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Core course - Strand 2: Topics in Film and Screen Studies

Details for courses starting in 2019/20 will be updated shortly, please see below the current years' information as an example of what you are likely to expect. 


Strand 2: Topics in Film and Screen Studies (2018/19)

Michaelmas term, Tuesdays, 2-4pm, weeks 1-8 (unless otherwise stated)


1. Narrative and Early Cinema

Dr. Maite Conde (

This seminar will examine early cinema, considering especially how the novelty displayed what Tom Gunning calls an ‘aesthetic of attractions’. The seminar will be divided into two parts: first we will explore questions of time and space in early films, as well as its links with wider contemporary cultures of display and entertainment, with scientific advances and technology and how these were part of the invention of modern life. We will also discuss how the aesthetics of attraction, rather than disappear, is manifested in more contemporary films, from the avant-garde to new digital movies. In the second part, the seminar will crucially consider what the very concept of early cinema itself raises about technologies of the body, and gender – specifically, we will consider the body and role of women in early films, including as spectators, and how this intersects with questions of time and space in early films and also raises further questions regarding ways of looking and early forms of spectatorship. We will end by considering how questions of gender are implicated in the development of narrative films.


  •  Early Cinema: Primitives and Pioneers (BFI)

Early films to be discussed in the seminar (these are all available on youtube):

  • The Corbert Fitzsimmons Fight (Enoch Rector, 1897)
  • Man with India Rubber Head (Melies, 1901)
  • The Big Swallow(James Williamson, 1901)
  • Sprinkler Sprinkled (Lumiere, 1895)
  • The Kiss  (William Heise, 1896)
  • The Gay Shoe Clerk (Edwin Porter, 1903)
  • The Teddy Bears (Edwin Porter, 1907)
  • Grandma’s Reading Glass (George Albert Smith, 1900)
  • The X-rays (George Albert Smith, 1896)
  • Mary Jane’s Mishap (George Albert Smith, 1903)
  • The Lonely Villa (Griffiths, 1909)



  • Balides, C. (1993). Scenarios of exposure in the practice of everyday life: Women in the cinema of attractions. Screen, Xxxiv(1), 19-37.
  • Bean, J., & Negra, D. (2009). A feminist reader in early cinema/ edited by Jennifer M. Bean and Diane Negra. Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Bruno, G., & American Council of Learned Societies. (1993). Streetwalking on a ruined map [electronic resource] : Cultural theory and the city films of Elvira Notari / Giuliana Bruno. (ACLS Humanities E-Book). Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press
  • Charney, L., Schwartz, V., & American Council of Learned Societies. (1995). Cinema and the invention of modern life / edited by Leo Charney, Vanessa R. Schwartz. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Tom Gunning, '"Now you See It, Now You Don't": The Temporality of the Cinema of Attractions' (pp. 41-50) 
  • Tom Gunning, 'The Cinema of Attractions: Early Film, its Spectator and the Avant-Garde', in Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, ed. Thomas Elsaesser (London: BFI Publishing, 1990), pp. 56-65.
  • Tom Gunning, 'Primitive Cinema: A Frame-Up? Or, the Trick's On Us,' in Early Cinema: Space, Frame, Narrative, ed. Thomas Elsaesser  (1990), pp. 95-103.
  • Miriam Hansen, Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991). 
  • Colin Harding and Simon Popple, 'Early responses to cinema', in In the Kingdom of Shadows: a Companion to Early Cinema (London; Madison, NJ: Cygnus Arts; Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1996), pp. 5-17.


Further Reading:

  • Auerbach, J., & American Council of Learned Societies. (2007). Body shots: Early cinema's incarnations / Jonathan Auerbach.  Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Cartwright, L. (1995). Screening the body : Tracing medicine's visual culture / Lisa Cartwright.Minneapolis, Minn. ; London: University of Minnesota Press.
  • Natale, S., Lefebvre, M., Gervais, B., Straw, W., & Vaillancourt, D. (2011). The Cinema of Exposure: Spiritualist Exposés, Technology, and the Dispositif of Early Cinema. Recherches Sémiotiques, 31(1-2-3), 113-129.



