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FI352-15 Film History and Methods

SCAPVC - Film & Television Studies
Undergraduate Level 3
Module leader
Matt Denny
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
100% coursework
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

This module will focus on film and history, exploring the various ways film texts have been analysed as reflecting social and cultural historical moments, filmmaking movements of particular eras, and how films have historicised individuals and events. There are many ways to ‘do’ film history and this term will not be an exhaustive survey of the history of cinema. Instead, it will offer some key contexts, methodologies, and traditions that have formed the wide-ranging study of film and history.

The exact content of the module in any given year will depend on the expertise and research interests of the module convenor.

The following is one example, divided into three parts:

  • Part I will consider how cinema has evolved in selective eras with an emphasis on periods of revision and rebirth (such as the French New Wave and British New Wave movements);
  • Part II will investigate how history intersects with theoretical concepts in Film Studies, such as national cinema (Bollywood) and genre or stardom;
  • Part III will examine film as a historical object, representing specific people and eras through the study of filmic examples of the Civil Rights era in 1960’s America.

Module web page

Module aims
  • To provide an appreciation of film history through important eras
  • To understand how to methodologically study film and history
  • To provide the means for students to engage with key theorists and key texts in relation to film and history
  • To access some of the traditions that have formed the study of film and history
Outline syllabus

This is an indicative module outline only to give an indication of the sort of topics that may be covered. Actual sessions held may differ.

Week 1: Film and History: Approaches and Methodologies
Film: M (Fritz Lang, 1931)

Part I: Eras of Revision and Rebirth

Week 2: French New Wave
Film: The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)

Week 3: British New Wave
Film: A Touch of Honey (Tony Richardson, 1961)

Part II: Theory and Concepts

Week 4: History and National Cinema: Indian Cinema
Film: Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair, 2001)

Week 5: History and Genre: Heritage Cinema
Film: Room With a View (James Ivory, 1985)

Week 6: Reading Week

Week 7: History and Hollywood Studios: Disney
Film: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (David Hand and all, 1937)

Part III: Film as History: Civil Rights Era

Week 8: The Defiant Ones (Stanley Kramer, 1958)

Week 9: Mississippi Burning (Alan Parker, 1988)

Week 10: Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2015)

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students should be able to:

  • Demonstrate knowledge of the development of film history as a way to study film
  • Identify key theorists and key texts in film history
  • Consider social and cultural history in relation to film
  • Assess film history through key theoretical debates about film and history
  • Understand the diversity of film history studies
Indicative reading list

Andrew, Dudley (1998) ‘Film and History’ in Hill, John and Pamela Church Gibson (eds.) The Oxford Guide to Film Studies (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press), pp. 176-189.

Chapman, James, Mark Glancy and Sue Harper (eds.) (2007) The New Film History: Sources, Methods, Approaches (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan)

Cook, Pam (ed) (2008) The Cinema Book, 2nd Edition (London: BFI)

Cripps, Thomas (1993) Making Movies Black: The Hollywood Message Movie from World War II to the Civil Rights Era (New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Grainge, Paul, Jancovish, Mark and Monteith, Sharon (2007) Film Histories: An Introduction and Reader (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press)

Higson, Andrew (2006) ‘Re-presenting the National Past: Nostalgia and Pastiche in the Heritage Film’ in Friedman, Lester (ed.) Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism, 2nd Edition (London and New York: Wallflower), pp. 91-109.

Kracauer, Siegfried (1947) From Caligari to Hitler (Princeton: Princeton University Press)

Landy, Marcia (ed.) (2001) The Historical Film: History and Memory in Media (London: Athlone Press)

Lay, Samantha (2002) ‘1950s and 1960s: Social Problems and Kitchen Sinks’ in British Social Realism: From Documentary to Brit Grit (London: Wallflower), pp. 55-69.

Letort, Delphine (2019) ‘The Historical Record and the American Imaginary: Adapting History in Selma’, Black Camera 10:2, pp. 195-210.

Monk, Claire (2002) ‘The British Heritage-Film Debate Revisited’ in Monk, Claire and Sargeant, Alexander (eds.) British Historical Cinema. London and New York: Routledge, pp. 176-178.

Murphy, Robert (2014) ‘New Morning: Optimism and Resilience in Tony Richardson’s A Taste of Honey and The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner’, Journal of British Cinema and Television 11:2/3, pp. 378-396.

Nowell-Smith, Geoffrey (1996) The Oxford History of World Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press)

Pallant, Chris (2011) Demystifying Disney: A History of Disney Feature Animation (London: Bloomsbury)

Strachan, Ian Gregory and Mia Mask (eds.) (2015) Poitier Revisited: Reconsidering a Black Icon in the Obama Age (New York and London: Bloomsbury)

Thompson, Kristin and Bordwell, David (2010) Film History: An Introduction. (New York: McGraw-Hill)

Wells, Paul (1998) Understanding Animation (London: Routledge)

Yeakey, Lamont H. (2019) ‘Introduction: The Film and History of Selma, Alabama, 1965’, Black Camera 10: 2, pp. 159-183.

View reading list on Talis Aspire

Subject specific skills

This module develops skills of audio-visual literacy, through historical and textual analysis of the moving image. It develops the student's understanding of historical frameworks that have been relevant to cinema.

Transferable skills

critical and analytical thinking
independent research skills
clarity and effectiveness of communication- written and oral
accurate and persuasive writing
audio-visual literacy

Study time

Type Required
Lectures 9 sessions of 1 hour (6%)
Seminars 9 sessions of 1 hour (6%)
Other activity 18 hours (12%)
Placement 114 hours (76%)
Total 150 hours
Private study description

No private study requirements defined for this module.

Other activity description

Weekly in class screenings


No further costs have been identified for this module.

You must pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group A1
Weighting Study time
Essay 1 40% 60 hours

Essay 1 will focus on the first few weeks of the module. It will focus on the films/topics covered in those weeks with the students writing, specifically, on one of the films.

Essay 2 60% 90 hours

Essay 2 will focus on the conceptual weeks in the second part of the module. There will be a list of questions that students can choose from and these will be distributed in the second pard of the module. This essay will allow students to focus on more than one film/topic/subject, if they choose.

Feedback on assessment

Written feedback sheets and annotated essays

Post-requisite modules

If you pass this module, you can take:

  • FI362-15 Transnational Action Cinema (Finalist Option)
  • FI358-15 The Art of Animation
  • FI208-15 Silent Cinema
  • FI262-15 Transnational Action Cinema (Year 2 Option)
  • FI364-15 Film Seriality and Franchising
  • FI350-15 Television History and Criticism
  • FI347-15 Film and TV Stardom
  • FI209-15 Television History and Criticism
  • FI204-15 World Cinema
  • FI249-15 Hollywood Cinema: History, Theory, Industry


This module is Core for:

  • Year 1 of UFRA-R1WA Undergraduate French with Film Studies
  • Year 1 of UGEA-RP33 Undergraduate German with Film Studies
  • Year 1 of UHPA-RP43 Undergraduate Hispanic Studies with Film Studies
  • Year 1 of UITA-R3W5 Undergraduate Italian with Film Studies