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Level 5

5AAT2601 Philosophy & Film


The modules run in each academic year are subject to change in line with staff availability and student demand so there is no guarantee this module will run. Module descriptions and information may vary depending between years.

Credit value: 15
Module tutor: Dr Christopher Hamilton 
Assessment: One 2,000-word essay (40%) and one two-hour exam (60%)

Students are reassessed in the failed elements of assessment and by the same methods as the first attempt.

Teaching pattern: Two-hour weekly classes over ten weeks.

Through lectures/seminars students will explore the ways in which film can contribute to an understanding and exploration of key philosophical topics. They will be encouraged to think about the nature of visual culture and how this differs from, and is similar to, the written word in the exploration of philosophical topics. They will deepen their understanding of key problems in philosophy of religion and ethics through seeing films and reflecting on them. The literary references of films will also be explored as part of the course.

NB This module complements 5AAT2039 Ethics, Philosophy and Literature

Sample topics (2012-13)

  • 1 An introduction to philosophy and film
  • 2-4 Rohmer: Ma nuit chez Maud: Philosophical bets and personal deceptions
  • 5-7 Antonioni: L’avventura: Diseased emotions
  • 8-10 Wenders: Der Himmel über Berlin [Wings of Desire]: The longing to be human

Module aims

  • To introduce students to certain key issues in the relation between philosophy and film and to the reasons why there is, at present, a growing interest in the relation between these.
  • To explore some of the ways in which film can significantly contribute to reflection on certain ethical and religious matters.
  • To introduce students to certain key films in the auteur tradition and to the philosophical topics they explore.

Learning outcomes

Generic skills

By the end of the course the student will be able to demonstrate an intermediate ability

  • to analyse films and their philosophical significance;
  • to summarise and present arguments;
  • to research, plan and present essays to specified deadlines.

Module specific skills

Students should become familiar with some key films that contribute greatly to exploration of certain central philosophical issues; be able to see something of the importance of film for philosophy; have some insight into the nature of different types of film and the demands they make on the reader; have a deepened understanding of certain keys problems in ethics and philosophy of religion.   

Preliminary reading list

General reading

(Codes indicate where these books can be found in Maughan library)

  • Bazin, A., What is Cinema? (Vols I and II) PN1995 BAZ
  • Bordwell, D., On the History of Film Style PN1995 BOR
  • Braudy, L. and Cohen, M. (eds) Film Theory and Criticism  PN1994 FIL
  • Cavell, Stanley, The World Viewed PN1995 CAV
  • Perkins, Film as Film PN1994 PER
  • Sontag, Susan, On Photography TR183 SON

Past Syllabus

Previous syllabus document is available here for academic year 2014-15.

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