2. Adaptation, Intermediality and Transmedia Storytelling

Heather Inwood (

This seminar will explore ways of approaching cinema’s relationship to and dependency on other forms of media, drawing upon examples of East Asian cinema as our main case studies (alongside a recent Spielberg blockbuster!). By employing theoretical terms such as adaptation, intermediality, remediation and transmedia storytelling, scholars aim to understand how different media relate to each other and, in both conscious and unconscious, explicit and implicit ways, draw upon pre-existing cultural forms in the process of aesthetic (re)creation and storytelling. Some of the questions we will come across in this seminar include: is there such a thing as “pure” cinema? What is meant by a supposedly medium-specific term such as “visual media” and does it hold up to scrutiny? What kinds of things should we pay attention to when considering the ways in which cinema adapts or remediates other media and cultural texts – and how, in particular, can we move beyond the longstanding obsession with fidelity? How does the concept of intermediality differ from that of intertextuality? How is cinema today, as in the past, situated within a broader network or “mix” of media forms and what are the social, philosophical, aesthetic and commercial considerations that underpin such a network? And, finally, how should all of this affect the way we study cinema and other forms of screen-based media now and in the future?



  • Ringu (dir. Hideo Nakata, 1998)
  • Mystery (dir. Lou Ye, 2012)
  • Ready Player One (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2017)

Reading (theory)


  • Bazin, André. “Adaptation, or the Cinema as Digest.” In J. Naremore (ed), Film Adaptation, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2000, pp.19-27
  • Bolter, Jay David and Grusin, Richard A. “Introduction: The double logic of remediation.” In J.D. Bolter and R.A. Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1999: 2-15
  • Jenkins, Henry. “Transmedia Storytelling and Entertainment: An annotated syllabus,” Continuum: Journal of Media and Cultural Studies 24:6 (2010), 943-958
  • Mitchell, W.J.T. “There Are No Visual Media,” Journal of Visual Culture 4:2 (2005), 257-266
  • Rajewsky, Irena O. “Intermediality, Intertextuality, and Remediation: A Literary Perspective on Intermediality,” Intermédialités no.6 (2005), 43-64
  • Rippl, Gabriele. “Introduction.” In G. Rippl (ed), Handbook of Intermediality: Literature – Image – Sound – Music, Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter, 2015, pp. 1-31


Readings (case studies)


  • Donald, Stephanie Hemelryk. “Red Aesthetics, Intermediality and the Use of Posters in Chinese Cinema after 1949,” Asian Studies Review 38:4 (2014), 658-675
  • Inwood, Heather. “Screening the In-Between: Intermediality and Digital Dystopianism in Contemporary Chinese Film and Fiction,” Concentric: Literary and Culture Studies 43:2 (2017), 193-219
  • Rojas, Carlos. “Chapter 19: Viral Contagion in the Ringu Intertext.” In D. Miyao (ed), The Oxford Handbook of Japanese Cinema, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012, pp.416-437
  • Zeng, Li. “Adaptation as an Open Process: Dahua Fandom and the Reception of A Chinese Odyssey,” Adaptation 6:2 (2012), 187-201


3.  Cinema and Decolonization

Maite Conde (

This seminar will look at how debates, strategies and techniques key to cinematic modernism and the avant- garde were taken up and reworked by filmmakers seeking to decolonize film and society, and how they created innovative aesthetics to underpin a politics of liberation. We will explore how what has been called a Third Cinema continues to incite controversy in our own time for their depiction of political violence and its role in revolution, and/or for their representation of indigenous culture and subjectivity. Thinking of the cinema as a gun (Glauber Rocha), many of these films are marked by a sense of immediacy and political exigency that binds them to a certain revolutionary moments in history, and the aesthetics are marked by a teleology, that has been seen as linked to a particular geopolitics. Nevertheless, departing from this dominant viewpoint, the seminar will explore the legacy of Thurd Cinema in more recent political filmmaking, looking as an example at the British Black Audio Collective’s film Handsworth Songs, in order to challenge the assumed conflation between Third Cinema is the so-called Third World. Taking this into consideration will also consider how Third Cinema’s politics of decoloniality may be witnessed in other contemporary screen cultures, notably in video games and new media technology. Doing so allows us to rescue Third Cinema from what EP Thompson calls the condescension of posterity.



