MA Film Studies

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Screen Acting and Stardom

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM60141
Credit rating 30
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course  develops an advanced understanding of the screen performer as actor and star. It will approach Screen Acting and Stardom from a range of critical perspectives. It will initially map out the field of star studies and identify the most influential works associated with it, and move on to consider the actor on film and challenges associated with analysing the actor’s screen performance. We will look in depth at a range of case studies, ranging from Marilyn Monroe, Bette Davis, Bruce Lee and Robert Donat, adopting both a star studies and a performance studies approach as appropriate to the material in hand.


  • To analyse stars as textual configurations and within specific national and transnational contexts.
  • To engage critically with how screen performance and stardom has been traditionally theorised by film and cultural studies, alongside recent extensions of these perspectives.
  • To explore the changing industrial contexts in which stars are produced, by considering the changing practice and image of the star performer from the 1930s to the present day.

Knowledge and understanding

  • An advanced understanding of stardom and screen acting in historical, cultural and national context.s
  • An advanced ability to analyse modes of physical and vocal expression and how these contribute to the construction and communication of meaning in performance for the camera.
  • An advanced ability to critically evaluate the historical circumstances within Hollywood and non-Anglophile cinemas that gave rise to the concept and cultural phenomena of stardom.
  • Demonstrate knowledge of key theoretical concepts in the field of star studies  
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the key approaches to understanding the work of the film actor.


Intellectual skills

  • Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and ability to apply theoretical concepts commonly used in analyses of film stardom and film performance.
  • Develop advanced critical thinking skills and express these in written and verbal forms of assessment and in seminars.
  • Produce detailed arguments about the subject using discipline appropriate language, concepts and style.
  • Develop advanced research skills through opportunities to search, retrieve and evaluate sources both on the web and in the Main Library and apply these to the development of analysis and argument.
  • Develop their skills of evaluation and analysis of research materials in seminar contexts.
  • Identify key areas of tension and debate in the field and respond to these in formulating their own analyses and argument.

Practical skills

  • Research academic and non-academic materials/contexts, and evaluate sources
  • Plan, undertake and evaluate independent critical work
  • Engage in discussion of significant cultural phenomena

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Take responsibility for managing their own learning by preparing work independently for seminar sessions and final assessment.
  • Independently locate and evaluate sources to support a research process, building on general and specific reading lists and other resources distributed throughout the course.
  • Engage sensitively the arguments and opinions of others and reconsider initial ideas where appropriate

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 100%

Feedback methods


Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback on weekly seminar tasks

Written feedback on Research Essay.  Summative



Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment)



Recommended reading

  • Babington, Bruce (ed.)(2003) British Stars and Stardom  Manchester: University of Manchester.
  • Baron, Cynthia Ann (1999)  ‘Crafting Film Performances:  Acting in the Hollywood Studio Era’ in Screen Acting, eds. by Alan Lovell and Peter Kramer, London: Routledge.
  • Dyer, Richard,( 1998),  Stars, London: BFI.
  • Lovell, Alan and Peter Kramer, (eds.), (1999), Screen Acting London: Routledge.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Seminars 38
Independent study hours
Independent study 262

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Victoria Lowe Unit coordinator

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