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Approaches to East Asian Cinema (10 EC)


Admission requirements

In enrollment for this course, students from the MA Asian Studies have priority. A limited number of places is available for students of the MA International Relations. Students who are interested in taking this course, but who are not from the mentioned master programmes are requested to contact their co-ordinator of studies.


The world-renowned masterpieces of Kurosawa and Ozu, the kung fu epics of Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, the recent unprecedented Oscar wins of Bong Joon Ho’s Parasite, and countless other films from Japan, South Korea, and the Chinese diaspora have made East Asian cinema one of the region’s most visible cultural products of the past seventy years. Popular film plays a large role in the constructing the cultural identity of modern societies, but Hollywood casts a long shadow over national cinemas. Critical discussions of East Asian cinema from both within and without the region have frequently approached these works as either the alien Other of Hollywood, or else subordinate to its influence.

In this course we will seek to move beyond East-vs-West and Hollywood-centric approaches to analysing East Asian cinema. While considering the unique historical development of commercial film industries in the region, we will also take into account the inherently transnational and globalising nature of cinema. How have filmmakers in Japan, Korea, and the Chinese-speaking world responded to the hegemonic influence of the Classical Hollywood style to create works that operate in a common global vernacular, yet also forge new and distinct modes of expression? In an attempt to answer this question, we will read classic works of criticism that adopt an arguably Orientalist approach to the study of East Asian film, as well as more recent scholarship that attempts to escape the binaries that defined previous discussions. Close analysis of classic and contemporary East Asian film will provide context for these debates as well as introduce some of the major works of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean cinema to students.

Course Objectives

  • Read and critically evaluate influential academic arguments for East Asian cinema as a unique form of filmmaking.

  • Understand the principles of the Classical Hollywood style and the ways East Asian cinema conforms to and deviates from the model.

  • Become familiar with how East Asian societies have theorized and positioned their own cinema in relation to global cinema.

  • Gain a working knowledge of key historical moments in the development of East Asian cinema, including the Japanese Golden Age, Hong Kong martial arts films, and government involvement in the commercial cinema of mainland China and South Korea.


The timetables are available through My Timetable.

Mode of Instruction


Students are expected to attend all sessions having read and/or viewed the assigned materials in advance, and to actively participate in classroom discussion. If a student is unable to attend a session for a valid reason, they should notify the instructor in writing as soon as possible. Unexcused absences will significantly lower the student’s participation score.

Assessment Method

Assessment and weighing

Partial Assessment Weighing
Attendance/Participation 40%
Term paper (approx. 4,000-5,000 words) 60%

The overall course grade is the weighted average of the two components listed above; however, all students must receive a minimum score of 5.5 (=6) for each component in order to pass the course.


There are two deadlines for submission of the term paper. The first deadline will be an opportunity for students to receive ungraded feedback for revision ahead of the second deadline. Students who do not submit a draft by the first deadline lose the right to receive feedback prior to submitting the final draft. If a student does not receive a passing grade for the term paper, they may write and submit a new paper on a different topic, with a deadline to be determined in consultation with the instructor. There are no resit opportunities for the Attendance/Participation component.

Inspection and feedback

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

Required reading materials will be made available on BrightSpace or held on reserve at the library. Opportunities will be made to view any required films, either in group screenings or online.


Enrolment through MyStudyMap is mandatory.