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Contemporary Theories of Film


Admission requirements

BA degree


In this course we will consider how the key notions of indexicality and subjectivity are revisited in contemporary theories of film in response to both media technological changes and what has been called the “material turn” in the humanities. To this end, the program is divided in two blocks, with each two sections. A focus on contemporary theories of film does not mean that classic texts of scholars like Balázs, Baudry, Bazin, Comolli or Metz will be ignored, but that they will be addressed only insofar as their legacy is updated. Some prior knowledge of classical theories of film therefore is essential, whether acquired through prior-or self-education. In the half of the semester we will focus on the notion of indexicallity. In the first three weeks we will focus on discussions on the relation between film and photography in the digital age. Topics that will be addressed are: the tension between stillness and motion, the “pensive spectator,” the Hollywood fantastic, late-Godard, and the ‘marriage’ between the museum and the moving image.” In the next three weeks the focus will then shift slightly from the material object towards the debates on the role of index in the filmic event, addressing topics such as: the index as trace and sign, the close-up, the location of the image, “the virtual life of film,” “the digital event,” “the temporal index,” and the notion of “cinematic presence.” In the second half of the semester we will then turn our attention to the notion of subjectivity. In the first three weeks we will revisit psychoanalytic film theory from a contemporary perspective, addressing topics like: the “necessity to go back to suture,” fantasy and desire, “atemporal cinema”, the abandonment of reality, ethics and morality and embodied encounters. In the second half of this block we will then turn to the notion of affect in current discussions on cinematic experience, attending to topics like “post-cinematic affect,” “neobaroque cinema,” “handheld aesthetics,” presence, deictics, Erlebnis and Erfahrung.

Course objectives

Upon completion of this course the student:

  • is familiar with the key concerns in contemporary studies of film;

  • is capable to close-read complex film-theoretical texts independently;

  • is able to paraphrase key arguments from complex film theoretical texts, so as to able to situate, evaluate and reflect on them based on these close-readings;

  • is able to put these skills to the task of writing a critical reflection on a case by choice from the perspective of one of these key concerns.


Timetable on the website

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Course Load

Total course load for the course: 10 EC = 280 hours.

  • Hours spent on attending lectures, seminars and exams: 3 hours per week x 12 weeks = 36 hours

  • Time for studying the compulsory literature & films: 190 hours

  • Time to write midterm & end of term assignment: 54 hours

Assessment method

  • Two essays of equal weight. Each essay about 3000 words.

  • The final grade for the course is established by determining the weighted average

In the case of a fail you are entitled to rewrite the essays.


Blackboard will be used to provide students with an overview of current affairs, as well as specific information about (components of) the course.

Reading list

Selection of Articles. As most readings are excerpts from selected books, they are often too long to be placed on Blackboard for copyright reasons. Therefore, hardcopy’s will be made available at a designated library shelve at the UB. Articles must be read and brought to class, either printed or digitally. To be announced via Blackboard.


Enrollment through uSis is mandatory. If you have any questions, please contact the departmental office, tel. 071 5272144 or mail:

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Registration Studeren à la carte

Contact details

Onderwijsadministratie Media Studies, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, kamer 102C. Tel. 071 5272144; mail:

Coordinator of studies: Mr. J. Donkers, MA, P.N. van Eyckhof 4, room 1.02b.