Please note that information may be subject to change.

Each year, during the summer months before term starts, students are asked to pre-select two modules. The list of modules offered can change from year to year depending on the availability of academic staff. Students are asked for back-up choices just in case modules are under or over-subscribed, but the Centre endeavours to offer first preferences where possible.

Students are advised that, in cases where numbers are very small, a module may be suspended. Where a module does go ahead with a small number of students (typically one or two students), those students can expect a reduction to the relevant contact hours (normally 6 sessions will be reduced to 4).

Some, but not all, of the modules advertised may be borrowable by students from other Departments/Faculties, subject to availability and approval from both sides.  Numbers may be limited, and students enrolled on the Film and Screen MPhil take priority.  Queries should be directed to the Postgraduate Office on

FR Contemporary: Articulations of the Real: Modern and Contemporary French and Francophone Culture

Course Convenor: Dr Ian James (, Section of French

From the early twentieth century to the present day, French and Francophone artists, writers, film-makers, and thinkers have proposed a series of compelling, and often conflicting accounts of the encounter between cultural production, in all its forms, and the material, textures, rhythms, and practices of lived experience. This module will build up a picture of this central strand of the culture of its period, through a series of sessions dedicated to engagement with topics and works in which its key concerns are decisively articulated. The question of the engagement between the cultural object and its world forms a core around which many of the period’s most significant contributions to intellectual and cultural debate may be gathered: the module thus aims both to propose a coherent exploration of a specific question, and to open onto a panoramic view of the period’s most interesting and important aspects, as well as some particularly striking recent work in the fields of intellectual and aesthetic inquiry.

The module is open to all those who have degree-level French, whether or not they have previously studied the period. It may also be borrowed by students taking the MPhil in Film and Screen Studies. There will normally be a maximum capacity of 14 for this module.

Preparatory reading might include any of the following (or similar)

  • Achille, Forsdick, & Moudileno (eds), Postcolonial Realms of Memory: Sites and Symbols in Modern France
  • Dawn Ades & Simon Baker (eds), Undercover Surrealism
  • Aimé Césaire, Discours sur le colonialisme
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe
  • Georges Didi-Huberman, Images malgré tout
  • Mary Ann Doane, The Emergence of Cinematic Time
  • Frantz Fanon, Peau noire, masques blancs
  • Frantz Fanon, Les Damnés de la terre
  • Mayanthi L. Fernando, The Republic Unsettled: Muslim French and the Contradictions of Secularism
  • Félix Germain & Silyane Larcher (eds), Black French Women and the Struggle for Equality
  • Stefanos Geroulanos, Transparency in Postwar France: A Critical History of the Present
  • Paul Gilroy, The Black Atlantic
  • Édouard Glissant, Poétique de la relation
  • Édouard Glissant, Traité du tout-monde
  • Keaton, Sharpley-Whiting, and Stovall (eds), Black France/France Noire: The History and Politics of Blackness
  • Laura U. Marks, The Skin of the Film
  • Timothy Mathews, Literature, Art, and the Pursuit of Decay in Twentieth-Century France
  • Achille Mbembe, Critique de la raison nègre
  • Achille Mbembe, De la postcolonie
  • Achille Mbembe, Politiques de l’inimitié
  • Alison J. Murray Levine, Vivre ici: Space, Place and Experience in Contemporary French Documentary
  • Mame-Fatou Niang, Identités françaises: Banlieues, féminités et universalisme
  • Jacques Rancière, Le Partage du sensible.
  • Kristin Ross, Fast Cars, Clean Bodies
  • Oana Sabo, The Migrant Canon in Twenty-first Century France
  • Luuk Slooter, The Making of the Banlieue: An Ethnography of Space, Identity, and Violence
  • Christy Wampole, Degenerative Realism: Novel and Nation in Twenty-first Century France
  • Jim Wolfreys, Republic of Islamophobia: The Rise of Respectable Racism in France
FSS Arab Cinema: Mediating Memory, Identity, and Political Struggle in Arab Cinema

Course Convenor: Dr Kareem Estefan (, Cambridge Film & Screen and Department of History of Art

Often represented as monolithic in the West, the region called the “Middle East” is in fact as heterogeneous as it is vast—and its cinematic practices reflect this diversity. This module offers a broad but necessarily partial overview of Arab cinema, focusing on the Levant, from the state-sponsored cinema of 1960s/1970s Egypt and Syria to independent films produced across the region and its diasporas in recent years. Within this frame, the module will survey a range of cinematic genres and modes, including (neo)realism, documentary, essay-films, animations, and features that are by turns comedic, melodramatic, and fantastical. We will examine these films as aesthetic objects rooted in local image-making and storytelling traditions and as media that reflect and reshape cultural identities, social histories, and political struggles. We will also explore their dialogues with and contestations of Western cinema and media, both commercial and independent, as well as their relationships to Global South film movements such as Third Cinema.

