In a country with a very strong literary and theatrical tradition, the British have also had a long-standing love of "going to the pictures." For more than a century, British filmmakers have been forging a rich and diverse national cinema in the face of Hollywood's dominance on British screens for most of that time. This course will offer an introductory historical overview of British cinema from its beginnings to the present day, assessing its role in the construction of British national identity, evaluating its major directors—including Carol Reed, Humphrey Jennings, Ken Loach, Mike Leigh and Terrence Davies. The films will be approached through multiple frameworks, including consideration of aesthetics (e.g. the question of realism), culture (e.g. gender and class), and history (e.g. questions of empire and modernity). The institution of cinema and film culture in a larger sense will be considered through the exploration of British film exhibition, criticism, cultural policy, and industry. Both fiction films and documentaries will be addressed with a particular focus on the urban experience. The cinematic city – London, in particular – will be discussed in relation to issues of memory and historicity.
Total contact hours: 60
Private study hours: 240
Total study hours: 300
Method of assessment
Research Essay of 2,000 words - 40%
Research Essay of 3,000 words - 60%
Ashby, Justine and Andrew Higson (ed.) (2000), British Cinema, Past and Present, London and New York: Routledge.
Barr, Charles (1986), All Our Yesterdays: 90 Years of British Cinema, London: BFI Publishing.
Chibnall, Steve and Robert Murphy (eds.) (2001), British Crime Cinema, London and New York: Routledge.
Dixon, Wheeler Winston (ed.) (1994), Re-Viewing British Cinema, 1900-1992: Essays and Interviews, New York: State University of New York Press.
Friedman, Lester (ed.) (1993), Fires Were Started: British Cinema and Thatcherism, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Higson, Andrew (ed.) (1996), Dissolving Views: Key Writings on British Cinema, London: Cassell.
Hill, John (1986), Sex, Class and Realism: British Cinema 1956-1963, London: BFI Publishing.
Lay, Samantha (2002), British Social Realism, London and New York: Wallflower Press.
Street, Sarah (1997), British National Cinema, London and New York: Routledge.
See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:
- demonstrate a sound knowledge of the history of film production, distribution and exhibition in Britain from its beginnings in 1896 to the present;
- acquire an understanding of these films in their relation to the changing political, historical and cultural climate in twentieth century Britain;
- acquired a critical awareness of the proliferation of literature on the aesthetic and social significance of British cinema;
- acquired a critical understanding of the cinema's centrality to developing conceptions of realist representation and the construction of a national identity in twentieth century Britain.
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