Spring 2020 - LBST 330 D200

Selected Topics in Labour Studies (3)

Studying Labour Through Film

Class Number: 2987

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Jan 6 – Apr 9, 2020: Thu, 8:30–11:20 a.m.

  • Instructor:

    Benjamin Anderson
    Office: AQ 6081
    Office Hours: Th 12:00-13:00
  • Prerequisites:

    Strongly Recommended: LBST 101 and/or 301.



Selected topics in areas not currently offered within the undergraduate course offerings. Students may take more than one offering of LBST Selected Topics courses for credit, as long as the topic for each offering is different.


Since its creation, film has been a platform of ideological struggle. It has functioned to promote dominant ideologies and undergird consumer culture, while simultaneously serving as a megaphone for working class voices and interests. In this course we examine popular images of the labour movement and the working class as presented in both mainstream and alternative traditions in film. The course is structured around the critical examination of historical and contemporary labour issues and working class struggles and how they have been depicted in media. Our exploration will be based on the recognition that our understandings and assumptions about social and political issues are influenced by media, and we will attempt to critically assess how film images shape our collective visions of work and labour.

The course will be structured around a survey of critical literature in film and media studies alongside issue texts in labour studies. By reading these two bodies of literature together, we will analyze cinematic texts through a critical labour studies lens in order to draw out popular narratives of working class culture, work, and the labour movement. Each unit in the course will focus on a particular film genre or style and its relation to a particular issue within labour studies. Our explorations will include, but will not be limited to: gender and race in the workplace, management and exploitation, austerity and the politics of neoliberalism, anti-worker narratives in popular culture, poverty and precarity, working class struggle and the labour movement, and globalization. We will view and interpret films from a variety of traditions including documentary, silent film, Hollywood blockbusters, independent film, and films from various international contexts.

Seminars will include film screenings followed by critical discussions aimed at connecting scholarly and theoretical understandings to an interpretation of film narratives and images. Throughout the course we will interrogate popular notions of labour and working class politics as well as media effects and notions of ideology and hegemony.


This course will provide the tools and historical context to critically examine, analyze and respond to popular and alternative cinematic representations of work, labour, and class.   Students will be challenged to question popular media narratives of historical and contemporary labour issues and to develop critical capacities to interpret film styles, production, imagery, and symbolism to read them through a working-class lens.


  • Attendance and participation 10%
  • Film response journals 10%
  • Midterm exam 30%
  • Paper proposal 5%
  • Final paper 45%


Grading: Where a final exam is scheduled and the student does not write the exam or withdraw from the course before the deadline date, an N grade will be assigned. Unless otherwise specified on the course syllabus, all graded assignments for this course must be completed for a final grade other than N to be assigned. An N is considered as an F for the purposes of scholastic standing.

Grading System: The Undergraduate Course Grading System is as follows:

A+ (95-100) | A (90-94) | A- (85-89) | B+ (80-84) | B (75-79) | B- (70-74) | C+ (65-69) | C (60-64) | C- (55-59) | D (50-54) | F (0-49) | N*
*N standing to indicate the student did not complete course requirements

Centre for Accessible Learning: Students with hidden or visible disabilities who believe they may need classroom or exam accommodations are encouraged to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (1250 Maggie Benston Centre) as soon as possible to ensure that they are eligible and that approved accommodations and services are implemented in a timely fashion.



All course readings will be made available electronically through 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