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

Please note that information may be subject to minor changes 

Strand 2: Topics in Film and Screen Studies

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


1. Early Cinema

Dr Marco Ladd (

This seminar will investigate early cinema from a range of perspectives. First, we’ll consider the multiple and overlapping ways in which nineteenth century culture (popular or scientific, technological or spectacular, visual or sonic, and so on) shaped the forms and functions of the new medium. We’ll then examine Tom Gunning’s well-known concept of the “cinema of attractions” in some depth, thinking through its utility in analysing a range of films from the period 1895–1910: what are the stakes in placing the birth of narrative cinema earlier or later? Finally, we’ll turn to certain genres and exhibition practices—principally the illustrated song and film lecturing—that force us to engage with both the alterity of the early film culture and the importance of considering sound as a significant component of early film aesthetics, even from the very beginnings of “silent” cinema.


All films available on YouTube. 


Altman, Rick. Silent Film Sound (New York: Columbia University Press, 2004):

  • “Lecture Logic”, 55–72
  • “The Nickelodeon Program”, 181–201.

Charney, Leo, and Vanessa R. Schwartz. “Introduction,” in Cinema and the Invention of Modern Life, ed. Leo Charney, Vanessa R. Schwartz (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), 1–15.

Lastra, James. Sound Technology and the American Cinema: Perception, Representation, Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000), 61–91.

Gunning, Tom. ‘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), 56–65.

––––. ‘“Now you See It, Now You Don’t”: The Temporality of the Cinema of Attractions’, in Silent Film, ed. Richard Abel (London: The Athlone Press, 1996), 71–84.

Musser, Charles. ‘A Cinema of Contemplation, A Cinema of Discernment: Spectatorship, Intertextuality and Attractions in the 1890s’, in The Cinema of Attractions Reloaded, ed. Wanda Strauven (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2006), 159–79.

Further reading

Abel, Richard. ‘That Most American of Attractions, the Illustrated Song’, in The Sounds of Early Cinema, ed. Richard Abel and Rick Altman (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press, 2001), 143–54.

Garncarz, Joseph. ‘The European Fairground Cinema: (Re)defining and (Re)contextualizing the “Cinema of Attractions”’, in A Companion to Early Cinema, ed. André Gaudreault, Nicolas Dulac, and Santiago Hidalgo (London: Wiley Blackwell, 2012), 317–33.

Hansen, Miriam. Babel and Babylon: Spectatorship in American Silent Film (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1991).

Kember, Joe. Marketing Modernity: Victorian Popular Shows and Early Cinema (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2009).

Singer, Ben. Melodrama and Modernity: Early Sensational Cinema and Its Contexts (New York: Columbia University Press, 2001).

Waller, Gregory. ‘Another Audience: Black Moviegoing from 1907 to 1916,’ in Exhibition, The Film Reader, ed. Ina Rae Hark (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 31–40.


2. Media Archaeology

Caroline Bassett (

This seminar will explore Media Archaeology, understood as a theoretical intervention into media history and as a methodology for undertaking research into contemporary techno-cultural forms and practices. Media archaeology has taken a distinct form in film studies, notably via the work of Thomas Elsaesser. But it has also developed in expansive ways in associated fields, becoming increasingly influential in software studies, critical medium theory, and code studies. This session explores the claims of media archaeology through a consideration of Kittler as a representative of early German medium theory, through an engagement with contemporary media archaeology drawing on Wolfgang Ernst and Jussi Parikka’s definitional work, and by exploring intersections between media archaeological approaches and critical digital and code studies (via the work of Wendy Chun). Finally, we will consider what these medium specific approaches enable – and what they foreclose on. Does the focus on the materiality of media systems and the claim to provide a form of post-ideological analysis found in some of this work mean matters of race, class, and gender bias, are systematically excluded from consideration?


