Module Aims This module introduces students to the histories, discourses, and controversies surrounding cinema’s capacity to construct or even “write” history. It also explores select issues in the wider historiography of film and media

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History and Film (HI978)
Course Director: J. Smyth, Humanities Building, H3.28


Core Module

Time and place: Term 1, normally Tuesdays 10-12 in individual tutors’ offices unless otherwise specified. Please contact the week’s module tutor to confirm time.

Module Aims

This module introduces students to the histories, discourses, and controversies surrounding cinema’s capacity to construct or even “write” history. It also explores select issues in the wider historiography of film and media. Students will probe issues in authorship, genre, narration, censorship, and reception, exploring traditions and innovations in historical filmmaking from Hollywood, Europe, Latin America, and Asia.


Intended Learning Outcomes

Students will analyze different national and transnational approaches to constructing the past from the early sound era to the present. Each seminar will discuss a different key film, its production history and its wider historical contexts and controversies.

Week 1: Film, History, and Historiography
Seminar tutor: Dr. J. E. Smyth


Key films: Young Mr. Lincoln (1939)

Citizen Kane (1941)


Robert Rosenstone, "History in Images/History in Words" (1988); Hayden White, "Historiography and Historiophoty" (1988)

And in the library, skim Marc Ferro, Film History (1988); Robert Rosenstone, History on Film/Film on History (2006); Robert Sklar, Movie-Made America (1975); David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art (1979)

On Young Mr. Lincoln (1939):

Key: Cahiers du cinéma, “Collective Text on John Ford’s Young Mr. Lincoln” (1970)

And on Citizen Kane, suggested reading:

Ronald Gottesman, ed., Focus on "Citizen Kane" (1996); Robert Carringer, "Rosebud: Dead or Alive" (1976); Robert Carringer, The Making of Citizen Kane (1984); J. E. Smyth, Reconstructing American Historical Cinema (2006), ch 11; Laura Mulvey, Citizen Kane (1992)

Seminar Questions:

What is history? What is historiography? What are the properties of a historical film? Why do historians and filmmakers seldom agree on the central concepts of history? What is meant by a “filmic writing of history” and is it possible?

Week 2: Authorship and Genre

Seminar tutor: Dr. J. E. Smyth


Films (see The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, 1962, and choose two others from the following list):

Stagecoach (1939), Duel in the Sun (1946), High Noon (1952), Shane (1953), The Searchers (1956), The Big Country (1958), The Wild Bunch (1969), The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976), Heaven’s Gate (1980), Unforgiven (1992), Gran Torino (2008)

Read: Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction,” (1936); Michel Foucault, “What is an Author?” in The Foucault Reader, ed. Paul Rabinow, (1991): 101-119; Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Raw and the Cooked (1964); Rick Altman, "A Semantic and Syntactic Approach to Film Genre" (1984) [available on JStor] and Film/Genre (1999); Andrew Sarris, The American Cinema: Directors and Directions (1968)

And specifically on the Western, look at Paul Seydor, Peckinpah: the Western Films (1985); Robert Warshow, “The Westerner,” in The Immediate Experience; John Cawelti, Six-Guns and Society (1971); Jim Kitses and Gregg Rickman, eds., The Western Reader (1999); Richard Slotkin, Gunfighter Nation (1992); Matthew Bernstein and Gaylyn Studlar, eds., John Ford Made Westerns (2002)


Define genre and myth and discuss how the concepts may be connected. What are the foundations of the Western film genre? What is the Western’s attitude toward history and the frontier (see Frederick Jackson Turner’s Frontier Thesis, 1893)? Who was John Ford? Why is he so important to the genre? Is he a historian? Why/not? How has Clint Eastwood impacted the construction of Western history? Why are directors considered the ultimate “authors” of films? Can you think of films and periods in film history when other types of filmmakers exerted authorial status? What role do screenwriters have in most histories of Hollywood cinema?