  • La hora de los hornos/The Hour of the Furnaces (Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, Argentina, 1968) – Part I only (90 mins)
  • Handsworth Songs (John Akomfrah, 1986)



  • Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, ‘Towards a Third Cinema: Notes and Experiences for the Development of a Cinema of Liberation in the Third World’, in Michael T. Martin, ed., New Latin American Cinema  [Vol. One: Theory, Practices and Transcontinental Articulations ] (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997), pp. 33-58. 
  • Teshome Gabriel, Third Cinema in Third World (UMI Research Press, Michigan).
  • Peter Wollen, ‘Godard and Counter Cinema,’ Movies and Methods Vol. 2, ed. Bill Nichols (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985). 
  • Wimal Dissanayake, Rethinking Third Cinema (New York: Routledge, 2003)
  • Jonathan Buchsbaum, ‘A Closer Look at Third Cinema’, in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 21:2 (2001), 153-66. 
  • Jim Pines and Paul Willemen, Questions of Third Cinema (London: BFI, 1999)
  • Paul Gilroy and Jim Pines (1988). "Handsworth Songs: Audiences/ Aesthetics/ Independence (interview with Black Audio Film Collective)". Framework35: 9–18.
  • Mike Wayne, Political Film: The Dialectics of Third Cinema (London, Pluto, 2001).
  • Gonzalo Frasca, Videogames of the Oppressed.
  • Souvik Mukherjee, Videogames and Postcolonialism: Empire Plays Back (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017).


Further Reading

  • Robert Stam, ‘The Hour of the Furnaces and the Two Avant-Gardes’, in Julianne Burton, ed., The Social Documentary in Latin America (Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1990), pp. 251-66.
  • Tomás Gutierrez Alea, ‘The Viewers’ Dialectic’ in Michael T. Martin, ed., New Latin American Cinema  [Vol. One: Theory, Practices and Transcontinental Articulations ] (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997), pp. 108-135. 
  • Frantz Fanon, ‘On Violence’, in The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox. New York: Grove Press, 2004.
  • Jorge Sanjinés, ‘Problems of Form and Content in Revolutionary Cinema’, in Michael T. Martin, ed., New Latin American Cinema [Vol. One: Theory, Practices and Transcontinental Articulations] (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1997), pp. 62-70.
  • Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972)
  • Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), especially pp. 248-91.

4. Contemporary Documentary Cinema: Reenactment and the Real

Laura McMahon (

While the instability of the category of the ‘real’ has shaped the history of documentary practice and its theorisations, this instability emerges via a particularly complex nexus of reenactment, fantasy and self-reflexivity in The Act of Killing (2012). How does this film invite us to reconsider documentary cinema’s relation to the representation of atrocity and trauma? What are the ethical implications of the film’s investments in fantasy and surrealism, and of its focus on the testimony of perpetrators rather than victims? And how might we read what Bill Nichols has identified as the film’s spiraling structure of irony, paradox and double binds? While addressing these questions, this seminar situates The Act of Killing in relation to an emerging strand of contemporary documentary cinema focusing on the perspective of the perpetrator, encompassing work by Rithy Panh, Errol Morris and others.


  • The Act of Killing (Joshua Oppenheimer and Christine Cynn, 2012)


Prescribed reading

  • Homay King, ‘Born Free? Repetition and Fantasy in The Act of Killing’, Film Quarterly, 67:2 (2013), 30-36.
  • Bill Nichols, ‘Irony, Paradox, and the Documentary: Double Meanings and Double Binds’, in Nichols, Speaking Truths with Film: Evidence, Ethics, Politics in Documentary (Oakland: University of California Press, 2016), pp. 164-180.
  • Bill Nichols, ‘Perpetrators, Trauma and Film’, in Nichols, Speaking Truths with Film, pp. 191-196.
  • Jacques Rancière,  ‘Documentary Fiction: Marker and the Fiction of Memory’, in Film Fables (Oxford: Berg, 2006), pp. 157-170.


Further reading

  • Dossier on The Act of Killing: Film Quarterly, 67:2 (2013), 8-56.
  • Joram Ten Brink and Joshua Oppenheimer (eds), Killer Images: Documentary Film, Memory, and the Performance of Violence (New York: Wallflower Press, 2012).
  • Elizabeth Cowie, Recording Reality, Desiring the Real (Minneapolis: Minnesota University Press, 2011).
  • Dominick LaCapra, Writing History, Writing Trauma (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998).
  • Raya Morag, Waltzing with Bashir: Perpetrator Trauma and Cinema (London: I.B. Tauris, 2013).
  • Thomas Patrick Pringle, ‘Documentary Animism: Material Politics and Sensory Ethics in The Act of Killing (2012)’, Journal of Film and Video, 67: 3-4 (2015), 24-41.


