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Film Aesthetics - FI 301


MODULE NAME: Film Aesthetics


There are three broad strands under consideration in this module, and we’ll explore them all alongside each other:

  • aesthetics in general
  • film aesthetics in particular
  • the film we will be looking at each week

Questions of aesthetics are also often imbricated with questions of value. Our first purpose will be to explore overarching ideas about aesthetics. What is art? What is beautiful? What is good? Are these notions merely subjective? Are they discursive or are they a-historic and universal? How do social, historic, and contextual particularities affect the attribution of value in aesthetic discourses? Are considerations of politics and ethics essential or contingent when discussing those of aesthetics?

The strand on film aesthetics will explore how general questions in aesthetics have been historically deployed in relation to film: what is ‘the cinematic’ and is ‘medium specificity’ important? How has realism been used as a criterion of value in film? What are the roles of intentionality and interpretation in valuing films? How important is interpretation? How important is place, experience and feeling, the phenomenology of embodied viewing, to attributions of value. What role does mode and genre play in the interpretation of films and how does this affect the value attributed to them. What is the role of the social in the aesthetic?

Each week, we will look closely at a particular film, paired with a reading addressing a key aspect of aesthetics. This module blends philosophical and theoretical questions of aesthetics with detailed close textual analysis of a range of films from different national and historical contexts.

Class Location and Time

MONDAY 10.00 - 13.00 Room A0.28 (followed by seminars)


2 x 5,000 word essays, 50% each 

Module Resources


Module leaders

James MacDowell imageJames MacDowell

Link to the tutor's web page

arroyoJosé Arroyo

Link to the tutor's web page