Week 3: Women’s Screen History: Content and Form
Seminar tutor: Dr. J. E. Smyth
Films: Julia (1977)

Carve Her Name with Pride (1958)

Historia Oficial (1985)
A Star is Born (1937)

Hiroshima, Mon Amour (1959)

The Piano (1993)

Meek’s Cutoff (2010)

Hannah Arendt (2012)
All read: Joan Wallach Scott, Gender and the Politics of History (1988)

Julia Kristeva, Intimate Revolt (2002)

Barbara McLean, Oral History with Tom Stempel (1971) [Handout, week 2]

Suggested additional sources:

Cari Beauchamp, Without Lying Down: Frances Marion and the Powerful Women of Early Hollywood (1998)

Dennis Bingham, Whose Lives Are They Anyway? (2010)

Ann Douglas, The Feminization of American Culture (1977)

Sherna Berger Gluck, Women’s Words: The Feminist Practice of Oral History (1991)

Amelie Hastie, Cupboards of Curiosity: Women, Recollection and Film History (2007)

Julie Des Jardins, Women and the Historical Profession in America (2003)

Julia Kristeva, New Maladies of the Soul (1995)

Susan E. Linville, Feminism, Film, Fascism: Women's Auto/biographical Film in Postwar Germany (1998)

Jessica Stites Mor, Transition Cinema: Political Filmmaking and the Argentine Left Since 1968 (2012);

Geetha Ramanathan, Feminist Auteurs: Reading Women’s Films (2006)

Ana Ros, The Post-Dictatorship Generation in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay: Collective Memory and Cultural Production (2012)

Robert Rosenstone and Constantin Parvelescu, eds., The Blackwell Companion to the Historical Film (2013)

Betty Smith, The Gender of History (1998)

Margaret Collins Weitz, Sisters in the Resistance (1995)

Hayden White, Metahistory (1973)
What is the history of women’s involvement in the film industry? Is historiography gendered? Is women’s historiography possible? If so, how would it differ in its aims and form from traditional historiography? How have filmmakers represented women’s history on screen? Do women’s biopics differ fundamentally from men’s?

Week 4: Archive and Interpretation
Seminar tutor: Dr. J. E. Smyth
All students will read Thomas Doherty, Hollywood and Hitler (2013) and Ben Urwand, The Collaboration (2013).
Consider also:

Matthew Bernstein, ed., Controlling Hollywood (1999)

Michael Birdwell, Celluloid Soldiers (1999)

Steven Carr, Hollywood and Anti-Semitism (2001)

Clayton Koppes and Greg Black, Hollywood Goes to War (1990)

Leonard Leff and Jerold Simmons, The Dame in the Kimono (2001)

Alf Lüdkte and Sebastian Jobs, eds., Unsettling History (2010)

John Sbardellati, J. Edgar Hoover Goes to the Movies (2012)

Questions: What are the principle archives for the study of motion picture history? What are the different materials that can be studied, and why are they useful? Compare Doherty and Urwand’s sources and how they are used. How did film censorship function in the 1930s and 1940s? How were international markets affected by different kinds of censorship? Did the Hollywood studios “collaborate” with the Nazis? Which films were considered “subversive” by US government officials during the 1930s and 1940s? What was the Dies Committee and what was its impact on Hollywood?

Week 5: Issues in Film and History
Seminar tutor: Dr. J. Smyth; time 12-2 H3.28



Intolerance (1916)

October (1927)

Russian Ark (2003)

Meek’s Cutoff (2010)
Please read all of Marcia Landy, Cinema and Counter-History (2015). Also suggested: D.W. Griffith, The Rise and Fall of Free Speech in America (1916) and Sergei Eisenstein, Film Form (1997).
Questions to consider:

  1. Account for Landy’s preoccupation with Deleuze as a framework for conceptualizing the relationship between film and history?

  2. Contrast the time and movement images and their attitudes toward history?

  3. Define and discuss Landy’s definition of ‘counter-history’.

  4. Discuss Landy’s attitudes toward historiography and film form in relation to the works of Griffith, Eisenstein, and Kelly Reichart.

Week 6: Reading Week—no seminars

Week 7: ‘Colonialism, Memory and Realism: The Case of Algeria’

Dr. Mary Harrod (H4.28)
Seminar: Tuesday time TBA
Viewing: Caché/Hidden (Michael Haneke, 2005)
Further viewing: La battaglia di Algeri/The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy/Algeria 1966)

- Max Silverman, ‘The Empire Looks Back,’ Screen, 48:2 (Summer 2007).

- I. A. Celik, ‘“I Wanted You to be Present”: Guilt and the History of Violence in Michael Haneke’s Caché.’ Cinema Journal, 50:1 (Fall 2010).

