Doctoral Film Studies Reading Group

The Film Studies Reading Group seeks to bring together postgraduate research students and staff who engage the object of film in their research practice. We hold fortnightly discussions built around canonical and contemporary works of film theory. It is our goal to foster an environment that encourages diverse approaches to film studies as a scholarly discipline, from studies in technology and aesthetics to performance and adaptation to ʻfilmosophiesʼ informed by literature, images and sound. While we aim to interrogate some of the paradigm-establishing-and-shifting ideas underpinning the discipline, expertise is not a requirement of involvement in the group, and we welcome anyone who wishes to join. All readings are pre-assigned, selected by current doctoral students to offer both new and established scholars a focused point for discussion.

In taking film as our object for analysis, we hope to engage the rich diversity of film studies, bringing together research students and staff from a range of departments and schools at the University of Sydney.


Mondays 5-7pm

Semester Two Program 2015

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Post Graduate Steering Group

Ivan Cerecina |
Stuart Cottle |
Wyatt Moss-Wellington |
Elena Sarno |
Kim Wilkins |
Keva York |

Academic Sponsor

Dr Bruce Isaacs
Rm 305 RC Mills Bld


The semester two program aims to extend the broad reach of the previous semester to new topics reflecting the breadth of interests and debates within film studies. We begin with examinations of humanism and film ethics, and progress to subjects including cinematic art, spectatorship, cinematic responses, music, landscape theory and power relations.

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The semester program aims to reflect the diversity of film studies as an academic discipline. We begin (weeks 1-2) with what brings us all together, whether in scholarly groups, university courses, or the local multiplex: cinephilia, the subjectʼs desire for the filmic object. In weeks 3-5, we encounter some of the major sticking points of the discipline: the ʻobjectʼ of sound, scopophilia and seeing, and narrative form. We close the session with a reflection on the long century of filmic history as a function of technological development.

Date Topic

Session 1:
March 10

What is this thing called film (and film studies)?

ʻWhat is cinema? It is a good question to keep in mind, but we must do our best to keep from answering it.ʼ
Yuri Tsivian, ʻWhat is Cinema?ʼ

Primary Reading

Alain Badiou, ʻCinema as a Democratic Emblemʼ, trans. Alex Ling and Aurélien Mondon, Parrhesia, no. 6 (2009), pp. 1-6. []

Dudley Andrew, ʻThe Core and the Flow of Film Studiesʼ, Critical Inquiry, no. 35 (Summer 2009), pp. 879-915. [e]

Secondary Reading

Yuri Tsivian, ʻWhat is Cinema? An Agnostic Answerʼ, Critical Inquiry, no. 34 (Summer 2008), pp. 754-776. [e]

Film Excerpt

The Searchers (John Ford, 1956), ʻthe burning ranchʼ:
Le Repas de Bébé [Feeding the Baby] (Lumière Brothers, 1895):

Session 2:
March 24

Cinephilia Film as the object of desire

ʻWe have forgotten why Joan Fontaine leans over the edge of the cliff
And what it was that Joel McCrea went to do in Holland
We have forgotten the reason why Montgomery Clift kept an eternal silence
And Janet Leigh stopped at the Bates Motel
And why Theresa Wright is still in love with Uncle Charlie
We have forgotten what Henry Fonda is not entirely guilty of
And why exactly the American government employed Ingrid Bergman
But we remember a handbag
But we remember a bus in the desert
But we remember a glass of milk, a windmillʼs blades, a hairbrush
But we remember a row of bottles, a pair of spectacles, a musical score, a bunch of keys Because through them and with them Alfred Hitchcock succeeded
Where Alexander, Julius Caesar, Hitler and Napoleon had failed
To take control of the universe
Maybe ten thousand persons have not forgotten Cezanneʼs apples
But there are millions and millions of spectators who will remember
The lighter in Strangers on a Trainʼ
Jean-Luc Godard, Histoire du Cinéma

Primary Reading

Paul Willemen ʻThrough the Glass Darkly: Cinephilia Re-consideredʼ, in Looks and Frictions (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1994), pp. 223-257. [er]

Christian Keathley, ʻThe Cinephiliac Moment and Panoramic Perceptionʼ in Cinephilia and History, or The Wind in the Trees (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006), pp. 29-53. [e-book]

Secondary Reading

Nico Baumbach, ʻAll That Heaven Allows: What is, or was Cinephilia? An Inquiry Into the Love That Dare Not Speak Its Name Except When It Doesʼ,
Film Comment, Vol. 48, No. 2 (Mar/Apr 2012), pp. 47-53. [e]

Nico Baumbach, ʻʼPhilosophyʼs Film: On Alain Badiouʼs “Cinemaʼ, Los Angeles Review of Books, 22 Sep 2013, []

Film Excerpts (to be provided)

Histoire(s) du Cinéma (Jean-Luc Godard, 1988-1998); Hitchcock, and others.