  • Wolfgang Ernst, Digital Memory and the Archive, Jussi Parikka, ed. (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2013). Read: ‘Introduction’ (by Jussi Parikka) and Chapter 5, ‘Between Real Time and Memory on Demand’
  • Kittler Friedrich, ‘Thinking Colours and/or Machines’, Theory, Culture & Society, Vol 23 (7-8): 39 – 50 (2006).
  • Thomas Elsaesser, ‘Media Archaeology as Symptom’, New Review of Film and Television Studies, Vol 14, 2016, issue 2.
  • Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, ‘On Sourcery or Code as Fetish’, Configurations, Volume 16, Number 3, Fall, (2008), pp. 299-324.


Please explore any or all of the below (via YouTube etc):

  • The Clock (Christian Marclay, installation, 2010)  


  • 24 Hour Psycho (Douglas Gordon, 1993) 
  • The Clock of the Long Now (project) (
  • Powers of Ten (Charles and Ray Eames, 1977) 

Further Reading

  • Caroline Bassett, ‘Not now?: Feminism, Technology, Post-digital’, in Berry and Dieter (eds), Postdigital Aesthetics: Art, Computation and Design (London: Macmillan, 2015).
  • Caroline Bassett, ‘After Images of Cinema: Kittler and the Mobile Screen’, chapter in Kittler Now: Current Perspectives in Kittler Studies. Eds. Stephen Sale and Laura Salisbury (London: Polity, 2015).
  • Walter Benjamin, ‘On the Concept of History’, in Selected Writings, 4: 1938-1940 (London: Harvard UP, 2006) (also found in Illuminations [London, Fontana, 1992]).   
  • Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, ‘Programmability’, in Matt Fuller (ed), Software Studies: A Lexicon (London: MIT, 2008), pp.224-228.
  • Thomas Elsaesser, Film History as Media Archaeology (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017).
  • Martin Eve, Close Reading with Computers (London: Stanford UP, 2019).
  • Michel Foucault, The Archaeology of Knowledge (London: Routledge, 1972).
  • Alex Galloway and Thacker Eugene, The Exploit: A Theory of Networks (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2007).
  • Lisa Gitelman, Always Already New: Media, History and the Data of Culture (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).
  • Mark Goodall and Ben Roberts,eds., New Media Archaeologies (London: Amsterdam University Press 2019).
  • Erkki Huhtamo, Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013).
  • Jussi Parikka, What is Media Archaeology? (London: Polity Press, 2012). 
  • Kara Keeling, ‘Queer OS’, Cinema Journal, Volume 53, No 2, Winter (2014), pp 152-157.
  • Friedrich Kittler, ‘Code (or, How You Can Write Something Differently)’, in Matt Fuller (ed), Software Studies: A Lexicon (London: MIT, 2008).
  • Friedrich Kittler, Literature, Media, Information Systems (London: Routledge, 1997).  
  • Rita Raley, Tactical Media (London: Minnesota UP, 2009).
  • Siegfried Zielinksi, The Deep Time of the Media (London: MIT Press, 2008).


3.  Cinema and Decolonization

Joanna Page (

This seminar will explore filmmaking as a tool of political revolution and liberation in colonial and neocolonial contexts. We will focus primarily on two major films of the 1960s: Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (Italy-Algeria, 1966) and Solanas and Getino’s The Hour of the Furnaces (Argentina, 1968), widely considered to be the best example of ‘Third Cinema’, a movement that emerged in Latin America as a political and aesthetic response to neocolonialism. Drawing on the work of postcolonial thinkers such as Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon, we will examine the extent to which these directors succeed in producing a ‘cinema of decolonization’. Their strategies will be compared with very different ones employed in other key political films of the 1960s, by Jorge Sanjinés (Bolivia) and Glauber Rocha (Brazil), among others. These films continue 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. In the final part of the seminar, we will trace the relationship between these theories and practices, arising in the 1960s, with more contemporary decolonial thought emerging from /on Latin America, and with more recent productions such as Estrellas/Stars (Argentina, 2007).


  • 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. Please bring a copy of this essay to the seminar with you (in print or on screen).
  • 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
  • Nicholas Harrison, ‘Pontecorvo’s “Documentary” Aesthetics’, in Interventions 9:3 (2007): 389-404.


