American Film Authors
Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies
Undergraduate: Level 6
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
28 March 2022
Requisites for this module
If American movies can still be characterised as constructing a dominant image of the United States (not only for the American people themselves but also for much of the rest of the world), then this filmmaking might be counted as one of the most influential and productive forces in the US culture industries. The cinema of the USA has not only reflected but also shaped and anticipated much of the country's history and politics, yet the key figures behind these media products are often far more complex, unpredictable, and even controversial than we might at first imagine. Researching and unpacking the nuances of their relationship to their craft has become a key task of doing film histories and film analysis.
This module aims to consider these ideas through examination of the work of US directors, actors, writers, and other key figures such as Charlie Chaplin, Howard Hawks, Alfred Hitchcock, Katharine Hepburn, Mae West, and Robert de Niro, and of others who partly or largely have worked outside Hollywood such as Spike Lee, Kelly Reichardt, Todd Haynes, and Courtney Hunt. Arguably, many of these figures have had a significant role in mapping the space of America in the popular imagination, while others have provided key alternatives to mainstream views and comprehension of the USA. While critically studying and interrogating the conventions of auteur theory, this module covers a breadth of US film history and genres, including the western, screwball comedy, film noir, thrillers, and horror.
Module Supervisor's Research into Subject Area:
Professor Geiger is a well-known expert on US cinema with a range of publications in the field, including Facing the Pacific: Polynesia and the US Imperial Imagination, and American Documentary Film: Projecting the Nation. He is co-editor of Film Analysis: A Norton Reader, which is used on film and media courses worldwide.
The aims of the module are:
• To gain insight into how the cinema of the USA has not only reflected but also shaped much of the country's history and politics
• To gain exposure to US cinematic texts ranging from those of the classic studio system to more independent and alternative films
• To examine in some detail select key figures behind US cinema products and engage more deeply with the stories and practices behind their films
• To gain knowledge of US film authors and understand how this knowledge can contribute to the work of doing film histories and film analysis
• To study and interrogate the conventions and limits of auteur theory
• To gain enhanced skills in research and film analysis
• To gain enhanced skills in written and verbal expression
Upon successful completion of this module, students should be able to have:
• Understanding of how the cinema of the USA has not only reflected but shaped much of the country's history and politics
• Further exposure to US cinematic texts ranging from those of the classic studio system to more independent and alternative films
• Greater knowledge of select key figures in US cinema history and the stories and practices behind their films
• Knowledge of US film authors and understanding of how this knowledge can contribute to the work of doing film histories and film analysis
• Greater understanding of the conventions and limits of auteur theory
• Enhanced skills in research and film analysis
• Enhanced skills in written and verbal expression
Shadow of a Doubt
The Wrong Man
The Grapes of Wrath
She's Gotta Have It
Do the Right Thing
Weekly 2 hour seminar (certain weeks divided into 1 hour lecture immediately followed by 1 hour class)
plus online screening (not timetabled)
Andrew Sarris (2016) ‘Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962’, in L. Braudy and M. Cohen (eds) Film theory and criticism: introductory readings. Eighth edition. New York: Oxford University Press.
Stoddart, H. (1995) ‘Auteurism and Film Authorship Theory’, in J. Hollows and M. Jancovich (eds) Approaches to popular film. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
Chaplin, C. (1917) ‘The Immigrant.’ Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycLOeCLJ9V0
Buscombe, E. (1973b) ‘Ideas of Authorship’, Screen
, 14(3), pp. 75–85. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/screen/14.3.75
Maland, C.J. (1989) Chaplin and American culture: the evolution of a star image. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Mark Winokur (1996) American laughter. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
Basinger, J. (2019) ‘1933: A Musical Year [Excerpt]’, in The Movie Musical!
Knopf Publishing Group, pp. 86–106. Available at: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&scope=site&db=nlebk&db=nlabk&AN=2025505
Robertson, P. (1996) ‘What Trixie and God Know: Feminist Camp in Golddiggers of 1933’, in Guilty pleasures: feminist camp from Mae West to Madonna. London: I.B. Tauris, pp. 57–84.
Robbins, A. (2013) ‘Busby Berkeley, broken rhythms and dance direction on the stage and screen’, Studies in Musical Theatre, 7(1), pp. 75–93.
Feuer, J. (1995) ‘The Self-reflexive Musical and the Myth of Entertainment’, in Film genre reader II
. Austin: University of Texas Press, pp. 543–557. Available at: https://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=492853&site=ehost-live&ebv=EB&ppid=pp_543
Begley, V. (2007) ‘"One Right Guy to Another”: Howard Hawks and Auteur Theory Revisited’, Camera Obscura: Feminism, Culture, and Media Studies
, 22(1), pp. 43–75. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1215/02705346-2006-020
Wise, N. (1996) ‘The Hawksian Woman’, in Howard Hawks, American artist. London: BFI Publishing, pp. 111–119.
Salamensky, S.I. (2013) ‘Bringing Up Baby: Screwball and the Con of Modern Culture’, in J. Geiger and R.L. Rutsky (eds) Film analysis: a Norton reader. Second edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, pp. 262–279.
DiBattista, M. (2001) ‘Missing Links: Bringing Up Baby’, in Fast-talking dames
. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 174–201. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1npn5p.9
The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list
Assessment items, weightings and deadlines
|Coursework / exam
||Essay 1 (1,000 words)
||Essay 2 (2,500 words)
Exam format definitions
- Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
- In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
- In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
- In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary,
for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.
Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Jeffrey Geiger, email: email@example.com.
Professor Jeff Geiger
LiFTS General Office - email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Telephone 01206 872626
Dr Andrew Birtwistle
Canterbury Christ Church University
Reader in Film and Sound
Available via Moodle
Of 16 hours, 16 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.
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