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Unit information: Filming the Past in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Filming the Past
Unit code HIST30021
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Andy Flack
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Film-makers have been committing history to celluloid since the earliest days of the cinema. From the silent movies of the turn of the twentieth century through the epic Hollywood historical dramas of the forties and fifties to the blockbusters of the modern era, history has provided a seemingly endless supply of plots and characters for viewers to enjoy, and directors and studios to exploit. This unit will encourage students to reflect on the ways in which history has been presented on film. Students may be asked to think critically about what historical films tell us about the societies in which they emerge, for example, or to consider how historical films allow societies to improve their understanding of their own past and come to terms with it. Students will compare film with animation and gaming in terms of their respective capacity to forge relationships between past and present. Finally, students will be encouraged to reflect on aspects of historical cinema that relate to their own fields of interest and to consider whether or not there is an important difference between filmmakers and historians.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed: 1. A deep understanding of the relationship between film and history 2. the ability to critically analyse and generalise about issues of continuity and change; 3. the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general historical points; 4. the ability to derive benefit from and contribute effectively to large group discussion; 5. the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint; 6. the acquisition of advanced writing, research, and presentation skills.

Teaching Information

Seminars - 2 hours per week

Assessment Information

2-hour exam (100%) [ILOs 1-5]

Reading and References

Robert Burgoyne, The Hollywood Historical Film (Oxford, 2008). Deborah Cartmell & I. Q. Hunter (eds), Retrovisions: Reinventing the Past in Film and Fiction (London, 2001). Natalie Zemon Davis, Slaves on Screen: Film and Historical Vision (Cambridge, MA, 2000). Leger Grindon, Shadows on the Past: Studies in the Historical Fiction Film (Philadelphia, 1994). William Howard Guynn, Writing History in Film (New York; London, 2006). Marcia Landy (ed.), The Historical Film: History and Memory in Media (New Brunswick, 2000).