Major Debates in Film Theory (EAF1501)

StaffDr Debra Ramsay - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module aims to introduce you to a series of major debates in film theory from issues of realism and film language to stardom and genre. The module will familiarize you with these theoretical approaches, situate them in the broader development of Film Studies as an academic discipline, and demonstrate how these theories might productively be applied to analyze film texts in new and different ways.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate an understanding of key interventions and developments in film theory (eg. realism, digital cinema, authorship, genre)
  • 2. demonstrate skills in applying film theory to reading film as a visual medium
  • 3. demonstrate an understanding of the significance of these theoretical approaches in the wider development of film studies as an academic discipline.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. demonstrate an ability to analyse film from different periods and to relate its concerns and its modes of expression to the creation of meaning within film and its surrounding texts
  • 5. demonstrate skills in the close formal, thematic, generic, and authorial analysis of different kinds of films
  • 6. demonstrate skills in the research and evaluation of relevant critical and historical materials for the study of film.
  • 7. demonstrate an ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to their own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 8. demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to films

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. through seminar work, group presentations, and final exam, demonstrate communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups.
  • 10. through essay-writing and final exam, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose.
  • 11. through research for seminars, essays, and final exam demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 12. through seminar discussion, essay writing, and final exam demonstrate a capacity to make critical use of secondary material, to question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to critically reflect on their own learning process
  • 13. through the final exam, demonstrate proficiency in research, and in the development, organization, and analysis of research material under pressure of time.

Syllabus plan

Block 1: The Nature of Film. Here we cover topics such as

  1. Introduction: Film and Theory

  2. What is cinema?  Film and language

  3. Ontology and Realism

  4. Digital Revolutions Part One: The Death of Cinema?

Block 2: Frameworks of Meaning. In this section we cover theoretical approaches such as

  1. Digital Revolutions Part Two: Convergence and Transmedia Narratives

  2. Film and the Culture Industries

  3. Ideology

Block 3: The Spectator. In this section we consider the different ways in which spectators might engage with film, such as

  1. Psychoanalysis

  2. Gender and Sexuality

  3. Affect

  4. Conclusion: Paratexts

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities11weekly 1 hour lecture
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22weekly 2 hour seminar
Scheduled learning and teaching activities11Two weekly half-hour introductions to screenings
Scheduled learning and teaching activities55two weekly screenings
Scheduled learning and teaching activities11one weekly 1 hour workshop - guided study group work
Guided independent study190Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Group presentation and seminar discussion20 minutes1-9, 11-12Cohort feedback in seminars with opportunity for office hours follow-up.

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay451500 words1-8, 10-12Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up.
Exam - Take-home paper: Group Wiki on a selected theory, compiled of individual, interrelated contributions of 1,000 words each454000 words (group and individual elements)1-8, 12-13Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up.
Seminar Participation10Continous1-9, 11-12Oral feedback from tutor and opportunity for office hours follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-8, 10-12Referral/deferral period
ExamExam1-8, 12-13Referral/deferral period
Seminar ParticipationSeminar Participation1-9, 11-12Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Indicative reading:


Braudy, Leo and Marshall Cohen eds. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. 7th edition. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.  2009. Print.


Gledhill, Christine and Linda Williams (eds). Reinventing Film Studies. London: Hodder-Headline Group, 2000.


Stam, Robert. Film Theory: An Introduction.  Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2000.


Stam, Robert and Toby Miller (eds). Film and Theory: An Anthology. Malden, Mass., USA, and Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, 2000.




Module has an active ELE page?


Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based and electronic resources:


Indicative Viewing:


Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles, 1941)


North by Northwest (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)


A Man Escaped  (dir. Robert Bresson, 1956)


District 9 (Dir. Neill Blomkamp, 2009)


Tout va Bien (dir. Jean-Luc Godard, 1972)


Lost in Translation (dir.Sofia Coppola, 2003)


Let the Right One In ["Låt den rätte komma in] (dir. Tomas Alfredson, 2008)


Persona (dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1966)


Fight Club (dir. David Fincher, 1999)


The Mirror [Zerkalo] (dir. Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975)

Available as distance learning?


Last revision date


Key words search

film theory debate film studies