Skip to main content Skip to navigation

History and Film (HI978)

Module Leader

Dr J. E. Smyth

Context of Module
Module Aims
Intended Learning Outcomes
Outline Syllabus
Illustrative Bibliography
Context of Module


This module, taught in the Autumn Term, is the core module for the MA in History in Film, and may also be taken by students on the MA in History, the MA in Modern History, or any taught Master's students outside the History Department.


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.


Outline Syllabus, fall 2015


*Please note that film screenings are generally held on the Wednesday of the week prior to the designated seminar*

Week 1: Introduction: Film, History, and Historiography (J. Smyth)

Week 2: Authorship and Genre (J. Smyth)

Seminars Monday (Prof. Cynthia Lucia, 'Natalie Wood: Hollywood's Final Child' and Tuesday (Professor Roy Grundmann, 'Amorous Distance: Spectatorship in the Films of Michael Haneke' (both IAS, 5pm).

Week 3: Women's History on Screen: Content and Form (J. Smyth)

Week 4: Archive and Interpretation (J. Smyth)

Week 5: Issues in Film and History (J. Smyth)

Week 6: Reading Week (no meeting): please watch La Chinoise (1967), The Dreamers (2004), and Après Mai (aka Something in the Air, 2012) for week 7's seminar

Week 7: Colonialism, Memory and Realism: The Case of Algeria (D. Morrey and Mary Harrod)

Week 8:  Queering China (H. Chiang)

NB: seminar will begin at 3.30 in Dr. Chiang's office, H0.16

*Monday (PLT) and Tuesday evening (H0.52) seminars 5pm, Rick Senat, 'A History of Warner Bros. Studios'

Week 9: Polish and Ukrainian 'National' Cinema (Christoph Mick)

Week 10: Content, Form, and Spetatorship in Indian Cinema (A. Sarkar)


Illustrative Bibliography

Rick Altman, Film/Genre (1999).

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

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

Peter Bondanella, Italian Cinema From Neorealism to the Present (1983).

David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson, Film Art (1979).

Kevin Brownlow, The Parade’s Gone By (1976).

Robert Carringer, The Making of "Citizen Kane" (1994).

Steven Caton, Lawrence of Arabia: A Film’s Anthropology (1999).

Thomas Doherty, Hollywood and Hitler, 1933-1939 (2013).

Thomas Elsasser, Fassbinder’s Germany: History Identity Subject (1996).

Marc Ferro, Film History (1988).

Godard on Godard (1972).

Richard J. Golsan, Vichy’s Afterlife: History and Counterhistory in Postwar France (2000).

Lee Grieveson, Policing Cinema: Movies and Censorship in Early Twentieth Century America (2004).

--, with Colin McCabe, eds., Film and the End of Empire (2011).

Leger Grindon, Shadows on the Past: Studies in the Historical Fiction Film (1994).

Stephen Gundle, Mussolini’s Dream Factory: Film Stardom in Fascist Italy (2012).

Tim Harte, "A Visit to the Museum: Alexandr Sokurov's Russian Ark and the Framing of the Eternal," The Slavic Review 64:1 (spring 2005): 43-58.

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

Fredric Jameson, "History and Elegy in Sokurov," Critical Inquiry 33:1 (autumn 2006): 1-12.

Anton Kaes, From Hitler to Heimat: The Return of History as Film (1989)

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

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

Louis Malle, Milou en mai (1990).

Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters (2005).

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

Mark Poster, Cultural History and Postmodernity: Disciplinary Readings and Challenges (1997).

Robert Rosenstone, History on Film/ Film on History (2006).

Marc Silberman, German Cinema. Texts in Context (1995)

Robert Sklar, Movie-Made America (1975).

J. E. Smyth, Reconstructing American Historical Cinema from Cimarron to Citizen Kane (2006).

Robert Stam, Reflexivity in Film and Literature from Don Quixote to Jean-Luc Godard (1992).

Hayden White, Metahistory (1973).



Students are assessed on one assessed essay of 6,000 words (including footnotes and bibliograhy) and one optional unassessed essay of 2,500 words. The course is taught in weekly 2-hour seminars. Students should contact the week's module tutor in advance to confirm seminar time. Seminars are normally conducted in the tutor's offices in the Humanities Bldg.




Seminar day: Tuesday
Seminar time: 12:00-2:00
Seminar room: variable; please see syllabus