FT3WO-Women’s Cinema

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

Module Convenor: Ms Alison Butler

Email: a.j.butler@reading.ac.uk

Type of module:

Summary module description:

Women’s cinema can be broadly defined as films made by, for and about women, although the simplicity of this definition belies the complexity of the theoretical, critical and historical debates around this concept. This debate intersects with discussions of authorship, genre, form and interpretation as well as with questions of feminist politics and women’s experience. The module will engage with this debate, through the work of scholars and critics from the early 1970s to the present day. However, one of the main premises of the module is that women’s filmmaking takes many forms and is not constrained by theoretical formulations, but is shaped by its historical and cultural contexts; with this in mind, we will examine a wide range of films, including mainstream and alternative forms, and early, classical and current cinema, drawn from national contexts as wide apart as Hollywood and Iran.


The module aims to familiarise students with a variety of films made by, for and about women and with key texts from feminist film theory and women’s film history. Close analysis of individual films will develop students’ understanding of the formal and stylistic choices made by the directors, their relationship to the concerns of the films and their address to the audience. The module is designed to promote independent critical thinking and personal reflection – students may not like or agree with all of the work they encounter, and will be encouraged to articulate their own critical perspectives along with a historical awareness of past issues and achievements.

Assessable learning outcomes:

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

Demonstrate a good knowledge of women’s filmmaking and its place in the history of cinema; 

Demonstrate an understanding of the key critical debates about women’s cinema and feminist filmmaking;

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

Relate their understanding of women’s filmmaking to a range of other concepts introduced by the course, including authorship, genre, style and form.


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 films.

Outline content:

In the first few weeks of the module, we will look at historical examples of women’s filmmaking drawn from early, silent and classical cinema, with case studies that might include Alice Guy, Lois Weber and Dorothy Arzner. These filmmakers worked within the mainstream traditions of cinema as it developed into an art form and an industry. Their work will be considered in relation to theoretical writing about the ways that female directors have adapted dominant conventions in order to express their own concerns. We will then turn our attention to films from a variety of World Cinema traditions, and will study these films in relation to the stylistic norms and qualities and constraints of their national film cultures. Case studies might include films by Agnes Varda, Julie Dash, Moufida Tlatli and Rakhshan Bani-Etemad. We will conclude the module by looking at recent work by contemporary female directors and will consider its aesthetics and politics in relation to the current situation.

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. Seminars will require preparation in the form of weekly screenings and specified critical reading. Short presentation papers may be prepared by individuals or small groups as a basis for group discussion. Two films are screened on the module each week.

Contact hours:
  Autumn Spring Summer
Seminars 18
Supervised time in studio/workshop 32
Guided independent study 150
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:

    A mark of 40% overall

    Reassessment arrangements:

    Resubmission of failed coursework

    Additional Costs (specified where applicable):

    Last updated: 20 April 2018


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