The module will ask: How has Arab cinema represented political upheaval, from anticolonial revolts to recent uprisings associated with the “Arab Spring”? How do Arab filmmakers navigate limited funding, state censorship, and tumultuous political environments? How have their films reconstructed and reimagined archives, lands, identities, and communities that have been appropriated, partitioned, or destroyed by colonialism and imperialism? What makes a film an Arab film (or a Syrian or Palestinian film), and how do transnational networks as well as portrayals of hybrid and marginalized identities—e.g. the Arab Jew, the migrant laborer, the multiply displaced refugee—complicate narratives of the “Middle East”?

The module will be roughly split into two units, the first surveying central aesthetic and political questions, modes of address, and forms of production across the Arabic-speaking world, and the second exploring contemporary Syrian, Palestinian, and Lebanese cinema in greater depth.

Preliminary Reading

  • Livia Alexander, “Is There a Palestinian Cinema? The National and Transnational in Palestinian Film Production”, in Palestine, Israel, and the Politics of Popular Culture (eds. Rebecca Stein and Ted Swedenburg), Duke University Press, 2005. 150-174.
  • Samirah Alkassim and Nezar Andary, The Cinema of Mohammad Malas: Visions of a Syrian Auteur, Palgrave McMillan, 2018.
  • Donatella Della Ratta, Shooting a Revolution: Visual Media and Warfare in Syria, Pluto Press, 2018.
  • Donatella Della Ratta, Kay Dickinson, Sune Haugbolle (eds.), The Arab Archive: Mediated Memories and Digital Flows, Institute of Network Cultures, 2020.
  • Kay Dickinson, Arab Cinema Travels: Transnational Syria, Palestine, Dubai and Beyond, Palgrave BFI, 2016.
  • Chad Elias, Posthumous Images: Contemporary Art and Memory Politics in Post–Civil War Lebanon (Introduction and Ch. 5), Duke University Press, 2018.
  • Kareem Estefan, “Narrating Looted and Living Palestinian Archives: Reparative Fabulation in Azza El-Hassan’s Kings and Extras,” Feminist Media Histories 8:1 (Spring 2022), 43–69.
  • Nurith Gertz and George Khleifi, Palestinian Cinema: Landscape, Trauma and Memory, Indiana University Press, 2008.
  • Khadijeh Habashneh, Knights of Cinema: The Story of the Palestine Film Unit, Springer, 2023.
  • Touria Khannous, “Realms of Memory: Strategies of Representation and Postcolonial Identity in North African Women’s Cinema”, Journal X: Vol. 6, No. 1 (2020): 47-61.
  • Lina Khatib, Lebanese Cinema: Imagining the Civil War and Beyond (Ch. 7), I.B. Taurus, 2008. 153-184.
  • Laura U. Marks, Hanan al-Cinema: Affections for the Moving Image, MIT Press, 2015.
  • Hamid Naficy, An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking (Introduction, Ch. 1, Ch. 4), Princeton University Press, 2001.
  • Kamran Rastegar, Surviving Images: Cinema, War, and Cultural Memory in the Middle East, Oxford University Press, 2015.
  • Walid Sadek, “In the Presence of the Corpse,” Third Text Vol. 26, Issue 4 (July 2012): 479-489.
  • Viviane Saglier, “Decolonization, Disenchantment, and Arab Feminist Genealogies of Worldmaking.” Feminist Media Histories Vol. 8, No. 1 (Winter 2022): 72-101.
  • Rasha Salti (ed.), Insights Into Syrian Cinema: Essays and Conversations with Contemporary Filmmakers, AIC Film Editions/Rattapallax Press, 2006.
  • Rona Sela, “Seized in Beirut: The Plundered Archives of the Palestinian Cinema Institution and Cultural Arts Section.” Anthropology of the Middle East Vol. 12 No. 1 (Summer 2017): 83-114.
  • Viola Shafik, Arab Cinema: History and Cultural Identity, American University of Cairo Press, 1998.
  • Viola Shafik (ed.), Documentary Filmmaking in the Middle East and North Africa, American University of Cairo Press, 2021.
  • Ella Shohat, Taboo Memories, Diasporic Voices (Ch. 4 and Ch. 10), Duke University Press, 2006.
  • Stefan Tarnowski, “Visible Records of a Definite Problem,” World Records Journal Vol. 6 (2022).
  • Nadia Yaqub, Palestinian Cinema in the Days of Revolution, University of Texas Press, 2018.
  • Akram Zaatari, A Conversation with an Imagined Israeli Filmmaker Named Avi Mograbi, Sternberg Press, 2012.
FSS The Cinematic Prop