  • The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, Italy-Algeria, 1966)
  • La hora de los hornos/The Hour of the Furnaces (Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, Argentina, 1968) – Part I only (90 mins)

Further Reading

  • Nicholas Harrison, ‘Yesterday’s Mujahiddin: Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers (1966)’, in Rebecca Weaver-Hightower and Peter Hulme, eds, Postcolonial Film: History, Empire, Resistance (New York and London: Routledge, 2014), pp. 23-46
  • Patrick Harries, ‘The Battle of Algiers: Between Fiction, Memory and History’, in Vivian Bickford-Smith and Richard Mendelsohn, eds, Black and White in Colour: African History on Screen (Oxford: James Curry and Athens, OH: Ohio University Press, 2007), pp. 203-222
  • David William Foster, Latin American Documentary Filmmaking: Major Works (Tucson: The University of Arizona Press, 2013) – chapter on La hora de los hornos
  • 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
  • Frantz Fanon, ‘On Violence’, in The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Richard Philcox. New York: Grove Press, 2004.
  • Aimé Césaire, Discourse on Colonialism, trans. Joan Pinkham (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972)
  • Ranjana Khanna, ‘The Battle of Algiers and The Nouba of the Women of Mont Chenoua: From Third to Fourth Cinema’ in Third Text, 12:43 (1998): 13-32.
  • Mike Wayne, chapter on ‘Third Cinema as Critical Practice: A Case Study of The Battle of Algiers’, in Political Film: The Dialectics of Third Cinema (London: Pluto Press, 2001), pp. 5-24
  • David M. J. Wood, ‘Indigenismo and the Avant-garde: Jorge Sanjinés’ Early Films and the National Project’, in Bulletin of Latin American Research, vol. 25, no. 1 (2006): 63-82.
  • Jonathan Buchsbaum, ‘A Closer Look at Third Cinema’, in Historical Journal of Film, Radio and Television, 21:2 (2001): 153-66.
  • Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (London and New York: Routledge, 1994), especially pp. 248-91.


4. Hollywood Stardom: Greta Garbo in Grand Hotel (1932)

Kasia Boddy ( 

This seminar provides an introduction to the Hollywood studio system of the early sound era and the importance of stardom within it. It focuses on Greta Garbo, one of the few actors who made a successful transition from silent films to talkies, and on Grand Hotel (MGM, 1932), a film which exploits Garbo’s earlier star persona (in particular her much quoted desire to ‘be alone’). We’ll explore Grand Hotel as a multi-star vehicle, fulfilling MGM’s promise to provide ‘more stars than there are in heaven’. In particular, we’ll consider how Garbo’s star persona contrasts with that of Joan Crawford, and how the hotel setting works to bring them together.  We’ll look at the relationship between star personae and characterisation - how, for example, might a star’s interaction with space and particular objects work?  - and consider how acting styles evolved from the silent to the sound era. We will also briefly discuss the impact of Hollywood’s Production Code (which came after Grand Hotel was made), the role of fashion and make-up in the making and selling of stars, and the importance of fan magazines (and particular communities of fans). Finally, we’ll investigate the elusive notions of ‘aura’ and ‘charisma’.


  • Grand Hotel (Edmund Goulding, MGM, 1932)


  • In Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (eds) Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, 8th edition (2016):

          Roland Barthes, ‘The Face of Garbo’

          John Ellis, ‘Stars as a Visible Phenomenon’

          Robert C. Allen, ‘The Role of the Star in Film History’ (Joan Crawford)

  • Siegfried Kracauer, ‘The Hotel Lobby’, in Thomas Y Levin (ed and trans), The Mass Ornament: Weimar Essays (1995)
  • David Trotter, Literature in the First Media Age (Harvard UP, 2013)
  • Brian Gallagher, ‘“Greta Garbo is Sad”’: Some Historical Reflections on the Paradoxes of Stardom in the American Film Industry, 1910-1960’, Images, 3.7 (1997):

Further Screening (or at least watch the trailers)

  • Silent Garbo: Flesh and the Devil (1926); The Mysterious Lady (1928); A Woman of Affairs (1928)
  • Garbo talks: Anna Christie (1930); Mata Hari (1932); Queen Christina (1933)
  • Garbo laughs:  Ninotchka (1939)
  • Joan Crawford pre-Code: Possessed (1931), and then look at her later incarnations eg. in Mildred Pierce (1945); Johnny Guitar (1954)
  • European hotels: F.W. Murnau, Der Letze Mann (The Last Laugh, 1924)
  • Stardom: A Star is Born (1937) and as many of the later versions as you like.

