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Study information

Major Debates in Film Theory

Module titleMajor Debates in Film Theory
Module codeEAF1501
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Aidan Power ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will introduce you to some of the key debates and concepts in film theory.  It will investigate some questions about film that have emerged as the most pressing at different junctures in the history of film and of film studies.  Together, these ideas will allow you to build a conceptual framework for understanding film's relationship to reality, individuals, cultures and societies. It will demonstrate how theories can be productively applied to film analysis, and will develop your understanding of film and of the world around you, in new and diverse ways.

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • To introduce you to a series of major debates in film theory from issues of realism and film language to affect and queer theories.
  • To familiarise 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 analyse film texts in new and different ways.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Demonstrate an understanding of key interventions and developments in film theory
  • 2. Demonstrate skills in applying film theory to reading film as a visual medium

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Demonstrate skills in the research and evaluation of relevant critical and historical materials for the study of film
  • 4. Demonstrate an ability to interrelate texts and discourses specific to your own discipline with issues in the wider context of cultural and intellectual history
  • 5. Demonstrate an ability to understand and analyse relevant theoretical ideas, and to apply these ideas to films

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 6. Through seminar work and assessments demonstrate communication skills.
  • 7. Through assessments demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument and a capacity to write clear and correct prose
  • 8. Through discussion and assessment demonstrate a capacity to make critical use of secondary material, to question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to critically reflect on your own learning process
  • 9. Through the exam, demonstrate proficiency in research, and in the development, organization, and analysis of research material under pressure of time

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • The Properties of Film: what makes film film?
  • Frameworks of Meaning: how is meaning made and how do spectators experience film?
  • Reimaginings

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 Teaching11Weekly 1 hour lecture
Scheduled Learning and Teaching22Weekly 2 hour seminar
Scheduled Learning and Teaching11Two weekly half-hour introductions to screenings
Scheduled Learning and Teaching55Two weekly screenings
Guided independent study201Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Online writing tasksAverage total: 800-1200 words1-8Cohort 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
Essay602500 words1-8Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up.
Critical analysis 402000 words1-9Feedback sheet with 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
EssayEssay1-8Referral/deferral period
ExaminationExamination1-9Referral/deferral period
Module ParticipationRepeat study or mitigation1-8Referral/deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic 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.

Indicative Viewing:

  • Citizen Kane (dir. Orson Welles, 1941)
  • Persona (dir. Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
  • Rome, Open City (dir. Roberto Rossellini, 1945)
  • Parasite/Gisaengchung (Bong Joon Ho 2019)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

film theory, film philosophy

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


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Last revision date