Course Convenor: Prof John David Rhodes, Director, Cambridge Film & Screen (

What does the film prop do? How does it furnish, fashion and secure a fictional world? This book considers the prop in film history, theory and aesthetics. “Prop” is short for property but the prop is central to cinema’s specific properties as a medium: to the establishment of mise-en-scéne, the catalyzation of narrative, and the self-exhibition of cinematographic technique. And yet, there is no real account of the prop that lasts longer than a few paragraphs.

Props provide part of the raw, supporting material of cinema’s diegetic reality. Props are also narrative agents: one cannot avoid thinking about the coffee cup in Hitchcock’s Notorious, the scarves, leaves and lamps of Sirk’s Written on the Wind, or the animacy of props in Jean Epstein’s account of photogenie. Yet the prop in its “propness,” its secondariness as “supporting character,” has not been fully theorized.

Thinking the prop opens onto thorny questions regarding materiality, possession, instrumentality, labour, and aesthetic control. In this module we will engage in close readings of films and key moments in film theory in order to reveal the prop’s as-yet unacknowledged but nevertheless obdurate presence at the heart cinema.

After an initial meeting that will focus on the prop as a theoretical object, the seminars will be organised around student-led case studies. A planning meeting (one hour) in late Michaelmas Term will also be required.

Preliminary Reading 

  • André Bazin, “Theater and Cinema—Part Two,” What is Cinema?, volume I, Hugh Gray, ed. and trans. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005 [1967])
  • Christian Metz, Film Language: A Semiotics of the Cinema, trans. Michael Taylor (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1974)
  • François Truffaut, Hitchcock (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1985
  • D.A. Miller, Hidden Hitchcock (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2016)
  • Karl Marx, Capital, Volume I, trans. Ben Fowkes (London: Penguin, 1990)
  • Vivian Sobchack, “Chasing the Maltese Falcon: The Fabrication of a Film Prop,” Journal of Visual Culture, 6:2 (August 2007), 221-222.
  • Andrew Sofer, The Stage Life of Props (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2003)
  • Roland Barthes, “The Reality Effect,” in The Rustle of Language, Richard Howard, trans. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1989)
  • Jason Paul and Sarah Keller, Jean Epstein: Critical Essays and New Translations, (Amsterdam: Amsterdam Univeristy Press: 2012)
  • Francesco Casetti, ‘Objects on the Screen: Tools, Things, Events’, in Volker Pantenburg, ed., Cinematographic Objects: Things and Operations (Berlin: August Verlag, 2015)
  • Siegfried Kracauer, Theory of Film: The Redemption of Physical Reality (Princeton, N.J., 1997


FSS Digital Forms

Course Convenor 2023-24: Dr Annja Neumann, Cambridge Digital Humanities (

Digital technologies are transforming cultures. Older forms are being re-mediated, new forms are emerging. Computational operations are expanding to become pervasive, operating at multiple scales, taking different material forms, combining into new assemblages. This is a matter of medium change, of the expansion of mediation itself, perhaps a matter of it becoming environmental. The world into which we are emerging is conditioned by developments in computing; machine learning and AI expand the realm of the computable – of what may be handled through machine logics, while the expansion of sensors, drones, platforms make environments and bodies newly available – for capture, treatment, processing.

This course explores the stakes of these transformations, asking how they have been, and are now, understood and articulated, how they are taking material form – as literature, film, media art, everyday ephemera, re-organizing our sense of the boundaries between image, sound, and text, for instance. The intention is to consider the operations and cultural imaginaries of the computational.

A key question to be explored concerns determination. Today ‘capitalist realism’ – that powerfully operating myth of the ultimate determination of the market – co-exists with claims for technological destining. The proposition that ‘by now’ technology delivers our future and organizes our present seems to suggest a form of autonomy – but the shape of the computational is also given by the conditions in which it is made – as algorithmic bias illustrates. With these tensions in mind, this thoroughly non-exhaustive course explores critical theorizations of media technologies – including new materialisms, media archaeology, code studies, automatic writing, and considers cultural forms and productions that engage with or evidence the cultural logics of the computational.

