BA Drama

Year of entry: 2023

Course unit details:
Social Lives of Cinema

Course unit fact file
Unit code DRAM30842
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Drama
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course examines the uses and the social lives of cinema by considering the ways in which cinema has been circulated, exhibited, and received by different groups of people all over the world, from the mid-twentieth century onwards. The first half of the module explores the embodied, empathetic and eroticised ways that people watch and engage with films. Then, building on these different modes of spectatorship and reception, the second half of the module surveys the ways in which cinema has been used to build and reify different kinds of communities, from empires and colonies to subcultures and movements of resistance. Distribution, exhibition and reception practices that will be explored include dementia-friendly screenings, midnight movies, and film festivals. Films that we will study include Crazy Rich Asians, The Rocky Picture Horror Show, and Atlantiques.


Available on which programme(s)?

All Drama and Film/Screen related Degree programmes

Available as Free Choice (UG) or to other programmes (PG)?

Yes, PG

Available to students on an Erasmus programme


Pre/Co/Antirequisite units

  • To explore the different modes of film spectatorship and reception in the context of their particular social, political and economic histories
  • To develop an understanding of the social and civic uses of cinema by different institutions, filmmakers and audiences
  • To encourage students to think about cinema beyond the film text by critically examining different distribution, exhibition and reception approaches


Representative examples include:


Block 1: Watching Films

  • Week 1: Encoding/Decoding
  • Gazing and the Eroticisation of Identifications
  • Phenomenological and Empathetic Encounters
  • Doing Reception Studies 1: Histoire Totale
  • Doing Reception Studies 2: Comparative Film Studies


Block 2: Building Communities

  • Week 6: Useful Cinema/Caring Cinema
    • 1 h per week of lectures
    • 2 h per week of seminars
    • 1 weekly screening (duration variable)

Knowledge and understanding

  • Distinguish key theories of film spectatorship and reception
  • Demonstrate and apply a working knowledge of issues around processes of film distribution, exhibition and reception from across a world of cinemas
  • Apply a range of significant theories and approaches to the independent analyses of cinema and film

Intellectual skills

  • Use appropriate theory and methodology to analyse cinema beyond the filmic text
  • Identify the social, political or ethical issues raised by different distribution, exhibition and reception strategies and practices
  • Effectively use primary and secondary sources, including in contexts where data is incomplete and where careful interpretive work is required

Practical skills

  • Research academic and non-academic materials, and evaluate sources
  • Plan, undertake and evaluate independent critical projects
  • Communicate research material and ideas clearly both verbally and in writing ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Ability to analyse concepts, techniques, methods, study materials (et cetera) independently and with others
  • Communicate effectively through discussion, presentation and in writing, including when discussing complex and controversial subject matter
  • A willingness to ascertain the ethical implications of proposed courses of actions or situations and to take the necessary steps to ensure that result from this analysis ¿¿¿¿¿¿¿

Employability skills

Analytical skills
¿ Critical thinking, problem-solving and planning skills
¿ Ability to exercise initiative and personal responsibility
Project management
¿ Ability to manage, complete and evaluate a project effectively
Oral communication
¿ Ability to effectively adapt self-presentation to different audiences/contexts, especially when communicating complex topics
¿ Productive team and independent working skills in learning environments that present complex and unpredictable challenges

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%
Portfolio 40%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Seminar presentation – oral


Essay – written


Final essay or creative project – written



Recommended reading

Indicative bibliography


Stacey, Jackie, 1994. Star Gazing: Hollywood Cinema and Female Spectatorship, London: Routledge.


Marks, Laura, 2000. The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses, Durham, NC: Duke University Press.


Klinger, Barbara, 1997. ‘Film History Terminable and Interminable: Recovering the Past in Reception Studies’, in Screen 38: 2, pp. 107 – 128.


Willemen, Paul, 2006. ‘For a Comparative Film Studies’, in Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 6: 1, pp. 98 – 112.


Taylor-Jones, Kate, 2017. Divine Work, Japanese Colonial Cinema and Its Legacy, London: Bloomsbury Academic.


Dovey, Lindiwe, 2014. Curating Africa in the Age of Film Festivals, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.


Dudrah, Rajinder, 2012. Bollywood Travels: Culture, Diaspora and Border Crossings in Popular Hindi Cinema, Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge.


Vélez-Serna, Maria, 20

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 33

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Maohui Deng Unit coordinator

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