Marriage, Seduction and Sex in Film-Philosophy module (PI31021)

On this page


Module code


Module description

This course will examine the idea of marriage, seduction and sex by juxtaposing a number of films with readings from various philosophers on the idea of marriage and/or sex. The films we will begin with will be drawn from the so-called ‘Remarriage Comedies’ (e.g. Bringing Up Baby) and ‘Melodramas of the Unknown Woman’ (e.g. Gaslight) , and then we will examine a number of more contemporary works (e.g. The Handmaiden, or the ‘San Junipero’ episode of Black Mirror). Its central philosophical figure will be Stanley Cavell, due to his seminal work on this topic, but other philosophers that we might read include: Simone de Beauvoir, Clare Chambers, Michel Foucault and Aristotle.

The focus will be on how films can revise philosophical ideas of sex and marriage, rather merely illustrate them. Rather than looking at how various theories are ‘applied’ to films, the course will hence examine how philosophical issues can be voiced from within a film and uncovered by philosophically inflected film criticism. Indeed, keeping in mind Cavell’s claim that the creation of film was as if meant for philosophy – reorienting everything philosophy has said about reality and its representation, about judgement and pleasure, about skepticism and transcendence – we will discuss how film is not separate from philosophy, but is, rather, a philosophical accompaniment to our everyday lives.


Dr Oisín Keohane


The assessed components on this module are:

  • 1 x 1,500 word film commentary (35%)
  • 1 x 3,500 word extended essay (65%)

Module aims

  • To approach film as an important source for philosophy, not only in its ability to provide new images for philosophy, but in its ability to create new philosophical concepts, or revise traditional ones.
  • To think about aesthetics in a way that pays attention to conceptual matters (e.g. what are the ontological conditions of film?), formal matters (e.g. ‘what is the style of a Cukor film?’), and socio-historical matters (e.g. ‘in what ways does the Motion Picture Production Code of 1934 affect films?).
  • To understand the diverse elements of film appreciation (including: style; performance; mise en scène; camera movement; music; lighting; costume; narrative; color; dialogue; genre etc.).
  • To reflect on one’s prose style and the role of prose style in film criticism and film-philosophy more generally.

Intended learning outcomes

Knowledge and understanding

  • Students will become acquainted with major developments in film-philosophy, as well as feminism (both in and outside of film criticism).
  • Students will gain an ability to critically assess key concepts drawn from film-philosophy.

Subject-specific practical and intellectual skills and attributes

  • Students will acquire enhanced skills in the reading of philosophical texts and images.
  • Students’ capacities for critical thinking will be significantly enhanced.
  • Students will develop their skills in analysing and engaging with complex positions and arguments

Transferable, employability and enterprise skills and attributes

  • Development of the necessary skills to engage with unfamiliar material and applying these to new contemporary contexts.