  • Week 1: Sensors, Data, Algorithms, Networks: The Processing Logics and architectures of a New Media System
  • Week 2: New Media Materialism (and Its Discontents)
  • Week 3: Almost Touching: Drone Fever to Zoom fatigue
  • Week 4: Clever things? Artificial Beings and AI
  • Week 5: The Cyberspace Imaginary and the (Afro)Future?
  • Week 6: Do Electric Sheep dream of Robots? Writing and Automation

This module is offered by the Faculty of English but is also available to Film MPhil students.  There will be a cap of approximately 13 students, so if this proves to be particularly popular then there is a possibility that some students may need to be allocated their second preference of module. Although this module is offered through the Faculty of English, Film students will still need to abide by the MMLL timetable for essay submissions and guidelines for assessed work.

Preliminary Reading 

All or any of the below would suggest some of the themes of the course and would be helpful to read beforehand. The first five readings point to various approaches that will be taken up and would be particularly helpful.

  • Matthew, Fuller (2008). Software Studies: A lexicon. London: MIT.
  • Safiya Umoja Noble (2018). Algorithms of Oppression. New York: NYU Press.
  • Barad, Karen (2003). ‘Posthumanist Performativity: Toward an Understanding of How Matter Comes to Matter’, in Signs: Journal of women in Culture and Society, 28(3). (Spring, 2003):  801-831.
  • Elsaesser, Thomas. (2016). ‘Media Archaeology as Symptom’, in New Review of Film and Television Studies, Vol 14, 2016, issue 2.
  • Turing, A. M. (1950).  ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, in Mind, Oct, 1950, 433-60.
  • Mark Dery Flame Wars (1993). 559 – 568, and Black to the Future: Interviews with Samuel R. Delany, Greg Tate and Tricia Rose. 735-778, in South Atlantic Quarterly, Fall 1993.
  • Andrew Goodman (2020).  ‘The Secret Life of Algorithms: speculation on queered futures of neurodiverse analgorithmic feeling and consciousness’ In Transformations, 34. (
  • Tade Thomson (2016). Rosewater. London, Orbit
  • William Gibson (1984). Neuromancer, London: Gollancz
  • Donna Haraway, (2016). Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene. United States of America: Duke University Press
  • Quentin Meillassoux. (2015). Science Fiction and Extro Science Fiction.  Univocal: London
  • Franco Moretti. (2013) ‘The Slaughterhouse of Literature’. Chapter in Distant Reading. London, Verso.
FSS Feminisms: Feminisms and Moving Images

Course Convenor: Dr Isabelle McNeill  (, Cambridge Film & Screen and Section of French

The practices and theories of the moving image have been profoundly shaped by feminism. While feminist praxis and politics have contributed to vital, often experimental, reimaginings of subjectivity and the body onscreen, feminist thought has offered foundational frameworks for theorising spectatorship, narrative, genre, voice, affect and the senses in cinema, as well as recent crucial accounts of data and the digital. This module explores the ways in which feminisms — understood plurally and intersectionally, in interaction with issues of race, class, queer and trans representation, among various other concerns — continue to shape the practices and theories of the moving image. International in scope, the module focuses predominantly on work by female-identifying filmmakers/artists in the contemporary, while also drawing connections to histories and genealogies of feminist art, film and thought. The filmmakers/artists to be discussed all position themselves differently in relation to feminism, ranging from avowed commitment to ambiguous or conflicted relations. But in each case we ask how feminist thought and related frameworks might enrich our understanding of their works, while also asking how these artistic practices prompt us to reflect on feminisms anew. Addressing practices across different media (film, video, installation etc.), the module will be team-taught by colleagues from various Faculties (MMLL, English, History of Art).

This module is borrowable by ELAC, History of Art and English MPhil students.

