Fall 2019 - CA 335 D100

Introduction to Film Theory (4)

Class Number: 9836

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Th 11:30 AM – 2:20 PM
    HCC 1425, Vancouver

  • Instructor:

    Joseph Clark
    Office: GC 3540
    Office Hours: Thursday: 3-5pm
  • Prerequisites:

    Six units from among CA (or FPA) 136, 137, 236, 237. Recommended: CA (or FPA) 210W (or 210). May be of particular interest to students in other departments.



This course is concerned with the systematic understanding of the general phenomenon called Cinema rather than with the properties or techniques of individual films. Various theoretical positions will be assessed and compared in terms of cinematic practice and its ideological functions. Students who have credit for CA (or FPA) 234 may not take this course for further credit. Students with credit for FPA 335 may not take this course for further credit.


This course revisits many of the central questions and problems addressed by 20th Century film theory. In this class we will read keys works of “classical” (from the silent era up to the mid-1960s) and “contemporary” film theory (since 1968) in dialogue with more recent works that take up similar questions, revisit earlier ideas, and apply old theories in new ways. The goal is for students to understand the history and key debates in film theory as well as the ways in which scholars and filmmakers today engage with these intellectual traditions.

The issues discussed will include: The ontology of the cinematic image, film and its relation to modernity, the cinematic apparatus, psychoanalysis, feminist film theory, critical race theory, queer theory, and post-humanism.

This is a reading-intensive course.


  • Discussion Questions 10%
  • Online question responses 15%
  • Midterm Exam 25%
  • Presentation / video essay 15%
  • Final Essay 25%
  • Class Participation 10%


Discussion Questions and Online Responses

Each week 5 students will be assigned to write questions for class discussion based on the reading and the previous week’s film screening. These questions should be broad in scope, open ended, and be focused on generating class discussion. Questions should include specific references to the films and readings in order to ground us in the texts. These questions should be posted to the weekly discussion thread on Canvas before midnight on Wednesday – so that other students and I can read them before class on Thursdays.   After class (before midnight Sundays), students should post their responses to one or more of the questions posted that week. Your weekly responses will be graded complete/incomplete (5%) and at the end of the semester in collaboration with me you will meet to review your weekly responses and plan your final paper – at this time, I will grade your responses as a collection (10%)  

Take Home Midterm Exam

The midterm exam will be a series of short essay questions and will cover most of the material of the course. It will offer you the chance to synthesize the course material and position yourself in relation to the authors we have read in preparation for your final project  

Final Project

In consultation with me, students will develop a final project that examines one or more of the theoretical traditions we examine in the course in relation to one or more specific film works. I will distribute more detailed instructions later in the course, but the final project will have two parts:  

Presentation / Video Essay

Students will create a presentation or a video essay that applies the theoretical arguments of one of the authors we have read this semester to a specific film work. Your presentations or essays should include specific visual evidence (clips/stills) and a detailed explanation of the theoretical argument as it relates to this example.  

Final Paper

Your final paper should build on the example developed in your presentation/video essay. It should expand your argument to include other examples and other perspectives in order to make a theoretical argument about film more generally. These papers should be 10-15 pages in length.  

Class Participation

Class discussion will be a big part of this class – both with the whole class and in smaller groups. Students should come to class having read the assigned readings and ready to engage the questions posed on Canvas that week. While speaking in class is one measure of your engagement with the material, I will also be looking at the quality of your online responses, your discussions with me in individual meetings, and your “engaged listening” in class discussions when I assess your participation grade. If you know you are not someone who speaks much in class, please feel free to come see me about other ways that you can demonstrate your engagement with the course material.  

Course Reading

This is a reading intensive course. Students will normally read three excerpts/articles per week – 2 “classic” works and one recent work in dialogue with them. Students must bring copies of the course readings (electronic or paper) to class and be prepared to discuss specific parts of the texts. I encourage you to make extensive notes as you read and to bring those notes with you to class as well.



All required readings will be available on Canvas

Registrar Notes:

SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html