Further Reading

  • Charles Affron, Star Acting: Gish, Garbo, Davis (1977)
  • Tino Balio, Grand Design: Hollywood as a Modern Business Enterprise (1993), ch.6 ‘Selling Stars’
  • Jeanine Basinger, The Star Machine (2007)
  • Matthew Bernstein, Controlling Hollywood: Censorship and Regulation in the Studio Era (1999)
  • Sarah Berry, Screen Style: Fashion and Femininity in 1930s Hollywood
  • Gregory Black, Hollywood Censored: Morality Codes, Catholics, and the Movies (1994)
  • David Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kristen Thompson, The Classical Hollywood Cinema (1985)
  • Richard Brody, “The Essence of Stardom”, The New Yorker, July 25, 2014:
  • Richard de Cordova, Picture Personalities: The Emergence of the Star System in America (1990)
  • Donald Crafton, The Talkies: American Cinema’s Transition to Sound 1926-1931 (1997)
  • H.D., "The Cinema and the Classics: Beauty," Close Up, 1 (July 1927), in Close Up, 1927-1933: Cinema and Modernism, ed. James Donald, Anne Friedberg, and Laura Marcus (1998)
  • David Dessler and Garth S. Jowett (eds), Hollywood Goes Shopping (2000)
  • Richard Dyer, Stars (1979)
  • Richard Dyer, Heavenly Bodies (1987)
  • Charles Eckert, ‘The Carole Lombard in Macy’s Window’ in John Belton (ed), Movies and Mass Culture (1996), 95-118
  • Scott Eyman, The Speed of Sound: Hollywood and the Talkie Revolution (1997)
  • Lucy Fischer, ‘Greta Garbo and Silent Cinema: The Actress as Art Deco Icon’, Camera Obscura, 16.3 (2001), 83-111
  • Lucy Fischer and Marcia Landy (eds), Stars (2004)
  • Kathryn H. Fuller, At the Picture Show: Small-Town Audiences and the Creation of Movie Fan Culture (1996)
  • Jane Gaines, ‘The Queen Christina Tie-Ups: Convergence of Show Window and Screen’, Quarterly Review of Film and Video (1989), 11.1, 35-60.
  • Barbara Gelman, Photoplay Treasury (1972)
  • Christine Geraghty, ‘Re-examining Stardom’, in Reinventing Film Studies, eds. Christine Gledhill and Linda Williams (2000).
  • Christine Gledhill (ed), Stardom (1991)  
  • Mark Goble, ‘Cameo Appearances; or, When Gertrude Stein Checks into Grand Hotel’
  • Modern Language Quarterly, 62, no. 2 (June 2001), 117-163
  • Howard Gutner, Gowns by Adrian: The MGM Years 1928-1941
  • James Harvey, Watching Them Be: Star Presence on the Screen from Garbo to Balthazar (2014)
  • Richard B. Jewell, The Golden Age of Cinema: Hollywood 1929-1945 (2007)
  • Marc Katz, ‘The Hotel Kracauer’, differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 11,
  • Matthew Kennedy, Edmund Goulding: Hollywood’s Genius Bad Boy (2004)
  • Barry King, ‘Stardom as Occupation’, in Paul Kerr (ed), The Hollywood Film Industry (1986)
  • Siegfried Kracauer, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality (1960)
  • Michaela Krützen, The Most Beautiful Woman on the Screen: Greta Garbo: The Fabrication of the Star Greta Garbo (1992)
  • Arne Lund, “‘Garbo Talks!’: Scandinavians in Hollywood, the Talkie Revolution, and the Crisis of Foreign Voice,” in Screen Culture: History and Textuality, ed. John Fullerton (2004), 21-39
  • Paul McDonald, The Star System (2001)
  • Peter Matthews, ‘Garbo and Phallic Motherhood: A “Homosexual” Visual Economy’, Screen 29.3 (1988): 14-42.
  • James Naremore, Acting in the Cinema (1992)
  • Robert B. Ray, The ABCs of Classic Hollywood (2008)
  • Vito Russo, The Celluloid Closet (1981)
  • Thomas Schatz, The Genius of the System: Hollywood Filming in the Studio Era  (1988)
  • Martin Shingler, Star Studies: A Critical Guide
  • Jackie Stacey, Star Gazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship (1994)
  • Janet Staiger (ed), The Studio System (1995)
  • Melissa Szaloky, ‘“As You Desire Me”': Reading “The Divine Garbo” through Movement, Silence and the Sublime’, Film History, 18:2 (2006), 196-208
  • David Trotter, Literature in the First Media Age (2013)
  • Patricia White, ‘Black and White: Mercedes de Acosta’s Glorious Enthusiasms’, Camera Obscura 15.3 (2000) 227-264

