Fall 2022 - CA 136 D100

The History and Aesthetics of Cinema I (3)

Class Number: 6976

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 2:30 PM – 5:20 PM
    GCA 3200, GOLDCORP

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Dec 12, 2022
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    HCC 1700, Vancouver

    Dec 12, 2022
    12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
    HCC 1900, Vancouver

  • Instructor:

    Joseph Clark
    Office: GCA 3845
    Office Hours: Tuesdays 12-2pm



This course will examine the early development of cinema from 1890 until about 1945, with particular emphasis on the fundamental principles of film as an art form. May be of particular interest to students in other departments. Students with credit for FPA 136 may not take this course for further credit. Breadth-Humanities.


This course examines the first 50 years of film from the earliest experiments in moving pictures to the height of Hollywood’s power and reach. Through lectures, screenings, readings, and discussion this course will take a multi-perspectival approach to film studies, combining aesthetic and theoretical questions with the history of film as a technology, an art form, an industry, and a cultural phenomenon. We’ll look at film’s early innovators, classical Hollywood narrative, the studio system, as well as European and avant-garde cinema, while also paying attention to genres, filmmakers, and moviegoers sometimes marginalized by these traditional narratives. We’ll be particularly attentive to the ways in which film culture shaped and reflected changing notions of class, race, gender, and sexuality in the first half of the Twentieth Century. Students will learn to understand and apply the language of film analysis in order to discuss the formal aspects of film in historical context.


  • Silent Film Exhibition Research Project 20%
  • Midterm Exam 20%
  • Soundtrack Assignment 20%
  • Final Exam 25%
  • In-Class Film Responses 5%
  • Participation 10%



Normally lecture will be divided into two or three parts. Typically the first hour to 90 minutes will be lecture, followed by the screening of that week’s film. Sometimes lectures will follow the film. Tutorials will be devoted to close discussion of the films and readings. If for any reason you miss a screening, you are responsible for seeing the film on your own. Most -- not all -- films will be on reserve or available online.

In-Class Response Writing

To facilitate discussion in tutorial, there will be a short writing response based on the screening and/or reading that you will be required to complete at the beginning of tutorial. You should write these responses on the index card provided (with your name and student number) and submit them to your TA. These responses will be graded pass/fail and will make up 5% of your final grade.

Essay Assignments

You’ll receive a detailed prompt for both of the assignments in class – these prompts will also be posted to Canvas. Essays and other assignments should be submitted on the day they are due. Each student has a total of 5 days’ worth of extensions that can be used throughout the semester on any assignment or the take-home portion of the midterm exam – no extensions can be used on the final exam. You can use one or more of these extension days when you need a little extra time to finish your assignment – as long as you have not used up your five days, there is no need to contact me or your TA to request an extension. Once you have used your five days, late assignments will be graded down each day (i.e. B+ becomes a B, etc). Students must complete all assignments in order to pass the course.

Attendance and Participation

As discussion is a big part of the course, attendance and participation in lecture, screenings, and tutorial will be crucial to your success and the success of the class overall. Come to tutorial having watched the film, completed all the readings and prepared to discuss them thoughtfully with your classmates. All absences will affect your participation grade (10% of your final grade), but any student missing more than four tutorials will receive an F for the course.

Office Hours and Correspondence

Students are encouraged to visit me during my office hours (Tuesdays, 12-2pm
in GCA3845) or by appointment. The best way to reach me is always via email, jec10@sfu.ca.


Exams will cover key material from the lectures, required readings, and screenings.
  • Lectures will often cover things not included in the readings. If you miss a lecture you should get notes from a classmate, check to see if there is a Powerpoint on Canvas, and come to see me with questions.
  • We will not always get the opportunity to discuss the readings in detail in class. If you have questions about readings you should raise these in tutorial or see your TA or me during office hours.

Academic integrity and dishonesty

Students are responsible for understanding and following SFU’s standards of academic integrity. You are REQUIRED to complete the plagiarism tutorial on Canvas. It is not included in your grade, but it is required that you complete it before you will receive a final grade in this class. Please do this in the first week of the semester.

Students are encouraged to consult the following websites for more information and for links to the policies that govern academic integrity at SFU:



Writing assistance

It is difficult to provide all the support necessary for learning to write well in this course. I will provide some tips before the first assignment. Also, feel free to see your TAs or me during office hours. We don't however have time to edit your papers or provide help with serious problems with writing, grammar or usage. All students can benefit from seeking assistance at the Learning Commons in the library. You can make an appointment to discuss your papers there. Visit http://www.lib.sfu.ca/about/branches-depts/slc for more information.

Additional resources – especially useful for those who speak/write English as a second language – can be found at http://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/

A final note on computer use in class: In this class we will be watching lots of films – during film screenings the use of illuminated screens is very distracting to other students. For this reason, students must put away all electronic devices whenever the lights are lowered for film screenings. Laptops and other devices may be used for note taking or other class related uses during lectures only when the lights are on



All required readings on Canvas


Your personalized Course Material list, including digital and physical textbooks, are available through the SFU Bookstore website by simply entering your Computing ID at: shop.sfu.ca/course-materials/my-personalized-course-materials.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity website 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