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Literature 6B: Introduction to American film


Admission requirements

Voor keuzevakstudenten.


We will explore the breadth of mid-twentieth-century 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; the uses of the frame and editing; the place of the ‘star’; the nature of genre; and the ‘auteur theory’.

  • Regarding both literary and 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 timetable is available on the BA English website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

  • Independent study

Course Load

The course load of this course is 140 hours.

  • 24 hours spent on attending lectures and seminars: 24

  • time for attending screenings and studying the compulsory literature: 46

  • time to prepare for the exam and/or write a paper (including reading / research): 70

Assessment method

  • Essay(s) (50%):
    Two essays of 1200 words (25% each); or, one longer essay on a comparative subject (dealing with at least two texts featured on the syllabus) of 2500 words (50%).
    Both essays are due on the Wednesday following the last class.

  • Final Exam (50%)
    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 American film and knowledge of the various important contexts gained during the tutorial discussion and individual study.
    Students must retake those parts of the course they fail or that are incomplete.
    The final grade is determined by calculating the average grade for the above-mentioned assignment(s) and exam, which is rounded to the nearest half. A final grade below 5,5 (also 5,49) is insufficient. Only when the final grade is insufficient can students resit exam(s) and/or assignments that received below 5,5. The resit grade will replace the original grade.
    Attendance is compulsory. Unauthorized absence will mean that you cannot take part in the relevant exam.


“Blackboard”: will be used for:

  • making students aware of course information

  • communication between staff and students

  • provision of background documents, reading lists, essay questions etc

Reading list

V. F. Perkins, Film As Film (Da Capo Press).
Michael Wood, Film: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford Universit Press).


Enrolment through uSis is mandatory. Please note that students other than BA English language and culture studies will have to have permission from the coordinator of studies before enrolling.
General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable


Student administration Van Eyckhof


For the first week you must watch in advance, Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times (1936).

PROVISIONALLY: WEEK ONE: Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times; WEEK TWO: Howard Hawks, Bringing Up Baby; WEEK THREE: William Wyler, The Best Years of Our Lives; WEEK FOUR: Billy Wilder, Sunset Boulevard; WEEK FIVE: John Ford, The Searchers; WEEK SIX: Stanley Donen, Funny Face; WEEK SEVEN: Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo; WEEK EIGHT: Walt Disney, Pinocchio and The Jungle Book; WEEK NINE: Robert Altman, McCabe and Mrs Miller; WEEK TEN: Roman Polanski, Chinatown; WEEK ELEVEN: Woody Allen, Annie Hall; WEEK TWELVE: George Lucas, Star Wars.