Session 3:
April 7

Sound and Vision

'Above all, I feel that the sounds of this world are so beautiful in themselves that if only we could listen to them properly, cinema would have no need for music at all'
Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema

ʻIn short, words on a page are only the beginning of film dialogueʼ Sarah Kozloff, ʻIntegrationʼ

Primary Reading

Michel Chion, ʻThe Audiovisual Contract: Projections of Sound on Imageʼ, in Audio- vision: Sound on Screen, ed. C. Gorbman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994), pp. 3-25. [er]

Sarah Kozloff, ʻIntegrationʼ, in Overhearing Film Dialogue (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), pp. 90-139. [e-book]

Secondary Reading

Andrei Tarkovsky, ʻMusic and Noisesʼ, in Sculpting in Time: Reflections on the Cinema, trans. Kitty Hunter-Blair (London: Faber and Faber, 1989), pp. 155- 163. [er]

Film Excerpt

The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1975), opening:

Session 4:
April 28

Filmic Narrative: Stabilization and Fragmentation

ʻDoes a film “tell” a story?ʼ
Tom Gunning, ʻNarrative and the Narrator Systemʼ

ʻExcess is not only counternarrative; it is also counterunity... Such an approach to viewing films can allow us to look further into a film, renewing its ability to intrigue us with its strangenessʼ
Kristin Thompson, ʻThe Concept of Cinematic Excessʼ

Primary Reading

Tom Gunning, ʻNarrative Discourse and the Narrator Systemʼ, in

D. W. Griffith and the Origins of American Narrative Film: The Early Years at Biograph (University of Illinois Press, 1993), pp. 10-30. [er]

Thomas Elsaesser, ʻThe Mind-Game Filmʼ, in Warren Buckland (ed), Puzzle Films: Complex Storytelling in Contemporary Cinema (London: Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). [er]

Secondary Reading

Kristin Thompson, ʻThe Concept of Cinematic Excessʼ, in Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen (eds), Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), pp. 513-524. [ excess-1999.pdf]

Film Excerpt

Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997), ʻin dialogue with the Mystery Manʼ:

Session 5:
May 12

Scopophilia, Sex and Spectatorship

ʻ [T]he position of spectators in the cinema is blatantly one of repression of their exhibitionism and projection of the repressed desire onto the performer.ʼ
Laura Mulvey, ʻVisual Pleasure and Narrative Cinemaʼ

Primary Reading

Murray Smith, ʻFilm Spectatorship and the Institution of Fictionʼ, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism, vol. 53, no. 2 (Spring 1995), pp. 113-27. [e]

D.A. Miller, ʻVisual Pleasure in 1959ʼ, October no. 81 (Summer 1997), pp. 34-58. [e]

Secondary Reading

Laura Mulvey, ʻVisual Pleasure and Narrative Cinemaʼ, Screen vol. 16.3 (Autumn 1975), pp. 6-18. [e]

Laura Mulvey, ʻAfterthoughts on ʻVisual Pleasure and Narrative Cinemaʼ Inspired by

Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1946)ʼ, in Constance Penley (ed.), Feminism and Film Theory (London: Routledge, 1988), pp. 69-79. [er]

Film Excerpt

Marnie (Alfred Hitchcock, 1964), ʻa romantic encounterʼ:

Session 6:
May 26


ʻWhat has the essence of technology to do with revealing? The answer: everything. [Technology] is the realm of revealing, i.e., of truthʼ
Martin Heidegger, ʻThe Question Concerning Technologyʼ

Primary Reading

Dziga Vertov, ʻThe Council of Threeʼ, in Annette Michelson (ed.), Kino-eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov, trans. Kevin Oʼ Brien (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984), pp. 14-21. [er]

Lev Manovich, ʻCinema and Digital Mediaʼ, in Andrew Utterson (ed.), Technology and Culture: The Film Reader (New York: Routledge, 2005), pp. 27-30. []

Secondary Reading

Martin Heidegger, ʻThe Question Concerning Technologyʼ, in The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays, trans. William Lovitt (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), pp. 3-35. [er]

Film Excerpt

Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982), ʻEsper photo analysisʼ: