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FI355-15 Film Aesthetics 1

SCAPVC - Film & Television Studies
Undergraduate Level 3
Module leader
James MacDowell
Credit value
Module duration
10 weeks
Study location
University of Warwick main campus, Coventry
Introductory description

Film Aesthetics approaches film first and foremost as art, and lets you grapple with the fascinating questions raised by doing so. The module considers how key, longstanding problems in the philosophy and sociology of art might apply to the medium of film, as well as aesthetic issues that seem to be raised by audiovisual media in particular.

Module aims

To equip students with the ability to formulate nuanced, well-evidenced answers to questions such as:

  • What role might inferences about intention play in the way we interpret and evaluate films and audiovisual media?
  • Are some interpretations of films more justifiable than others? Why or why not?
  • Are some evaluations of films more justifiable than others? Why or why not?
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.

SECTION 1: Are some evaluations better than others?

Week 1: Lamarque, Peter (2009) ‘Artistic Value’, in Central Issues of Philosophy, John Shand (ed), Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 231-243.

Week 2: Durgnat, Raymond (1976) ‘The Mongrel Muse’, in Durgnat on Film. London: Faber & Faber, 17–28.

Week 3: Beardsley, Monroe (1958) ‘Critical Evaluation: Reasons and Judgements’, in Aesthetics: Problems in the Philosophy of Criticism (Second Edition, 1981), Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 454-99

Week 4: Lyas, Colin & Robert Stecker (2009) ‘Intention and Interpretation’, in A Companion to Aesthetics (Second Edition), Stephen Davies, ‎Kathleen Marie Higgins, ‎Robert Hopkins, Robert Stecker, David E. Cooper, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 366-9.

SECTION 2: Are some interpretations better than others?

Week 5: Eco, Umberto. (1992) ‘Between Author and Text’, in Collini, Stefan (ed), Interpretation and Overinterpretation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 67–88.

Week 7: Stecker, Robert (2009) ‘Meaning Constructivism’ in A Companion to Aesthetics (Second Edition), Stephen Davies, ‎Kathleen Marie Higgins, ‎Robert Hopkins, Robert Stecker, David E. Cooper, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 418-21.

Week 8: Shusterman, Richard (2009) ‘Popular Art’, in A Companion to Aesthetics (Second Edition), Stephen Davies, ‎Kathleen Marie Higgins, ‎Robert Hopkins, Robert Stecker, David E. Cooper, Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 476-8.

SECTION 3: Medium specificity and the evaluation of television

Week 9: Frith, Simon. (1996) ‘The Value Problem in Cultural Studies’, in Performing Rites: on the Value of Popular Music, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 3-20.

Week 10: Jaramillo, Deborah C. ‘Rescuing television from “the cinematic”: The perils of dismissing television style’, in: Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock (eds), Television Aesthetics and Style (New York: Bloomsbury Academic, 2013), 67-75.

Learning outcomes

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

  • (1) Be familiar with debates surrounding several key issues in the field of aesthetics
  • (2) Be familiar with some of the ways in which such debates might apply to audiovisual media specifically
  • (3) Have improved their skills in precisely analysing style to mount interpretations and evaluations
Research element

Both essay and seen-examination options will require research.


The history, aesthetics and sociology of art.


To varying degrees both readings and screenings will originate from a range of national film/art cultures.

Subject specific skills

This module develops skills of audio-visual literacy, through close textual and/or contextual analysis in relation to the moving image and sound. It may also develops understandings of historical, theoretical and conceptual frameworks relevant to screen arts and cultures.

Transferable skills

Critical and analytical thinking; independent research skills; team work; clarity and effectiveness of communication, oral and written; accurate, concise 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%)
Private study 114 hours (76%)
Total 150 hours
Private study description

Reading and preparation time for seminars, plus research time for essay/seen examination.

Other activity description



Category Description Funded by Cost to student
Books and learning materials Department $0.00

You must pass all assessment components to pass the module.

Assessment group A
Weighting Study time
Written Assignment (5000 words) 100% 100 hours

Choice between 1 x 5000 word essay or 1 x 2 hour centrally timetabled seen examination

Assessment group B
Weighting Study time
Online Examination 100%
  • Online examination: No Answerbook required
Feedback on assessment

Tabula feedback plus optional tutorial

Past exam papers for FI355


This module is Core for:

  • Year 3 of UFIA-W620 Undergraduate Film Studies
  • Year 4 of UFIA-W621 Undergraduate Film Studies (with Year Abroad)
  • Year 3 of UFIA-QW25 Undergraduate Film and Literature
  • Year 4 of UFIA-QW26 Undergraduate Film and Literature (with Study Abroad)

This module is Core optional for:

  • Year 4 of UHPA-RP43 Undergraduate Hispanic Studies with Film Studies

This module is Core option list A for:

  • Year 4 of UGEA-RP33 Undergraduate German with Film Studies

This module is Option list A for:

  • Year 4 of UFRA-R1WA Undergraduate French with Film Studies