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BA English Literature and French

Year of entry: 2021

Course unit details:
French Cinema to 1980

Unit code FREN20142
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by French Studies
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Since the Lumière brothers’ L’Arrivée du train en gare de La Ciotat in 1895 and Alice Guy-Blaché’s La Fée aux choux in 1896, France has become home to one of the world’s most developed cinema industries. This course takes a historical look at some of the key French films and movements until 1980. The course will consist of a series of lectures and seminars examining a set of core films. It will explore some of the most prominent genres and the two movements that have become emblematic of French cinematic specificity: le réalisme poétique (poetic realism) and la nouvelle vague (the new wave). Some of France’s most renowned filmmakers will be examined through case studies of some of their most influential work. Key themes will be considered, including authorship, national identity, stardom, gender and class. 


  • to familiarise students with film studies terminology in order to enable them to analyse and interpret film in depth
  • to provide an overview of various periods, styles, themes and genres in French film history to 1980
  • to provide students with key concepts of film theory
  • to encourage and enable students to verbalise and intellectualise emotional responses to film viewing


Knowledge and understanding

  • show familiarity with film studies terminology
  • demonstrate an understanding of the various periods, styles, themes and genres in French film history to 1980
  • show a sophisticated grasp of the thematic preoccupations of cinema in France during a crucial period of accelerated modernisation
  • demonstrate a knowledge of the key issues that influence the production of films
  • show awareness of the political, social, cultural and economic concerns that surrounded filmmaking in France until 1980  

Intellectual skills

  • demonstrate an ability to undertake individual and group research
  • show a capacity to think critically about visual texts and the secondary written material about them
  • demonstrate a grasp of complex theoretical and philosophical ideas and concepts
  • comment confidently upon the impact of film style on themes, issues and ideas

Practical skills

  • demonstrate literacy in analysing visual culture, with specific attention to films
  • be assured in giving verbal expression to intellectual responses to film viewing
  • express critical ideas coherently in structured essays and group tasks
  • engage effectively in group discussions

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • structure discussions and essays
  • engage in detailed analysis and express that critical analysis clearly
  • work effectively both individually and as part of a team
  • show confidence in expressing views, opinions and ideas orally in groups

Employability skills

¿ Analytical skills ¿ Oral communication ¿ Independent research ¿ Group work ¿ Written communication

Assessment methods

Essay plan 0%
Exam 60%
Group poster 40%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Oral feedback on seminar activities


Written feedback on essay plan


Additional one-to-one feedback during office hour by appointment


Written feedback on group poster


Written feedback on exam



Recommended reading

  1. Buss, Robin, French Film Noir (London and St Paul: Marion Boyers, 1994).
  2. Green, Naomi, The French New Wave: a New Look (London: Wallflower, 2007).
  3. Marie, Michel, The New Wave : an Artistic School (Oxford and Malden: Blackwells, 2003)
  4. Neupert, Richard (2002) A History of the French New Wave Cinema, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 2nd Edition.
  5. Powrie, Phil and Reader, Keith, French Cinema: a Student’s Guide, (London: Arnold, 2002).
  6. Powrie, Phil (Ed.), The Cinema of France (London: Wallflower, 2007).
  7. Sellier, Geneviève, Masculine Singular: The French New Wave (Durham, NC: Duke University Press).
  8. Vincendeau, Ginette, Stars and Stardom in French Cinema, (London: Continuum, 2000). 

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Darren Waldron Unit coordinator

Additional notes


Plus weekly screenings of up to 3 hours per week.

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