Many of the fan magazines can be found at the Media History Digital Library:


5. Screening Gender

Leila Mukhida (

This seminar will explore the aesthetic strategies employed by filmmakers in three films whose protagonists have genders different from those assigned to them at birth: Tangerine (2015), Boys Don’t Cry (1999) and XXY (2008). The films studied in this seminar may fall under the category of ‘queer cinema’; they are interested in both gender identity (location of the self as a gendered subject) and its intersections with sexual identity (location of desire). This seminar will ask students to refer to key theories on gender and sexuality in their close readings of the films. We will ask: what kind of a spectatorial ‘gaze’ and pleasure is produced when we watch trans bodies on screens? What kinds of visual language and expression are employed, e.g. what role does colour play in the images of trans women of colour in Tangerine? Is it possible to identify a queer or trans temporality in the films?

Priority Screening

  • Boys Don’t Cry (Kimberly Peirce, 1999) Content warning: please note that some of the films discussed in this seminar depict sexual violence.

Further Screenings

  • Tangerine (Sean Baker, 2015)
  • XXY (Lucía Puenzo, 2007)

Reading (theory)

  • Jack Halberstam, ‘Trans* - Gender Transitivity and New Configurations of Body, History, Memory and Kinship’, Parallax 22:3 (July 2016), 366–375 []
  • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, ‘Queer and Now’, in Tendencies (London: Routledge, 1994), pp. 1-20
  • Judith Butler, ‘Critically Queer’, GLQ (1993) 1 (1): 17-32
  • Jay Prosser, ‘Judith Butler: Queer Feminism, Transgender, and the Transubstantiation of Sex’, Section: ‘Queer gender and performativity’ (pp. 36-40), in Donald E. Hall and Annamarie Jagose (eds), The Routledge Queer Studies Reader (New York: Routledge, 2013)
  • Gayle Salamon, Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010), Chapter 3: ‘Boys of the Lex: Transgender and Social Construction’ pp. 69-94
  • micha cárdenas, ‘Shifting Futures: Digital Trans of Color Praxis’, Section 2: ‘Passing’ []

Reading (case studies)

On Boys Don’t Cry:

  • Judith Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: New York University Press, 2005): Chapter 4: ‘The Transgender Look’, pp. 76-96

On Tangerine

  • Edward Lawrenson,  ‘City of Fallen Angels’, Sight and Sound 25:12 (Dec 2015), 36–38

Further reading

  • Butler, Judith, Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex (New York: Routledge, 1993)
  • Ford, Akkadia, ‘Duration, Compression, Extension and Distortion of Time in Contemporary Transgender Cinema’, Somatechnics 9:1 (July 2019), 58–83
  • Olivera, Guillermo, ‘The Violence of (In)Visibility: Queer Adolescence and Space in Lucia Puenzo's XXY’, Chasqui 46:2 (Nov 2017), 207–226
  • Halberstam, Jack, Trans* A Quick and Quirky Account of Gender Variability (Oakland CA: University of California Press, 2018)
  • Harding, Xavier, ‘Keeping ‘Insecure’ lit: HBO cinematographer Ava Berkofsky on properly lighting black faces’, September 2016 []
  • Israeli-Nevo, Atalia, Taking (My) Time: Temporality in Transition, Queer Delays and Being (in the) Present, Somatechnics 7:1 (February 2017), 34–49
  • Rigney, Melissa, ‘Brandon Goes to Hollywood: Boys Don't Cry and the Transgender Body in Film’, Film Criticism 28:2 (Winter 2003/2004), 4–23
  • Rosario, Vernon, section ‘Intersex and gender identity’ (pp. 273-276) in ‘The History of Aphallia and the Intersexual Challenge to Sex/Gender’, George E. Haggerty and Molly McGarry (eds), A Companion to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Studies (Oxford, UK: Blackwell, 2007)
  • Salamon, Gayle, Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010)


