Graduate Courses

The following courses are offered by the Cinema Studies Institute. Not all courses are offered every year. Please see the current timetable for this year's offerings, as well as recommended film-related courses elsewhere on campus.


Complete list of courses

Master of Arts Core Courses

CIN 1100H     The Textual Object
CIN 1101H     Theories and Practices of the Cinema
CIN 1102H     Key Developments in Film History

plus one of
CIN 1006Y     Major Research Paper in Cinema Studies
CIN 1007Y     Internship in Cinema Studies

Doctor of Philosophy Core Courses

CIN 2100H     History and Historiography of Cinematic Media
CIN 2101H     Pressures on the Cinematic

CIN2999H     Research Seminar

in Cinema Studies


Inside Innis College

Elective Courses

CIN 1004H     Models of Film Analysis
CIN 1005H     Special Studies in Cinema
CIN 1008H     Independent Research and Reading in Cinema Studies
CIN 1515H     The Emergence of Mass Culture: Movies, Vaudeville and Public Amusements in Turn-of-the-Century America
CIN 1539H     Film Comedy and Popular Culture
CIN 1772H     The Politics of Non-Fiction Film
CIN 3002H      Cinema and Nation
CIN 3004H     Documentary and Non-Fiction Media
CIN 3006H     Media and Philosophy
CIN 3008H     Topics in Film and Media History
CIN 3010H     Topics in Film and Media Theory
CIN 6153H     Race and Cinema
CIN 6803H     Intertextuality in Feminist Cinema: The Counter-Cinematic Impulse
JFF 1100H     Surrealism & French Cinema


Also in 2016-17:

JGF 1773H Autobiographical Documentary
INF 2225H Digital Discourse
MUS 1144H Music in the Films of Hitchcock


Core Course Descriptions


This course surveys those methods and topics that have proven most historically salient and analytically fruitful in the field of cinema studies through a semester-long discussion of a single film or other medial artifact chosen for the tremendous and varied impact it has had on film culture. In addition to engaging with that textual object in an ongoing manner, students in the course will examine both the critical literature it has generated from a wide array of scholars and other films to which it relates. In so doing, they will have the opportunity to map the various critical contexts in which meanings emerge as well as the intertextual connections such contexts provoke. Past iterations of the course have featured Touch of Evil, Imitation of Life, and Disneyland.




Organized around a series of issues that have incited ongoing discussion and debate among scholars, cultural critics, and filmmakers, this course takes a topical approach to the study of film theory. In the process it both revisits some of the most canonical texts in the field and attends to more recent attempts to think through our contemporary moment, when digitality and transnationalism are radically changing the nature of film as well as the manner in which it is produced, distributed, exhibited, and viewed. Among those issues to be discussed are medium specificity, spectatorship, narrativity, affect, and the relationship between aesthetics, economics, and politics.






This course will examine a limited number of important developments in the history of cinematic media. It will extend the in-depth study of these developments in technique, technology, and text to include considerations of the sociocultural forces, economics, theories of the cinematic and aesthetics that have played a role in their development, or in the ways in which we have studied them. The course will cover a wide range of distinct time periods, geographical areas, and stylistic tendencies, and will engage with a range of scholarly approaches to key developments in cinematic media. The course aims to ensure that students' knowledge of the history of film and media is enhanced, and that they have the opportunity to engage more critically with the issues surrounding the historical study of cinema and related media that are of interest and importance to them.



In 1824, the influential German historian Leopold von Ranke described the aim of history as "to show what actually happened," assuming the possibility of an unambiguous access to the past. Today few theorists of history would be as confident. And yet, if an unmediated past is inaccessible – if history is instead inevitably a personal construct, shaped by the historian's perspective as a narrator – how is one to assess the historical enterprise? What can it mean to think historically, and what are the unique characteristics of historical inquiry? And what clues can cinema, as a supposedly "referential" visual form, provide about history, as a similarly (and also supposedly) "referential" discourse? Broadly stated, the class can be defined in terms of three major goals: to investigate the range of hermeneutic perspectives from which film history has been written; to assess and to theorize the kind of archival sources that film historians have conventionally drawn upon; and to confront cinema's status as a technology and the pressures that technological change (in particular, digitization) has placed on history and cultural memory. Rather than deny or avoid these pressures, this course seeks ultimately to suggest ways of running positively with them; ways of "doing history in the postmodern world" – arguably the world we live in.



This course examines the multiple factors that are shaping the field of cinema studies, especially as pressures exerted on our conception of what constitutes “cinema” are reflected in current scholarly debates.  Rapid changes to technology, shifts in delivery systems, diverse spectatorial responses to and uses of cinema, globalization and industrial consolidation--all of these forces work to alter both the nature of cinema as a medium and its social and cultural functions.  This course will study how cinema’s protean nature remains a central issue in debates about medium specificity, the role of digitalization, and different viewing communities, among other topics.


A mandatory course for second-year students.