Preliminary Reading

  • ‘An Archive for the Future’, Camera Obscura, 21:3 (63) (2006)
  • Caroline Bassett, Sarah Kember and Kate O’Riordan, Furious: Technological Feminism and Digital Futures (London: Pluto Press, 2020)
  • Robin Blaetz (ed), Women’s Experimental Cinema: Critical Frameworks (Durham: Duke UP, 2007)
  • Vicki Callahan, Reclaiming the Archive: Feminism and Film History (Detroit: Wayne State UP, 2010)
  • Judith Halberstam, In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives (New York: NYU Press, 2005)
  • bell hooks, ‘The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators’, in Black Looks: Race and Representation (Boston: South End Press, 1992), pp. 115-152
  • Claire Johnston, ‘Women’s Cinema as Counter-Cinema’ [1973], in Sue Thornham (ed), Feminist Film Theory: A Reader (New York: NYU Press, 1999), pp. 31-40
  • Kara Keeling, The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense (Durham: Duke UP, 2007)
  • Sophie Mayer, Political Animals: The New Feminist Cinema (London: I.B. Tauris, 2019)
  • Laura Mulvey, ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’, Screen, 16:3 (1975), 6-18
    • see also ‘Visual Pleasure at 40’ dossier, ed. John David Rhodes, Screen, 56:4 (2015)
  • Laura Mulvey and Anna Backman Rogers (eds), Feminisms: Diversity, Difference, and Multiplicity in Contemporary Film Cultures (Amsterdam: Amsterdam UP, 2015)
  • Anat Pick, ‘New Queer Cinema and Lesbian Films’, in Michele Aaron (ed), New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader (Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2004), pp. 103-118
  • Gayle Salamon, Assuming a Body: Transgender and Rhetorics of Materiality (New York: Columbia UP, 2010)
  • Kaja Silverman, The Acoustic Mirror: The Female Voice in Psychoanalysis and Cinema (Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana UP, 1988)
  • Françoise Vergès, A Decolonial Feminism, trans. Ashley J. Bohrer (London: Pluto Press, 2021)
  • Patricia White, Women’s Cinema, World Cinema: Projecting Contemporary Feminisms (Durham: Duke UP, 2015)
  • Emma Wilson, The Reclining Muse: Agnès Varda, Catherine Breillat and Nan Goldin (Liverpool: Liverpool UP, 2019)
FSS Historiographies: Global Film and Media Historiographies

Course Convenor: Dr Xin Peng (, Cambridge Film & Screen and Department of History of Art

This module explores the ways in which film and media histories are constructed. We will focus on different methodologies for retrieving and analyzing primary materials in a global context. The module is structured in two parts. Part I (week 1 – week 3) interrogates the concept of “historicity” and the constructions of the “archive” that will lay the ground for our discussions throughout the course. We will pay special attention to the transition to digital media, as well as gaps and absences – voices that have been historically repressed and erased – in archival institutions and the diverse ways in which to address and redress these absences. Part II (week 4 – week 6) takes a transnational approach to three key critical concepts – hauntology, media archaeology, and the Anthropocene – that have had significant impact on the approaches to the writing of history in film and media studies in the past three decades.

Preliminary Reading

  • Philip Rosen, Change Mummified: Cinema, Historicity, Theory (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001)
  • Jennifer M. Bean, “Towards a Feminist Historiography of Early Cinema,” A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002)
  • Jacqueline N. Stewart, Migrating to the Movies: Cinema and Black Urban Modernity (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005)
  • Zhen Zhang, An Amorous History of the Silver Screen: Shanghai Cinema, 1896-1937 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005)
  • Paula Amad, Counter-archive: Film, the Everyday, and Albert Kahn’s Archives de la Planète (New York: Columbia University Press, 2010)
  • Ann Cvetkovich, An Archive of Feelings: Trauma, Sexuality, and Lesbian Public Cultures (Durham: Duke University Press, 2003)
  • Giovanna Fossati, From Grain to Pixel: The Archival Life of Film in Transition (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2018)
  • Katherine Groo, Bad Film Histories: Ethnography and the Early Archive (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2019)
  • Kara Keeling, The Witch’s Flight: The Cinematic, the Black Femme, and the Image of Common Sense (Durham: Duke University Press, 2007)
  • Tavia Nyong’o, Afro-Fabulations: The Queer Drama of Black Life (New York: New York University, 2019)
  • Ackbar Abbas, Hong Kong: Culture and the Politics of Disappearance (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997)
  • Suzanne Enzerink, “Black Atlantic Currents: Mati Diop’s Atlantique and the Field of Transnational American Studies,” Journal of Transnational American Studies 12.1 (2021): 53-81
  • Ann Laura Stoler, Haunted by Empire: Geographies of Intimacy in North American History (Durham: Duke University Press, 2006)
  • Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka, “Introduction: An Archaeology of Media Archaeology,” Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications (Berkeley: University of California, 2011)
  • Thomas Elsaesser, “The New Film History as Media Archaeology,” Cinéma 14.2-3 (2004): 75-117
  • Sudhir Mahadevan, A Very Old Machine: The Many Origins of the Cinema in India (Albany: SUNY Press, 2015)
  • Brian Larkin, Signal and Noise: Media, Infrastructure, and Urban Culture in Nigeria (Durham: Duke University Press, 2008)
  • Shaoling Ma, The Stone and the Wireless: Mediating China, 1861-1906 (Durham: Duke University Press, 2021)
  • Jennifer Fay, Inhospitable World: Cinema in the Time of the Anthropocene (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018)
  • Nadia Bozak, The Cinematic Footprint: Lights, Camera, Natural Resources (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2012)
  • Debashree Mukherjee, Bombay Hustle: Making Movies in a Colonial City (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020)
  • El Hadji Diop, “From Environmental Degradation to the Waste Economy of Postcolonial Desire: Ecocritical Footprints in Touki-Bouki and Hyenas,” Journal of African Cinemas 11.3 (2019): 193-205
  • Giuliana Bruno, Streetwalking on a Ruined Map: Cultural Theory and the City Films of Elvira Notari (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993)
  • Carolyn Steedman, Dust: The Archive and Cultural History (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2002)
  • Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts,” Small Axe 12.2 (2008): 1-14
  • Jacques Derrida, Specter of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning and the New International (London: Routledge, 2006)
  • James Tweedie, “The Hauntology of the Cinematic Image: Walter Benjamin, Modern Media, and the Mourning Play,” Moving Pictures, Still Lives: Film, New Media, and the Late Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 2018)
  • Dipesh Chakrabarty, “The Climate of History: Four Theses,” Critical Inquiry 35.2 (2009): 197-222
  • Matthew Pangborn, “’Lessons in ‘Bad Love’: Film Noir and the Rise of the American Oil Regime in Edgar G. Ulmar’s Detour,” Journal of American Studies 55:4 (2021): 780-814
FSS Queer Cinema: Theories, Aesthetics, Politics