- Mike Wayne, ‘Realism: Eleven theses and some elaborations,’ Film International, vol. 4, no. 6, November 2006, pp. 6-13

Further reading:

- Libby Saxton, ‘Secrets and revelations: Off-screen space in Michael Haneke’s Caché (2005),’ Studies in French Cinema, 7:1 (2007).

- Christopher Sharrett, ‘Michael Haneke and the Discontents of European Culture,’ Framework 47:2 (Fall 2006).

- Catherine Wheatley, Caché (2012).

- Eric Dufour: Qu’est-ce-que le mal, Monsieur Haneke? (Paris: Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 2014). E-mail me for a copy.

- Max Silverman, 'The Violence of the Cut: Michael Haneke’s Caché and Cultural - Memory', French Cultural Studies 21: 1, February 2010, 57-65.

- Elizabeth Ezra and Jane Sillars (eds), The Caché DossierScreen, 48, 2 (Summer 2007)

- Catherine Wheatley, Michael Haneke's Cinema: the Ethic of the Image, New York: Berghahn Books, 2009

For The Battle of Algiers:

- Irene Bignardi, ‘The Making of the Battle of Algiers,’ Cineaste, vol. 25, no. 2, March 2000, pp. 14-22

- William Johnson, “Coming to Terms with Color,’ Film Quarterly, vol. 20, no. 1, Autumn 1966, pp. 2-22

Related viewing:

  • 17 Octobre 1961 Mémoires d'un massacre (video containing interviews of eye-witnesses of the massacres portrayed at the centre of Caché)

  • Jacques Panijel, Octobre à Paris (long-banned documentary, shot clandestinely at the time, investigating the events of October 1961, available in the TRC)

  • Yasmina Adi, Ici on noie les Algériens: 17 octobre 1961 (documentary film, available in the TRC, investigating the massacres)

* Week 8: ‘Queering China’

3-5 pm, Tuesday: Room H0.16
Seminar tutor: Dr. Howard Chiang



Stanley Kwan, Lan Yu (2001)

Ang Lee, The Wedding Banquet (1993)

David Cronenberg, M. Butterfly (1993)

Optional: Chen Kaige, Farewell, My Concubine (1993)
Seminar Questions

  1. What are the limitations of the concept of ‘Chinese-language films’?

  2. Is the notion of ‘the Sinophone’ as proposed by Shu-mei Shih a good substitute?

  3. What are the analytical limitations of the concept of the Sinophone?

  4. Why does history matter to our reading of Lan Yu (2001) and M. Butterfly (1993)?

  5. Are gender and sexuality useful categories of analysis?

  6. In what ways do the critiques of Orientalism and Sinocentricism relate to the theme of queerness in these films?

  7. Is Lan Yu (2001) or The Wedding Banquet (1993) a Sinophone film?

Core Readings

  • Song Hwee Lim, “Screening Homosexuality,” in Celluloid Comrades: Representations of Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Chinese Cinemas (University of Hawaii Press, 2006), 19-40.

  • David Eng, “The Queer Space of China: Expressive Desire in Stanley Kwan’s Lan Yu,” positions: east asia cultures critique 18, no. 2 (2010): 459-487.

  • Shu-mei Shih, “Globalization and Minoritization,” in Visuality and Identity: Sinophone Articulations across the Pacific (University of California Press, 2007), 40-61.

  • Rey Chow, “The Dream of a Butterfly,” in Human, All Too Human, ed. Diana Fuss (Routledge, 1996), 61-92.

Further Readings

Chris Berry and Mary Farquhar, China on Screen: Cinema and Nation (Columbia University Press, 2006).

Howard Chiang and Ari Larissa Heinrich, eds., Queer Sinophone Cultures (Routledge, 2013).

David Eng, Racial Castration: Managing Masculinity in Asian America (Duke University Press, 2001).

Dorinne Kondo, About Face: Performing Race in Fashion and Theatre (Routledge, 1997).

Helen Leung, Undercurrents: Queer Culture and Postcolonial Hong Kong (Hong Kong University Press, 2008).

Song Hwee Lim, Celluloid Comrades: Representations of Male Homosexuality in Contemporary Chinese Cinema (University of Hawaii Press, 2006).