Further viewing

  • S-21, la machine de mort Khmère rouge/ S-21: The Khmer Rouge Killing Machine (Rithy Panh, 2003)
  • Standard Operating Procedure (Errol Morris, 2008)
  • L’Image manquante/ The Missing Picture (Rithy Panh, 2013)
  • The Look of Silence (Joshua Oppenheimer, 2014)
  • The Path of Blood (Jonathan Hacker, 2018)


5. Sound and Music

Ian Cross (

This seminar will explore the ways in which sound and music have been conceptualised and employed in cinema.  Significant (and often mutually resistant) strands in the literature will be surveyed and analyzed with specific reference to Carol Reed's The Third Man (1949) and Yuri Norstein's Tale of Tales (1979), which all students should experience prior to the class.


  • The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
  • Tale of Tales (Yuri Norstein, 1979)


On sound and music 


On The Third Man

  • Drazin, C. In search of The Third Man (London: Methuen, 1999).

On The Tale of Tales

  • Kitson, C. Yuri Norstein and Tale of Tales: an Animator's Journey. (Bloomington and Indianapolis, IN: Indiana University Press, 2005).


Further reading

On sound and music

On The Third Man

On The Tale of Tales


6. Zoom! Proximity, Distance and Scale in Cinema and Beyond

Steven Connor (

This session will consider the question of scale in cinema and screen media. What difference does it make that moving image is now often experienced on screens that are much smaller than we are rather than much larger, such that we enclose it rather than it enclosing us? We will look closely at the use of close-up and the meanings and functions of the dolly, zoom, and zolly, using it to explore the relation of cinema to the panoramic and the microscopic.


Prescribed Viewing

  • Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (1958)

Further Viewing

  • Samuel Beckett, Eh Joe (1965)
  • Michelangelo Antonioni, Blow Up (1966)
  • Michael Snow, Wavelength (1967)

Prescribed Reading

  • Béla Balázs, ‘The Face of Man’, in Theory of the Film (Characters and Growth of a New Art), trans. Edith Bone (London: Dennis Dobson, 1952), pp. 60-88
  • John Belton, The Bionic Eye: Zoom Aesthetics’,  Cinéaste, 9.1 (1980-1): 20-7
  • Gilles Deleuze, ‘The Affective Image: Face and Close Up’, in Cinema 1: The Movement-Image, trans.
  • Hugh Tomlinson and Barbara Hammerjam (London: Athlone Press, 1986), pp. 87-101
  • Jan Holmberg, ‘Closing In: Telescopes, Early Cinema, and the Technological Conditions of De-distancing’, in Moving Images: From Edison to the Webcam, ed. John Fullerton, and Astrid Söderbergh Widding (Sydney: John Libbey, 2000), pp. 83-96
  • Nicholas Rombes, ‘Mobile Viewing’ and ‘Small Screens’, in Cinema in the Digital Age (London and New York: Wallflower Press, 2009), pp. 65-6, 120-1


Further Reading

  • David Bordwell, ‘Expanding the Image and Compressing Depth’, On the History of Film Style, (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1997), pp. 237-53
  • David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, ‘The Mobile Frame’, in Film Art: An Introduction, 9th edn. (New York: McGraw-Hill, 2010), pp. 198-212
  • Paul Joannides, ‘The Aesthetics of the Zoom Lens’,  Sight and Sound, 40.1 (1970-1): 42
  • Barry Salt, Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis (London: Starword, 1983), pp. 226, 261-2 293, 313, 331, 333, 335-7, 349, 350


7. Geography and Film

 Matthew Gandy (

Prescribed viewing

  • Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

Prescribed reading

  • Bruno, Giuliana (1987) “Ramble city: postmodernism and Blade Runner,” _October_ 41 pp. 61–74.
  • Bukatman, Scott (1997) Blade Runner (London: British Film Institute).
  • Wollen, Peter (2002) “Blade Runner” in Paris Hollywood: writings on film (London and New York: Verso) pp. 123–33.
  • Yuen, Wong Kin (2000) “On the edge of spaces: Blade Runner, Ghost in the Shell, and Hong Kong cityscape,” Science Fiction Studies 27.

