Metz, "Identification, Mirror", "The Passion for Perceiving", "Disavowal, Fetishism" (1975); Leave Her to Heaven (Stahl, 1945) and Vertigo (Hitchcock, 1958)

Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" (1975); Baby Face (Green, 1933) and The Piano (Campion, 1995)

Manthia Diawara, "Black Spectatorship: Problems of Identification and Resistance" (1988); The Color Purple (Spielberg, 1985) and Bamboozled (Lee, 2000)

Selections from Laura U. Marks, Vivian Sobchack; Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Lewin, 1951) and The Fighter (Russell, 2010)

Lev Manovich, "[Excerpt] The Language of New Media"; SimOne (Niccol, 2002) and Russian Ark (Sokurov, 2002)

Readings will be available in Braudy and Cohen anthology Film Theory and Criticism [7th edition], 2009; three sets of readings will be posted on the VLE.

Access the online reading list system

Module Aims

The aims of the module will:

  • to offer a historical survey of key issues in film theory, from early cinema to new media,
  • to trace the evolution of theoretical perspectives on topics such as cinematic style and spectatorship,
  • to examine the relationship between theoretical texts and representative films across eras and national traditions,
  • to explore how historical conditions of filmmaking influence theoretical concerns.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should have acquired:

  • knowledge of the historical trajectory of film theory, from early cinema to new media,
  • the ability to apply a range of theoretical perspectives to representative films,
  • skills in identifying the key elements of theoretical movements,
  • the capacity to reflect on the critical practice of spectatorship itself.