Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Film, Technology and the Literary Canon

LEVEL 05 - Postgraduate Modular Diploma or Degree Course


DEPARTMENT Faculty of Arts

DESCRIPTION This study-unit surveys and critiques technology's representation and its remediating influence in the history of film. It also assesses that trajectory as it stands now, in the midst of what has been called the posthumanist episteme, when technology appears to overdetermine both the form and content of many media, film among them. Accordingly, reference may be made to the following films, among others -- Wegener's The Golem, Lang's Metropolis, the Terminator and Alien series, The Truman Show, Avatar, Never Let Me Go, and Hugo.

The scholarly speculation and popular fascination triggered by such figures as Frankenstein, Dracula and the Zombie will also constitute a central object of inquiry. Furthermore, special attention will be given to the “colour malaise” and the “acousmêtre,” or acoustical phantom, haunting the visual/aural diegesis of such directors as Dreyer, Hitchcock, Powell-Pressberger, Antonioni, Bresson and Cronenberg. Throughout, the prior lives of filmic works as canonical literary texts will also be taken into consideration.

The unit will proceed from an analysis of films to a review of the key theoretical documents that have arisen around the examples discussed. Consequently, reference will be made to works like Elaine Graham’s Representations of the Post/Human. Monsters, Aliens and Others in Popular Culture, Michel Chion’s The Voice in Cinema, John S. Bak’s Post/Modern Dracula, and Neil Badmington's Alien Chic. There are also relevant analyses to be mined in the work of figures like Dudley Andrew, Andre Bazin, Fredric Jameson, Gilles Deleuze, Rick Altman, James Lastra, J. P. Telotte, Darko Suvin, Donna Haraway, Bernard Stiegler, David Jay Bolter and Richard Grusin, Lev Manovich and others. A key part of the associated discussions will look at film's anxieties of influence in this regard, on the basis of references to major related developments in television and graphic novels.

Study-Unit Aims:

- To enhance a student's prior knowledge in filmic language via an in-depth analysis of a number of key films and theories;
- To improve the student's ability in visual analysis through a critical appraisal of the techniques which are deployed in film;
- To survey and critique the representation of technology and its remediating influence in the history of film;
- To survey and critique the relations between film, technology and the literary canon;
- To allow space for comparative analysis between key films in Anglo-American cinema and European cinema;
- To analyse the afterlives of canonical literary texts as they are mutated into popular or cultish filmic works;
- To critically appraise the current discussion within Film Studies of digital remediation while keeping in mind the specificity of cinema as a distinctive art form.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Apply a wide range of theoretical approaches to the "reading" of film;
- Adopt a comparative approach to the study of Anglo-American cinema which will allow students to engage with film as a discipline capable of transcending linguistic and national boundaries;
- Critically appraise the aesthetic and philosophical underpinnings of filmic texts and their literary forebears;
- Discuss the relations between film, television, graphic novels and digital games while bearing in mind the specificity of cinema and its distinctive features with respect to other audio-visual forms of story-telling;
- Discuss some of the more pressing political and social anxieties of contemporary society via an in-depth analysis of filmic representations of technology;
- Discuss the reasons why such figures as the vampire, the cyborg, and the alien exert such an extraordinary influence as evinced by the scholarly speculation and the popular fascination that they continue to trigger.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to:
- Read filmic works as part of a complex web of intertextual relationships which include literature and television;
- Integrate filmic analysis into their research on literary texts and vice versa;
- Formally articulate and discuss in a scholarly fashion their ideas on canon formation and its relationship with popular culture;
- Draw on their improved expressive potential in film and apply it to the critical appraisal of related fields in seminar discussion and in written assignments;
- Collegially interact in debate with other postgraduate students.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Main Texts:

- Bordwell, David, Staiger, Janet, Thompson, Kristin, The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style and Mode of Production to 1960 (Columbia UP, 1985)
- Elaine, Graham, Elaine, Representations of the Post/Human. Monsters, Aliens and Others in Popular Culture (Rutgers UP, 2002)
- Chion, Michel, The Voice in Cinema (Columbia UP, 1999)
- Bak, John (ed.), Post/Modern Dracula. From Victorian Themes to Postmodern Praxis (Cambridge, 2007)
- Altman, Rick, Sound Theory. Sound Practice (Routledge, 1992)
- Bazin, Andre, What is Cinema Vol. 1 and 2 (University of California Press, 2004)
- Andrew, Dudley, What Cinema is (Wiley-Blackwell, 2005)
- Telotte, J.P., A Distant Technology: Science Fiction Film in the Machine Age

Supplementary Readings:

- Badmington, Neil, Alien Chic. Posthumanism and the Other Within (Routledge, 2004)
- Manovich, Lev, The Language of New Media (MIT Press, 2001)
- Lister Martin, Dovey Jon, Giddings Seth , Grant Iain, Kelly Kieran, New Media: A Critical Introduction, Second Ed (Routledge, 2008)
- Salt, Barry, Film Style and Technology: History and Analysis (Starword, 2009) (Wesleyan UP, 1998)
- Jenkins, Henry, Convergence Culture. Where Old and New Media Collide (New York UP, 2006)

Note: A comprehensive study pack will be prepared for students at the start of the study-unit.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 100%
Important - Due to the COVID19 Pandemic the information regarding the method of assessment indicated above may have been changed. Further details have been provided by your F/I/C/S.

LECTURER/S Saviour Catania
Fabrizio Foni
Gloria Lauri Lucente (Co-ord.)

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the study-unit description above applies to the academic year 2019/0, if study-unit is available during this academic year, and may be subject to change in subsequent years.