6. Cinema and (Urban) Space

Geoffrey Kantaris  (  

This seminar will examine the symbiosis between film and space, with a particular focus on the urban, taken as part of a broader problematic concerned with representations of space and spaces of representation (to use the terms coined by Lefebvre). We will look at theories of urban and global/geopolitical space, from David Harvey and Ed Soja to Fredric Jameson, and consider some key moments in which the mutual constitution of cinema and city is manifest, with a major film from the silent era, a 1950s film noir parody set in Mexico, and a key example of cyberpunk from the 1980s.


  • Metropolis (dir. Fritz Lang, 1926 – try to watch the version restored from footage found in Buenos Aires in 2008, dated 2010)
  • The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (dir. Luis Buñuel, 1955)
  • Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott, 1982/1992/2007 – watch the Final Cut version from 2007)


  • David Harvey, “Time-space Compression and the Rise of Modernism as a Cultural Force” and “Time-space Compression and the Postmodern Condition”, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990), pp. 260-307
  • Edward W. Soja, “Six Discourses on the Postmetropolis”, in Westwood and Williams, ed., Imagining Cities: Scripts, Signs, Memory (Routledge: London & New York, 1997) pp. 19-30.
  • Fredric Jameson, “Totality as Conspiracy”, The Geopolitical Aesthetic: Cinema and Space in the World System (London: BFI, 1992), pp. 9-82.

Further Reading

  • Marc Augé, Non-Places: An Introduction to Supermodernity (London: Verso, 2008 [1992])
  • Certeau, Michel de, The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley & Los Ángeles: University of California Press, 1984)
  • Manuel Castells, “The Space of Flows”, The Rise of the Network Society (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996)
  • David B. Clarke, ed., The Cinematic City (London: Routledge, 1997)
  • Derek Gregory, Geographical Imaginations (Oxford: Blackwell, 1994)
  • David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990)
  • -------------------, Spaces of Capital: Towards a Critical Geography (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2001)
  • -------------------, Spaces of Hope (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2000)
  • Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space (Oxford: Blackwell, 1991 [1974])
  • Christoph Lindner, ed., Globalization, Violence, and the Visual Culture of Cities (London: Routledge, 2009)
  • Doreen Massey, Space, Place and Gender (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994)
  • -------------------, For Space (London: Sage, 2005)
  • Barbara Mennel, Cities and Cinema (London: Routledge, 2008)
  • Vincent Mosco, The Digital Sublime: Myth, Power, and Cyberspace (Cambridge MA: MIT, 2004)
  • Mark Shiel and Tony Fitzmaurice, eds., Cinema and the City: Film and Urban Societies in a Global Context (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001)
  • Neil Smith, Uneven Development: Nature, Capital and the Production of Space (Oxford: Blackwell, 1984)
  • Edward W. Soja, Postmodern Geographies: The Reassertion of Space in Critical Social Theory (London: Verso, 1989)
  • -------------------, Thirdspace: Journeys to Los Ángeles and Other Real-and-Imagined Places (Oxford: Blackwell, 1996)
  • -------------------, Postmetropolis: Critical Studies of Cities and Regions (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000) Barney Warf and Santa Arias, eds., The Spatial Turn: Interdisciplinary Perspectives (New York: Routledge, 2009)
  • Sophie Watson and Katherine Gibson, eds., Postmodern Cities and Spaces (Oxford: Blackwell, 1995)


