Pulp Film: the Avant-garde and Popular Cinema - FI570

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2021 to 2022.


This module examines the creative critical turn made by artists and theorists when engaging with mass culture's quotidian productions. It examines such iterations of this turn as found in the surrealist's play with the violent poetics of arch-criminal mastermind Fantômas and the oneirism of film noir; the Nouvelle Vague’s validation of American hard-boiled fiction and crime films, particularly Kiss Me Deadly; Fritz Lang’s pulp fantasies of criminal conspiracies in his Dr. Mabuse series; abstract painter and film critic Manny Farber's theory of termite art and the art brut style of Samuel Fuller; and film critic Parker Tyler’s configuration of a camp aesthetic. These are all versions of the modernist intervention into the world of commodified culture – transformations of mass cultural artefacts into art through critique.


Contact hours

Contact hours: 10 hours of lectures, 20 hours of seminars, 30 hours of screenings
Total Contact Hours = 60 hours/ Total Private Study = 240 hours
Total study hours: 300

Method of assessment

100% Coursework;
Assignment: 2500 words (40%)
Essay: 3500 words (60%)

Indicative reading

Peter Stanfield, Maximum Movies – Pulp Fictions: Film Culture and the Worlds of Samuel Fuller, Mickey Spillane and Jim Thompson (Rutgers University Press, 2011)

Robin Walz, Pulp Surrealism: Insolent Popular Culture in Early Twentieth-Century Paris (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000)

Greg Taylor, Artists in the Audience: Cults, Camp, and American Film Criticism (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999)

Manny Farber, Negative Space (New York: DaCapo, 1998).

Parker Tyler, Magic & Myth of the Movies (London: Secker & Warburg, 1971)

Colin McCabe (ed.), High Theory/Low Culture: Analysing Popular Television and Film (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1986).

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

As a consequence of taking the module, students will have acquired:

- A detailed knowledge of key questions, concepts and critical debates around film as both a popular medium and artistically valued object of study.
- Understanding of the different modes of analysis made possible by key methods of enquiry that are concerned with the study of popular culture and avant garde art movements
- The ablility to devise a discussion of cinema and cultural capital through a sustained a engagement with key methods of enquiry based on a synthesis of historical, theoretical, and aesthetic approaches
- Students will have a systematic understanding of the complexities involved in studying the often contradictory status of film as art form and commodified culture.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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