Course Convenor: Dr Leila Mukhida (, Cambridge Film & Screen and Section of German

What is queer cinema? Is it constituted by the viewer, who reads queerness into the images and sounds of a film? Is it tied to the declared sexual orientation of the director? Does the narrative of a film have to feature protagonists whose queerness is legible to viewers? What happens when the term ‘queer’ does not fit the cultural context from which a film emerges? Thinking about queer cinema in the world demands reflection on the position from which one is looking; as such, these key questions will run through the module. The intention of the course is to introduce students to works of contemporary queer cinema alongside some central ideas and discussions in recent queer (film) theory. For example, Cheryl Dunye’s construction of black a lesbian archive in her 1996 mockumentary Watermelon Woman will be considered in tandem with theories of queer cinema that insist on the right to concealment, and which refute evidence as the basis for subjecthood. Filmic articulations of queerness in rural and urban spaces in Stranger by the Lake (2013) by Alain Guiraudie and Sean Baker’s Tangerine (2015) will engage theories of queer cinematic spatiality and their insights into a range of topics, from subcultural sexual practices to processes of urban gentrification, the rural/urban fault line in queer representation, and the politics of sexuality in an uneven global frame.

Each year, this module is cotaught between colleagues in different language areas. In general, sessions will consist of a short introduction by the seminar leader, student presentations, and group discussion.

Preliminary Reading

  • Dennis Altman, ‘Global Gaze / Global Gays’
  • Leo Bersani, Is the Rectum a Grave? And Other Essays
  • Jinga Desai, ‘Homo on the Range: Mobile and Global Sexualities’
  • Lee Edelman. No Future: Queer Theory and the Death Drive
  • Jack Halberstam, In A Queer Time and Place
  • Teresa de Lauretis, ‘Queer Texts, Bad Habits, and the Issue of a Future’
  • Henri Lefebvre, The Production of Space
  • José Esteban Muñoz, Cruising Utopia: The Then and There of Queer Futurity
  • Jasbir K. Puar, Terrorist Assemblages: Homonationalism in Queer Times
  • Mari Ruti, The Ethics of Opting Out: Queer Theory’s Defiant Subjects
  • Karl Schoonover and Rosalind Galt, Queer Cinema in the World
  • Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Epistemology of the Closet
  • Nicole Seymour, Strange Natures: Futurity, Empathy, and the Queer Ecological Imagination
  • Ella Shohat and Robert Stam. Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media
  • Vivian Sobchack, The Address of the Eye: A Phenomenology of Film Experience
  • Linda Williams, Screening Sex


GE Modern Thought: Enlightenment and its Critics from Kant to Heidegger

Course Convenor: Dr Martin Ruehl (, Section of German & Dutch

The Enlightenment was one of the main roads to modernity in eighteenth-century Europe and its latter-day proponents still regard its central tenets – rationalism, secularism, individualism – as the very definition of what it means to be modern. For many historians of European thought, it represents the single most significant event since the Renaissance: an intellectual revolution that fundamentally transformed man’s understanding of his place in the natural as well as the social world and produced not just the ‘ideas of 1789’, but the various ideologies (liberalism, socialism, pacifism) that would shape Western political theory and praxis over the next two centuries.

