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Study information

Introduction to Film History

Module titleIntroduction to Film History
Module codeEAF1504
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Aidan Power (Lecturer)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module will introduce you to key developments in the history of film and cinemagoing from pre and early cinema in the 1890s to around the 1960s. Through a series of case studies, the module introduces you to a range of key movements, trends and moments in international film history in countries such as Britain, Italy, Senegal, France, Japan, Germany, India and the USA. You will study a diverse range of film genres, forms and styles, including documentary, experimental and avant-garde filmmaking, short films and feature fiction films, and attention will be paid to the impact of changing technologies and social and political events in shaping film styles and film industries. A key focus on the module will be acquiring and practising the skills to ‘do film history’, and to you will think critically about the processes of writing histories. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

  • To study key case studies of film movements, genres and styles in the history of film from the 1890s to around the 1960s.
  • To pay attention to the international nature of film in countries such as Britain, Italy, France, Japan and Germany, India and the USA. Attention will also be paid to the history of experimental and avant-garde filmmaking.
  • To recognise the impact of changing technologies, and social and political events in shaping film styles and film industries.
  • To acquire and practise skills in ‘doing film history’, through, for example, work with primary sources in the Bill Douglas Centre for the History of Cinema and Popular Culture and the Media History Digital Library and to recognise the inevitably selective nature of almost all histories of film.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

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

  • 1. Demonstrate a critical appreciation of some of the principal concepts, methods and debates informing the study of film history
  • 2. Demonstrate an ability to analyse the form and content of particular film case studies
  • 3. Demonstrate an awareness of the ways in which films can be related to the historical contexts from which they emerged
  • 4. Demonstrate an understanding of different forms, traditions and styles of filmmaking in different national and international contexts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

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

  • 5. Demonstrate skills in the close 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 ideas, and to apply these ideas to films

ILO: Personal and key skills

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

  • 9. Through seminar work and group discussion, demonstrate communication skills, and an ability to work both individually and in groups
  • 10. Through essay-writing, 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 and essays, demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 12. Through research, seminar discussion, and essay writing demonstrate a capacity to question assumptions, to distinguish between fact and opinion, and to reflect critically on their own learning process

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:

  • Early Cinema and Issues of Film History
  • European and US Cinema in the 1910s
  • The USSR and Germany in the Early 1920s
  • Toward a Black Film Historiography
  • French Cinema in the 1920s
  • The Transition to Sound Cinema in Europe
  • Postwar Japan
  • Indian Cinema post-independence
  • Postcolonial Cinema

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
Essay plan1500 words1-8, 10-12Peer to Peer Feedback. Oral feedback from tutor and 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
Oral feedback from tutor and opportunity for office hours follow-up
Portfolio of short writing tasks45Total of 2000 words1-8, 10-12Feedback sheet with opportunity for office hours follow-up
Essay552500 words1-8, 10-12Feedback 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
Portfolio of short writing tasksEssay 2000 words1-8, 10-12Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay 2500 words1-8, 10-12Referral/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

Core reading:

  • Kristin Thompson and David Bordwell, Film History: An Introduction (McGraw Hill, various editions, including Kindle Edition 2018)
  • Robert C. Allen and Douglas Gomery, Film History: Theory and Practice (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1985)
  • Geoffrey Nowell-Smith (ed), The Oxford History of World Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996)

Core viewing:

  • Early films by Edison, Lumiere, Paul, Méliès, Pathé, Alice Guy Blaché, and others.
  • Selection of films from Kino Lorber DVD: Pioneers: First Women Filmmakers
  • Body and Soul (Oscar Micheaux; US, 1925
  • Strike (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1924)
  • Nosferatu (Friedrich Mumau, Ger. 1922)
  • M (Fritz Lang, Ger. 1931)
  • Mandabi (Ousmane Sembène, 1968)
  • The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966)
  • Sansho Dayu (Sansho the Bailiff) (Kenji Mizoguchi, Japan, 1954)
  • Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Indicative learning resources - Other resources

Key words search

film, history, cinemagoing, social history, historiography, early cinema, silent cinema, film and technology, German Expressionism, Soviet Montage, Indian Cinema, Japanese Cinema, British Cinema

Credit value30
Module ECTS


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