Song Hwee Lim and Julian Ward, eds., The Chinese Cinema Book (British Film Institute, 2011).

Sheldon H. Lu, Chinese Modernity and Global Biopolitics: Studies in Literature and Visual Culture (University of Hawaii Press, 2007).

Sheldon H. Lu, ed., Transnational Chinese Cinemas: Identity, Nationhood, Gender (University of Hawaii Press, 1997).

Sheldon H. Lu and Emilie Yueh-yu Yeh, eds., Chinese-Language Film: Historiography, Poetics, Politics (University of Hawaii Press, 2005).

Shu-mei Shih, Visuality and Identity: Sinophone Articulations across the Pacific (University of California Press, 2007).

Shu-mei Shih, Chien-hsin Tsai, and Brian Bernards, eds., Sinophone Studies: A Critical Reader (Columbia University Press, 2013).

Audrey Yue and Olivia Khoo, eds., “From Diasporic to Sinophone Cinemas,” special issue, Journal of Chinese Cinemas 6, no. 1 (2012).

Audrey Yue and Olivia Khoo, eds., Sinophone Cinemas (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Yingjin Zhang, Chinese National Cinema (Routledge, 2004).

Yingjin Zhang, Cinema, Space, and Polylocality in a Globalizing China (University of Hawaii Press, 2010).

Yingjin Zhang, Screening China: Critical Interventions, Cinematic Reconfigurations, and the Transnational Imaginary in Contemporary Chinese Cinema (University of Michigan, 2002).

Week 9: Polish and Ukrainian ‘National’ Cinemas
Seminar Tutor: Professor C. Mick


Key film: With Fire and Sword (J. Hoffman, 1999)
Based on the novel by Henryk Sienkiewicz Ogniem i Mieczem (1884) English translation available here: With Fire and Sword
Recommended Reading

On the historical events depicted in the film

Norman Davies, God’s Playground. A History of Poland. Volume 1: The Origins to 1795. Revised edition (Oxford, 2005), chapter 14: VASA. The Swedish Connection (1587-1668), pp. 327-354
On the period of the publication of the novel

The novel itself (or part of it)

Norman Davies, Heart of Europe. The Past in Poland’s Present. New edition (Oxford, 2001), pp. 138-244, especially 145-152, 219-245
On the context in which the movie was made

Davies, Heart of Europe, pp. 407-433

On Polish cinema

Elzbieta Ostrowska, ‘The Ambivalent Polish Self in Novel and Film’, Slavic Review 70, no. 3 (2011), pp. 503-523

On the film itself

The Polish Review 45, no. 3 (2000), pp. 305-330 (articles by Ewa Hauser, Piotr Wandycz, Yuriy Tarnawsky, comments by students). The Polish Review is not in the library but can be accessed (free online reading) after having registered with JSTOR (not using the Warwick Library access).

Further Reading

Dorota Ostrowska and Malgorzata Radkiewicz, ’Poland: Costume Dramas: Cine-Televisual Alliances in the Socialist and Post-Socialist Poland, in European Cinemas in the Television Age’. Ed. by Dorota Ostrowska and Graham Roberts (Edinburgh, 2007; pp. 107-124

Women in Polish Cinema. Ed. by Ewa Mazierska and Elzbieta Ostrowska (New York, 2006)

Marek Haltof, Polish National Cinema (Oxford, 2000)

Ewa Mazierska, European Cinema and Intertextuality: History, Memory and Politics (Basingstoke, 2011)

Polish Cinema in a Transnational Context. Ed. by Ewa Mazierska and Michael Goddard (Cambridge, 2014)

Polish Cinema Now. Ed. by Mateusz Werner (London, 2010)

Week 10: Content, Form, and Spectatorship in Indian Cinema

Seminar Convenor: Dr. Aditya Sarkar (H0.25)


Key Films: Pyaasa ("The Thirsty One, dir. Guru Dutt, 1957). Please also look at Sturges’ Sullivan’s Travels (1941).
1. M. Madhava Prasad, "The Ideology of the Hindi Film: A Historical Construction."

2. Ravi Vasudevan, "The Melodramatic Public: Film Form and Spectatorship in Indian Cinema."

3. Ashish Rajadhyaksha and Paul Willemen, eds., "Encyclopaedia of Indian Cinema"

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