Further reading

  • Barber, Stephen (2002) Projected cities: cinema and urban space (London: Reaktion).
  • Bruno, Giuliana (1993) Streetwalking on a ruined map: cultural theory and the city films of Elvira Notari (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press).
  • Bruno, Giuliana (2002) Atlas of emotion (London and New York: Verso).
  • Bukatman Scott (1999 [1995]) “The artificial infinite: on special effects and the sublime,” in Kuhn, Annette (ed.) Alien zone II: the spaces of science-fiction cinema (London: Verso) pp. 249–275.
  • Jameson, Fredric (1982) “Progress vs. utopia; or, can we imagine the future?” Science Fiction Studies 9, pp. 147–58.
  • Jameson, Fredric (1992) The geopolitical aesthetic: cinema and space in the world system (Bloomington: Indiana University Press).
  • Lefebvre, Martin (2006) “Introduction” in Lefebvre, Martin (ed.) Landscape and film (London and New York: Routledge) pp. x–xxxi.
  • Lefebvre, Martin (2006) “Between setting and landscape in the cinema” in Lefebvre, Martin (ed.) Landscape and film (London and New York: Routledge) pp. 19–59.
  • Gandy, Matthew (2003) “Landscapes of deliquescence in Michelangelo Antonioni’s Red Desert,” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers 19, pp. 2 18–37.
  • Rhodes, John David (2007) Stupendous miserable city: Pasolini’s Rome (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press). See especially the introduction pp. ix–xxiii and chapter 4 “Pasolini, the peripheral sublime, and public housing” pp. 75–109.
  • Shiel, Mark (2012) Hollywood cinema and the real Los Angeles (London: Reaktion).
  • Steimatsky, Noa (2003) “From the air: a genealogy of Antonioni’ s modernism” in Turvey, R. and Allen, M. (eds.) Camera obscura / camera lucida (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press) pp. 183–214.
  • Wagner, Brigitta (2015) Berlin replayed: cinema and urban nostalgia in the post-wall era (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press).
  • Webber, A. and Wilson, E. (eds.) (2008) Cities in transition: the moving image and the modern metropolis (London: Wallflower). 

8. The Cinematic Exploration of Architectural Space 

Francois Penz ( and Nick Bullock

The seminar will consider how film can be used to explore changes in the architectural understanding of space that were central to emergence of the New Architecture after World War I. Starting with the explanation of architectural space offered by Sigfried Giedion's hugely popular Space Time and Architecture, the first half of the session will contrast the spatial composition of Charles Garnier's Opera House, Paris, one of the heroic celebrations of the Beaux Arts approach, with Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, one of the best-known paradigms of the New Architecture of the 1920s.

The second half of the seminar will concentrate on Architectures d'Aujourd'hui (1930), a collaboration between film-maker Pierre Chenal and Le Corbusier. It constitutes Le Corbusier's most tangible foray into film-making and highlights the crucial contribution he made to the field of Cinema and Architecture as one of the first examples of 'narrative expressive space'. This will be illustrated by the analysis of the 'promenade architecturale' scene in the Villa Savoye.


Set Reading:

Further Reading:

  • Tim Benton. The Villas of Le Corbusier 1920-1930 (New Haven & London: Yale University Press, 1987), Chapter 2, pp. 43-82 & Chapter 4, pp. 144-217.
  • David van Zanten, 'Architectural Composition at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts from Charles Percier to Charles Garnier', in The Architecture of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, ed. Arthur Drexler (London: Secker & Warburg, 1977), pp. 111-323.
  • Sigfried Giedion, Space Time and Architecture: The Growth of a New Tradition (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1941)
  • Stephen Heath, 'Narrative Space' in Questions of Cinema (Indiana Press, 1981), pp. 19-75.





Screenings and Events

Ironies of Web 2.0

2 May 2019

Ironies of Web 2.0 Professor Damon Young Film & Screen Studies MPhil Conference Monday May 6th at 6pm in the McCrum Lecture Theatre, Corpus Christi College Keynote Lecture Contemporary media cultures evince a crisis of authorial perspective, experienced as a collapse of the distinction between sincerity and satire...

Vertigo Effects: Film, Flight, and Simulation Sickness

1 May 2019

Vertigo Effects: Film, Flight, and Simulation Sickness Dr Patrick Ellis Georgia Institute of Technology 4pm, Wednesday 8th May 2019 McCrum Lecture Theatre, Corpus Christi College One of the first media pathologies associated with cinema was “camera sickness,” a vestibular malady that shared symptoms with other newly...

Todd Solondz: Filmmaker in Residence 2019

11 April 2019

We are delighted to announce that the award-winning independent American filmmaker Todd Solondz will be at the Centre for Film and Screen in early May of the Easter Term, 2019. Solondz is one of the leading figures in what has come to be known as ‘independent cinema’—cinema produced outside the Hollywood studio system—a...