While the scholarly output on the Enlightenment and its various individual representatives is vast, relatively little is known about those thinkers who resisted the ‘Age of Reason’ and launched what Isaiah Berlin later identified as a ‘Counter-Enlightenment’. And yet there was, as early as the mid-eighteenth century, a vociferous and highly articulate contingent in the new republic of letters which fiercely opposed the materialism and atheism of the lumières, their abstract, a-historical conceptions of the self and their levelling of national traditions and cultural diversity in the name of universalism and progress. These anti-philosophes, though frequently marginalized in the history of ideas, played a no less important role in the formation of European thought. Appalled by the rapid ‘disenchantment of the world’ (Max Weber), they attacked what they viewed as the terribles simplifications and, especially in the wake of the French Revolution, the doctrinaire intolerance of their enlightening enemies. In doing so, they formulated crucial new concepts and ideals that laid the discursive foundations, first for what we now call, somewhat vaguely, ‘the Right’, and later, in the second half of the twentieth century, post-modernism. At the same time, they also forced the ‘party of progress’ to re-define its own positions.

In this seminar, we will trace the intellectual struggles over Enlightenment from Kant’s critique of revealed religion in the ancien régime to Heidegger’s challenge to the narratives of progress, rationality, and technocratic control. We will examine these struggles as on-going, politically charged controversies about the nature and meaning of modernity, without, however, establishing any facile links between ‘the unfinished project of modernity’ (Jürgen Habermas) and the ‘Enlightenment project’. We shall approach both projects, instead, as profoundly dialectical phenomena that were generated and defined, from the beginning, by their opposites. Particular attention will be given, accordingly, to liminal figures, theorists at the interface between Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment like Herder, Nietzsche, Weber, and Adorno, who embraced central aspects of Aufklärung while questioning its triumphalist belief in humanity’s inexorable march towards ever-higher levels of rationality, emancipation, and civilization. We shall read the works of these theorists as historically as is possible in such a text-based seminar, concentrating on the following themes, listed here, rather simplistically, as binary oppositions: progressivism/historicism, optimism/Kulturkritik, society/community, reason/faith, rationalization/myth, peaceful meliorism/violent renewal.

Although all of the primary texts on our syllabus are by German authors, we will also consider the concept of Enlightenment as it was formulated and debated in other national contexts. While you are encouraged to read the primary literature in the original German, you can of course consult English translations (I am happy to point you to particular editions). The reading list attached below, though quite expansive, is by no means final and I welcome bibliographical suggestions (regarding the set texts as well as the scholarly literature) from all participants.

There will normally be a maximum capacity of 14 for this module.

Preliminary reading:

  • K. A. Appiah, “Dialectics of Enlightenment”, New York Review of Books (9 May 2019).D. Outram, The Enlightenment, 3rd edn (Cambridge 2013), ideally the whole book (it’s only 150 pp. long), but at the very least the Introduction (pp. 1-10).

General reading

  • T.J. Reed, Light in Germany: Scenes from an Unknown Enlightenment (Chicago 2015), pp. 1-77.
  • A. Pagden, The Enlightenment and Why It Still Matters (Oxford 2013), ‘Preface’ (pp. vii-xiv), ‘Introduction: What is Enlightenment?’ (pp. 1-19), and ‘Conclusion: Enlightenment and Its Enemies’ (pp. 315-352).
  • J. Robertson, ‘The Case for the Enlightenment’, in: J. Robertson, The Case for the Enlightenment: Scotland and Naples 1680-1760 (Cambridge 2007), pp. 1-52.K. Thomas, “The Great Fight Over the Enlightenment”, New York Review of Books (3 April 2014)* J. Schmidt, ‘Introduction: What is Enlightenment? A Question, its Context, and Some Consequences’, in: J. Schmidt (ed.), What is Enlightenment? Eighteenth-century Answers and Twentieth-century Questions (Berkeley and Los Angeles 1996), pp. 1-45
  • R. Porter, The Enlightenment, 2nd edn (London 2001)
IT 20th Century: New Commitments: Literature, Cinema and Culture in Italy 1960 – present

