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Literature 5D: Introduction to American film


Admission Requirements

Successful completion of Literature 1A, 1B, 2 and 3 or 4, or equivalent.


We will explore the breadth of twentieth-century American film, following transformations within the cinematic experience, as well as examining the relationship between the cinema and other modes of performance, whether in the theatre, radio or television. We shall investigate the opportunities provided by these other performance media and assess their impact on the cinematic experience. We shall consider these works of art in their cultural context, and scrutinize the ways in which popular film expressed, critiqued or questioned developments within American society.

Course objectives

  • This course will extend and deepen the power of students’ critical analysis through in-depth consideration of texts.

  • Students will explore critical debates surrounding American film.

  • The course will aim to provide for literature students the critical skills necessary for the analysis of visual texts.

  • This will involve an understanding of basic film theory, such as: the uses of the frame and editing; the place of the ‘star’; the relation to the audience; differences from theatre and literary fiction; the nature of genre; and the ‘auteur theory’.

  • Regarding cinematic art works, it will also aim to extend the students’ skills in the reading of narrative and the understanding of the relationship of a text to its cultural/social context. Students will be encouraged to share analytical and critical views on the texts ascribed in class discussion, including short presentations, and will focus research skills in the writing of a final research paper. This paper will be on a relevant subject of their own choice within the parameters of the course.

  • The essay/s will be on a relevant subject of their own choice within the parameters of the course, and will further extend the students’ critical skills and their ability to produce good, clear writing. They will draw upon good and extensive research conducted by the student.

  • The final exam will test students’ knowledge of the cinematic texts studied in the course, and give them an opportunity to display their insight, their familiarity with the texts, and the range of their critical ideas.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Research (Independent study by the student)

Assessment method


  • Essay(s): two essays of 1200 words; or, one longer essay on a comparative subject (dealing with at least two texts featured on the syllabus) of 2500 words.

The essay/s is/are due in at the start of the exam period. Students who wish to do so may hand in the first short essay as a mid-term on the Monday following the study week.

  • Final Exam: this exam will feature questions about the films on the syllabus. The questions are designed to allow students to formulate informative answers based on critical insight into film and knowledge of the various important contexts gained during the tutorial discussion and individual study.

Students are graded according to the following criteria: the depth and sophistication (and to some extent, the originality) of their analysis; the extent to which their essays argue a coherent case; the clarity and coherence of the structure; the sophistication, correctness and articulacy of the writing and the ability to produce formal academic prose; the intelligent use of a good range of relevant secondary material.

Attendance is compulsory. Missing more than two tutorials means that students will be excluded from the tutorials. Unauthorized absence also applies to being unprepared, not participating and/or not bringing the relevant course materials to class.


  • Essay(s) (50%): two essays of 1200 words (25% each); or, one longer essay of 2500 words (50%).

  • Final Exam (50%)


Only if the final grade is 5.0 or lower can the students do a resit.
Regular attendance, preparation for the class and participation in it are required elements of this course.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

There is no set weekly reading for this course; students are expected to watch the films set.

In some cases, where films are hard to obtain, there will be screenings on an evening before the class, but otherwise students should be prepared to search out legal ways to stream the films or, where that is not possible, to buy DVDs or Blu-ray copies of the films in question.


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

General information about uSis is available on the website

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Registration Contractonderwijs


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Student administration Arsenaal


You must watch for the first seminar, Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.
Here follows a provisional timetable for the course – this is not set in stone and there may be some changes prior to the list of films given at the start of the course, but this is more or less (probably more) how the course will look:
Week 1: The Shop Around the Corner and The Lady Eve;
Week 2: Gaslight;
Week 3: Singin’ in the Rain;
Week 4: North by Northwest;
Week 5: Imitation of Life and Far From Heaven;
Week 6: The Graduate and Lost in Translation;
Week 7: Study Week;
Week 8: Days of Heaven;
Week 9: Star Wars: A New Hope and Star Wars: The Last Jedi;
Week 10: Do the Right Thing;
Week 11: Meshes of the Afternoon and Mulholland Drive;
Week 12: Amistad and 12 Years a Slave;
Week 13: I, Tonya and Can You Ever Forgive Me?;
Week 14: It’s A Wonderful Life and The Apartment.