7. Race, Ideology, History

Martin A. Ruehl (

There is no scientific evidence that the groups commonly called races have distinct, unifying genetic identities. Yet ideas of race and racial difference persist. To this day, they are the main motivating force behind discrimination, persecution, and genocide across the globe. How has “race” maintained its conceptual hold on our social and political imagination? This seminar examines the role of cinema, television, and digital media in the cultural construction and perpetuation – as well as the critique and subversion – of racial stereotypes and ideologies. It considers the distinctive techniques and methods with which film has represented ethnic otherness and identity over the past hundred years, beginning with D.W. Griffith’s foundational Birth of a Nation (1915). Our principal aim is to analyse the changing politics of these representations against the backdrop of changing historical circumstances. In particular, we will explore the creation and dissemination of racial tropes and motifs in the first half of the twentieth century and their peculiar recurrence since then, even in more recent, self-avowedly “post-racial” or anti-racist films. While trying to transcend the narrow black/white binary constitutive of Hollywood cinema and the US discourse on race, we will pay due attention to this prominent aspect of racial screen politics. We will discuss the set films (as well as the critical literature) both on their own terms and in the context of contemporary, topical issues such as censorship, identity politics, the Western canon, white privilege, historical reparations, etc. The focus, throughout, will be on the dual function of film as a passive reflection of the particular views and attitudes prevalent at a specific historical moment; and as an active agent in the formation, preservation and invalidation of such mentalities. This raises important questions about the political complicity and guilt of film – but also its critical, transformative potential.  


  • Walkabout, dir. Nicholas Roeg (1971)
  • I Am Not Your Negro, dir. Raoul Peck (2016)

Further viewing

  • The Birth of a Nation, dir. D.W. Griffith (1915)
  • Jud Süss, dir. Veit Harlan (1940)
  • The Searchers, dir. John Ford (1956)
  • Black Orpheus, dir. Marcel Camus (1959)
  • Death by Hanging, dir. Nagisa Ōshima (1968)
  • Ali: Fear Eats the Soul, dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder (1974)
  • Blacks Britannica, dir. David Koff (1978)
  • Chocolat, dir. Claire Denis (1988)
  • Do the Right Thing, dir. Spike Lee (1989)


  • Lizbeth Goodman, “Race and the Cinema: An Interview with Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy”, Critical Sociology 19, 3 (October 1992), pp. 107-120.
  • Loïc Wacquant, “For an Analytic of Racial Domination”, Political Power and Social Theory 11 (1997), pp. 221-234.
  • Stuart Hall, “The Whites of Their Eyes: Racist Ideologies and the Media”, in: Bill Yousman, Lori Bindig Yousman, Gail Dines, and Jean McMahon Humez (eds), Gender, Race and Class in Media. A Text-Reader (London: Sage Publications, 2020), pp. 107-111.
  • Barbara J. Fields, “Of Rogues and Geldings”, The American Historical Review 108, 5 (December 2003), pp. 1397-1405.
  • Aliza Luft, “Dehumanization and the Normalization of Violence: It’s Not What You Think”, Social Science Research Council – Items Digital Forum (21 May 2019).