Course Convenor: Prof Robert Gordon (, Section of Italian

This module will examine a varied body of work in Italian film, literature and intellectual debate from the late 1950s to the present day. It is interested in analysing the on-going evolution of forms of social or political commitment within the cultural sphere, in a period of intense change in culture and society, and of increasing scepticism about the ideological models of the preceding anti-Fascist, neo-realist generations. Building on, but also challenging their neorealist predecessors, Italian writers, filmmakers and intellectuals in this period reconfigured the workings of political art in response to shifting national and international histories, from social changes in the family and society to the upheavals of terrorism in the 1960s and 1970s to the end of the Cold War and the ‘mediocracy’ of the fin de siècle to the emergence of a new, multicultural Italy. They also responded to changes in conceptions of history and memory, and the nature of aesthetic form, including gestures towards postmodernism (although the latter term has proved a highly problematic one in Italy). As a result, complex new relations between narrative, history, ideology, identity and representation emerged, including new uses for materials such as the document, the archive, spoken memory and recovered histories. The module will build a student-led programme based on shared interests. It typically focusses on key figures who worked towards new forms of cultural commitment in this period (Pasolini, Sciascia, Levi, Antonioni, Moretti, Passerini, Scego, Rohrwacher etc) as well as on key motifs or issues at stake within them (eg. relations between law and history, avant-garde and postmodernism, memory, oral history and orality, gender, race and exclusion, and forms such as documentary and narrative, pop genres, the historical film and novel).

There will normally be a maximum capacity of 14 for this module. The module is open to students of both Film and Screen Studies and European, Latin American and Comparative Literatures and Cultures. Students with no prior knowledge of Italian or studies in Italian culture may take the module, but they should contact the module convenor first.

Preliminary reading

  • Antonello, P. and Mussgnug, F. eds, Postmodern impegno. Ethics and Commitment in Contemporary Italian Culture, Oxford: Peter Lang, 2009.
  • Baranski, Z.G. and West, R. eds., Modern Italian Culture, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001
  • Burns, J., Fragments of ‘impegno’. Interpretations of Commitment in Contemporary Italian Narrative 1980-2000, Leeds: Northern Universities Press, 2001
  • Forgacs, D. & Lumley, R., eds, Italian Cultural Studies, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996
  • Gordon, R. S. C., Introduction to 20th-Century Italian literature: A Difficult Modernity, London: Duckworth, 2005)
  • Sorlin, P., Italian National Cinema, 1896-1996, London: Routledge, 1997
  • Wood, M. Italian Cinema, Oxford: Berg, 2005.
SP LA Cinema: The Politics of Representation in Latin American Visual Cultures

Course Convenor: To follow

This module offers students the opportunity to explore an exciting range of films and visual culture from Latin America that have addressed key political themes and reshaped our understanding of ‘political’ cinema. Taking us from the early films of the 1920s to contemporary productions, the module will examine questions of biopolitics, violence, neocolonialism, globalization, and gender and sexuality, and their (often very innovative) representation in fiction and documentary films.

Students are strongly encouraged to read a number of the following texts as advance preparation for the module in The Politics of Representation. The aim is to familiarize yourself with some of the key historical contexts, major movements and conceptual frameworks relating to film, photography, painting and other forms of art and visual culture in Latin America. The list is not prescriptive: students should choose 3-4 texts that they are able to access without too much difficulty.

This is a particularly popular module and there is a maximum capacity for this module of 10 students. It is shared with students taking the MPhil in Latin American Studies. Priority will be given to students who have degree-level Spanish or Portuguese and who are writing a dissertation in a directly related field, but even if these requirements are fulfilled, it does not guarantee a place in cases where the module is highly over-subscribed.  Non-enrolled students will not be permitted to ‘audit’ (observe) sessions due to constraints on the module.

Preliminary reading

  • Ades, Dawn, ed. Art in Latin America: The Modern Era, 1820-1980 (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989)
  • King, John. Magical Reels: A History of Cinema in Latin America (London: Verso, 1990)
  • Mosquera, Gerardo, ed., Beyond the Fantastic: Contemporary Art Criticism from Latin America (London: Institute of International Visual Arts, 1995)
  • Nelmes, Jill, ed. Introduction to Film Studies, 5th edn (London and New York: Routledge, 2011)
  • OlesJames. Art and Architecture in Mexico (London: Thames and Hudson, 2013)
  • Podalsky, Laura. The Politics of Affect and Emotion in Contemporary Latin American Cinema: Argentina, Brazil, Cuba, and Mexico (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)
  • Shohat, Ella and Robert Stam. Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (London and New York: Routledge, 1994)

Cambridge Film & Screen

Tel: +44 (0)1223 335057