FT3CST-Cinema, Spectacle and Technology

Module Provider: Film, Theatre and TV
Number of credits: 20 [10 ECTS credits]
Terms in which taught: Autumn / Spring term module
Non-modular pre-requisites:
Modules excluded:
Current from: 2018/9

Module Convenor: Dr Lisa Purse

Email: l.v.purse@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Cinema has a long tradition of seeking to guarantee its market share through the spectacular, but the spectacular is also frequently derided as ‘just entertainment,’ unworthy of sustained examination. In this module we will explore the ways in which film style, technology, economics, narrative and culture intersect at key moments in the history of spectacular cinema. We will also study how spectacular cinema has been understood and responded to, looking at the key debates that spectacular cinema has prompted in film scholarship, film criticism, the press and in fan communities. 


•    To develop students’ understanding of the contexts in which developments in cinematic spectacle, and debates about cinematic spectacle, emerge;

•    To extend students’ skills of close reading and contextual analysis;

•    To encourage students’ critical engagement with works of film criticism and theory;

•    To encourage students in the confident expression of their ideas, and to extend their ability to construct evidence-based arguments.


Assessable learning outcomes:

By the end of the module, it is expected that students will be able to:

•    Demonstrate an understanding of the key critical debates around the cinematic spectacle at key moments in film history;

•    Demonstrate an understanding of related critical debates on film historiography, technological determinism, realism and verisimilitude;

•    Demonstrate an understanding of the cultural, industrial and artistic drivers and consequences of cinema spectacle’s technological and stylistic innovations; 

•    Make detailed analyses of individual film texts informed by these critical and theoretical perspectives;

•    Relate their understanding of the elements of film style, technology and industry explored on the module to their developing understanding of wider critical and theoretical frameworks, including debates around narrative, point of view, editing, sound and mise-en-scène, and cultural production and representation.


Additional outcomes:

The module plays a significant role in the continuing development of other skills and competencies, which are central to the course. It is expected that the level of skills and competencies achieved in the following will be appropriate to the level of study: oral communication and argument in group situations; deployment of research using printed and electronic resources; critical analysis and coherent argument; undertaking self-directed, independent work; presentation of written work using IT; identifying and addressing problems in the analysis of film narrative and narration.

Outline content:

The module will comprise a series of case studies which each focus on a specific figure of cinematic spectacle in film history. Students will bring together their contextual reading and screenings of pertinent materials with seminar discussion.

Global context:

Developments in film technology will be situated in relation to the global contexts of film production.

Brief description of teaching and learning methods:

Within the two-hour class, a range of teaching styles will be used and may vary from week to week. Where appropriate, lectures will be used to establish contexts and introduce issues for discussion and debate. The dominant teaching form will be the seminar, which will concentrate primarily on close analysis of films and discussion of critical approaches, and through which students can test out and develop their thinking in a supportive environment. Seminars will require preparation in the form of weekly screenings and specified critical reading. One trip to a cinema screening or London or Reading may be arranged as part of the module, and students will need to bear the cost of the ticket and travel (approximately £35 for a London-based ticket and train fare).

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Lectures 18
Supervised time in studio/workshop 32
External visits 4
Guided independent study 146
Total hours by term 200.00
Total hours for module 200.00

Summative Assessment Methods:
Method Percentage
Written assignment including essay 100

Summative assessment- Examinations:

Summative assessment- Coursework and in-class tests:

Formative assessment methods:

Penalties for late submission:
The Module Convener will apply the following penalties for work submitted late:

  • where the piece of work is submitted after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): 10% of the total marks available for that piece of work will be deducted from the mark for each working day[1] (or part thereof) following the deadline up to a total of five working days;
  • where the piece of work is submitted more than five working days after the original deadline (or any formally agreed extension to the deadline): a mark of zero will be recorded.

  • The University policy statement on penalties for late submission can be found at: http://www.reading.ac.uk/web/FILES/qualitysupport/penaltiesforlatesubmission.pdf
    You are strongly advised to ensure that coursework is submitted by the relevant deadline. You should note that it is advisable to submit work in an unfinished state rather than to fail to submit any work.

    Assessment requirements for a pass:

    An overall mark of 40% in coursework.

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Resubmission of failed coursework. 

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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