Further Reading

  • Ann Dummett, “Anti-Anti-Racism”, The London Review of Books 9, 13 (9 July 1987), pp. 12-14, plus the ensuing exchange of readers’ letters.
  • Barbara J. Fields, “Ideology and Race in American History”, in: Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward, ed. J. Morgan Kousser and James M. McPherson (New York: Oxford University Press, 1982), pp. 143-177.
  • Kwame Dawes, “A Story of American Racism”, London Review of Books 18, 3 (8 February 1996).
  • Susan Courtney, Hollywood Fantasies of Miscegenation: Spectacular Narratives of Gender and Race (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2005).
  • Michael Boyce Gillespie, Film Blackness: American Cinema and the Idea of Black Film (Durham: Duke University Press, 2016).
  • Julie Codell (ed.), Genre, Gender, Race, and World Cinema: An Anthology (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2006), Part III (Race), pp. 213-359.
  • Chris Berry, ‘“Race” (民 族): Chinese Film and the Politics of Nationalism’, Cinema Journal 31, 2 (Winter 1992), pp. 45-58.
  • Eva Cherniavsky, Incorporations : Race, Nation, and the Body Politics of Capital (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2006).
  • Barbara J. Fields, “Whiteness, Racism, and Identity”, International Labor and Working-Class History 60 (Fall 2001), pp. 48-56.
  • Anna Anlin Cheng, The Melancholy of Race: Psychoanalysis, Assimilation, and Hidden Grief (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001).
  • Vinson Cunningham, “Blacking Out”, The New Yorker (20 July 2020), pp. 17-21.
  • George Yancy, Black Bodies, White Gazes: The Continuing Significance of Race (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017).
  • Gerald Sim, The Subject of Film and Race: Retheorizing Politics, Ideology, and Cinema (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).
  • Keyan Tomaselli, The Cinema of Apartheid: Race and Class in South African Film (London: Routledge, 1989).
  • Sudeshna Roy, “What’s in a Name? Examining Representation of Indian Ethnicities in Bollywood Movies in the New Millennium”, in: Sudeshna Roy and Ibrahim Shaw (eds), Communicating Differences (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 87-103.
  • Angela Aleiss, Making the White Man’s Indian: Native Americans and Hollywood Movies (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2009).
  • Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (New York: Routledge, 1994).
  • Robert M. Entman and Andrew Rojecki, The Black Image in the White Mind: Media and Race in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001).


8. Sound in Cinema, Radio, and Beyond

Peter McMurray (

Required reading:

  • Rick Altman, ‘Four and a Half Film Fallacies’ (in the Sound Studies Reader, ed. Jonathan Sterne, 2012 [1992])
  • Hannah Lewis, ‘Surrealist Sounds: Film Music and the Avant-Garde’ (Ch. 2, from French Musical Culture and the Coming of Sound Cinema, 2018)
  • Pooja Rangan, ‘The Skin of the Voice: Acousmatic Illusions, Ventriloquial Listening’ (Ch. 7, in Sound Objects, ed. James Steintrager and Rey Chow, 2018)
  • Frantz Fanon, ‘This Is the Voice of Algeria’ (in the Sound Studies Reader, ed. Jonathan Sterne, 2012  [1965])
  • Alejandra Bronfman, ‘Signal’ (Ch. 1, from Isles of Noise: Sonic Media in the Caribbean, 2016)

Required media:

  • Bruce Baillie, Castro Street (11 min, online here, starting at 37:05) (10 min)
  • Christina Kubisch, ‘Electrical Walks’ introduction (2003-2017) (11 min)
  • Beyoncé, ‘Formation’ (from Lemonade, 2016) (5 min)

Additional reading:

  • Michel Chion, Audio-vision: Sound on Screen (1990)
  • James Buehler and Hannah Lewis, eds., Voicing the Cinema: Film Music and the Integrated Soundtrack (2020)
  • Brian Larkin, ‘Techniques of Inattention: The Mediality of Loudspeakers in Nigeria’, Anthropological Quarterly 87:4 (2014)
  • Hannah Lewis, French Musical Culture and the Coming of Sound Cinema (2018)
  • W. J. T. Mitchell, ‘There Are No Visual Media’, The Journal of Visual Culture 4:2 (2005)
  • Peter McMurray, ‘Witnessing Race in the New Digital Cinema’ (in The Cambridge Companion to Digital Music, ed. Nicholas Cook, et al)
  • James Steintrager and Rey Chow, eds., Sound Objects (2018)
  • Carol Vernallis, Unruly Video: YouTube, Music Video, and the New Digital Cinema (2013)

Additional media:

  • Bill Morrison and Michael Gordon, Decasia (2003)
  • Francisco López, Buildings (NYC) (2001, online here)
  • Spike Lee, Do the Right Thing (1989)
  • Christine Sun Kim, The enchanting music of sign language (TED Talk, 2015)




Screenings and Events

Peggy Ahwesh: Filmmaker in Residence

5 May 2021

Peggy Ahwesh Filmmaker in Residence Easter Term 2021 To register please sign up via the relevant google form (there is a separate form for each event as shown below). Confirmation and zoom sign-in information will be sent to registered participants at the start of the week of 17 May. Any queries may be directed to...