BA American Studies / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
American Film Studies

Course unit fact file
Unit code AMER20072
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by English and American Studies
Available as a free choice unit? No


This course unit will examine cinema in the United States since World War II but more particularly since the 1970s and the break-up of the studio system. It will explore a range of key historical and analytical approaches used in Film Studies and put these in dialogue with specific American film texts. This strategy will allow students to identify key issues and engage with important debates in the study of American film, to explore the implications of certain social, cultural and theoretical perspectives, and to test the usefulness of various methodological approaches to the study of film, through history, theory, and culture.

The unit will take a close look at both the textual operations of individual films as well as historicising and contextualising the films via genres, authorship, race, gender, and politics. Through a discussion of their meanings in relation to the operations of the film industry, to audiences, and more broadly to American culture, economics, and politics, we begin to plot out the influence and legacy of a range of key cinematic texts up to the present day.


  • To develop student understanding of cinema in the United States
  • To introduce conceptual debates in film studies
  • To foster students’ ability to apply film studies concepts to individual films and genres
  • To develop students’ understanding of certain aspects of American film history in the post-war era and more especially since the 1970s
  • To develop skills in the narrative, thematic and stylistic analysis of films
  • To foster skills in written and verbal forms of expression, and in critical and analytical thinking
  • To encourage students to work productively within a group

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course unit, students should be able to: 

  • To recognise the influential role of the film industry in American culture and society
  • To engage with, apply, and evaluate a range of conceptual models to American film texts
  • To demonstrate the ability to conduct thematic, narrative and stylistic analyses of films
  • To identify and interrogate film genre classifications and conventions
  • To recognise the importance of social and historical contexts in the study of film
  • To work independently and collaboratively in undertaking a range of written and research tasks
  • To demonstrate an increased precision and thoroughness in written and oral communication

Employability skills

Analytical skills
Students taking this unit will be able to analyse and evaluate arguments and texts. Above all, committed students will emerge from this course unit with an advanced capacity to think critically, i.e. knowledgeably, rigorously, confidently and independently. Students will conduct an audience survey and writing up their survey findings in a report, developing directly transferable skills for various real-world work place activities.
Group/team working
Students taking this unit will be able to work courteously and constructively as part of a larger group.
On this unit students are encouraged to respond imaginatively and independently to the questions and ideas raised by texts and other media.
Students on this unit must take responsibility for their learning and are encouraged not only to participate in group discussions but to do so actively and even to lead those discussions.
Project management
Students taking this unit will be able to work towards deadlines and to manage their time effectively.
Oral communication
Students taking this unit will be able to show fluency, clarity and persuasiveness in spoken communication.
Students on this unit will be required to digest, summarise and present large amounts of information. They are encouraged to enrich their responses and arguments with a wide range of further reading.
Written communication
Students on this unit will develop their ability to write in a way that is lucid, precise and compelling.

Assessment methods

Essay (40%)

Exam (60%)

Feedback methods

  • Written feedback on research task
  • Written feedback on essays

Recommended reading

Adrian Martin “The Challenge of Narrative,” Cineaste, Vol XLIV, No. 3, Summer 2019, 22-27.

Geoff King, “Spectacle, Narrative and the Spectacular Hollywood Blockbuster”, Julian Stringer  (ed.),  Movie  Blockbusters  (London: Routledge,  2003),  114-127; 

Ian Scott, “Spectacle vs. Narrative: Action Political Movies in the New Millennium,” The Routledge Companion to Cinema and Politics, Yannis Tzioumakis and Claire Molloy (eds.) (London: Routledge, 2016), pp. 291-301; 

Andrew Dix, Beginning Film Studies, Second Edition (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2016), 106-37.

James Naremore, “Spies and Lovers”, Naremore ed. North by Northwest: Alfred Hitchcock, Director (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers UP, 1993), pp. 3-21. 

William Rothman, “North by Northwest: Hitchcock’s Monument to the The Hitchcock Film”, "I" of the Camera: essays in film criticism, history, and aesthetics (Cambridge: CUP, 2004), 241-53. 

 Lester D. Friedman, Bonnie and Clyde (London: British Film Institute, 2000), 21-41: Mark Harris “Introduction” and “One” from; Scenes from a Revolution: The Birth of New Hollywood (Edinburgh: Canongate, 2008), 1-19.

Barry Langford, Post-Classical Hollywood (Edinburgh: EUP, 2010), 107-131 

Eithne Quinn,  A Piece of the Action: Race and Labor in Post-Civil Rights Hollywood (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020);

Peter Biskind, Easy Riders, Raging Bulls:  How the Sex-Drugs-and-Rock ‘n’ Roll Generation Saved Hollywood (London:  Simon & Schuster, 1998).

Pam Cook & Mieke  Bernink (eds.), The Cinema Book (2nd Edition) (London:  BFI, 1999), 98-105.

Timothy Corrigan, A Cinema Without Walls:  Movies & Culture After Vietnam (New Brunswick:  Rutgers University Press, 1991).

Geoff King, New Hollywood Cinema:  An Introduction (London:  I.B. Taurus, 2002).

Peter Kramer, The New Hollywood:  From ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ to ‘Star Wars’ (London:  Wallflower, 2005).

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 165

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ian Scott Unit coordinator

Return to course details