Elective Course Descriptions



Film analysis has often played a pivotal role in the development and application of theoretical presuppositions and models. This course involves the detailed examination of analytical essays that have served to further the aims of film theory or developed new models for approaching film analysis. Some of these essays are central documents in the history of film analysis; others are representative examples of certain types of analytical approaches. Through the study of these analytical essays, students are encouraged to consider how structuralism, semiotics, psychoanalysis, feminism, and neoformalism (among others) have been taken up by scholars in the analysis of film. Finally, the changes in film analysis over the last several decades can be read as epistemological shifts within film study proper; moreover, these changes signal the evolving sense of the meaning and value of the filmic text.



Seminar format. Drawing on the scholarly interests of faculty, courses may include intermediality, film genres, corporeality, and transnationality.


Sections of this course offered in 2017-18

L0101: Postcoloniality and the Moving Image

This course will examine moving image practices in tandem with key concepts in postcolonial theory such as colonial discourse, allegory, difference, nation/nationalism, subaltern, Third World, and universality. We will consider these concepts alongside a range of films and film movements, from Latin America's Third Cinema, to ethnographic documentary and contemporary transnational cinema. The course will question how, if at all, postcolonial theory has been elaborated in a distinctly cinematic (as opposed to literary) locus. Thus the course will also examine the relation of postcoloniality to film studies from a disciplinary perspective.

Readings will include germinal texts of anti-colonial and postcolonial thought by figures such as Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, C.L.R. James, Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Edward Said, alongside theories of cinema put forward by figures such as Béla Balázs, Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Fredric Jameson, Teshome Gabriel, and Julianne Burton-Carvajal.



Sections of this course offered in 2016-17

L0101: Expanded Cinema: Installation of the Real: Difference, Temporality and Space

This seminar explores moving images in museum and art gallery spaces as an aesthetic practice. The object of our inquiry is to theorize cinema beyond single-screen projection, and to interrogate the Janus-faced potential of the image archive to reanimate geo-political histories of difference that resonate, unresolved, in the present. We will consider how the temporal and affective affordances—to include sensory haptic encounters within the unique temporality of gallery space— contemporize historical memory, re-charge the real, and incite viewers to perceive otherwise. We will examine the image archive’s uncanny after-life, its capacity to provoke interpretive possibilities and associations within the constructed space of the gallery. Beyond information, idealization, or spectacle—thinking about installation’s unique charge of the real affords a means to rethink moving images’ aesthetic and political potential.


Sections of this course offered in 2015-16

L0103: Cinematic Cities

Cinematic Cities

The screen practices we associate with film in its theatrical mode of presentation interacted closely and from the beginning with the culture of emerging urban modernity even before a workable cinematic apparatus was developed.  Exchanges between city and cinema then continued and intensified well into the end of the following century. This course explores selected moments in those exchanges between cities and cinemas. The “cinematic cities” idea implies taking film as a distinctly urban medium, and the modern city correspondingly as a cinematic phenomenon. The medium's technical features, especially montage and spatial manipulation, and film’s diverse roles as an entertainment, poetic, political and information vehicle, as well as cinematic representations of particular cities will be examined.
Cinematic Cities will first focus on two topics:  (1) the theorization of modern urban visuality in film, with special consideration of proto- and early cinema related to Paris in the writings of Baudelaire as interpreted by Walter Benjamin and radically reconfigured in Bretonian Surrealism and the films that derive from it; (2) 1920s Berlin, and the writing of Simmel, Kracauer and Benjamin, focused on films like Joe May’s Asphalt, Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, Phil Zutzi’s 1931 Berlin Alexanderplatz, Fritz Lang’s films M. The course will then shift to a topic chosen or elected for development by the class. Possible topics include: Film Noir and the post-war erasure of American cities; Hong Kong cinema and the ‘overexposed’ postmodern city; Rome and the post-war Italian urban film poetics.  

L0205: The Image of Equality: Jacques Ranciere's Film Philosophy

Cinematic Cities

We will be concerned in this seminar to examine the role that film plays in the philosophy of Jacques Rancière, especially insofar as it bears an important relation to his understanding of the experience of equality. To what extent can we understand aesthetic equality as the ground of social equality? And how does cinema contribute uniquely, or at least more forcefully, to the imagination and subsequent establishment of equality in the social, especially given Rancière’s concern to de-emphasize medium specificity in his account of film and the related arts?  In asking these questions, we will consider Rancière’s break with Althusser (has it really ever been so?), and his resistance to Althusser’s conception of ideology, which was so important to apparatus theory and cultural studies. In revisiting the impact of Althusser on both Rancière and film theory, we will have occasion to consider the extent to which the difference between film theory and film philosophy itself might be marked, inescapably, by the very term “politics.”

L0305: Space, Place, and the Moving Image

Cinematic Cities

Moving image media technologies play a complex but increasingly prominent role in our experience of space and place: every mobile phone comes with “Location Services” and GPS features that tell us and sometimes others where we are, where friends are, where to shop, and how to reach any number of destinations; films, TV shows and digital videos carry images from increasingly remote places and cultures into our own, and connect audiences from around the world at a greater scale, and with a greater sense of intimacy and immediacy, than ever before; every photo shared on Instagram or Flickr comes complete with a geo-tag and a list of targeted ad’s. This course will attempt to make sense of how we arrived at this point, and how to engage critically with the politics of space and place in media culture more generally.

To this end, the course will stage an encounter between theories and philosophies of space and place in the continental tradition—with some emphasis on the work of Martin Heidegger and his interlocutors past and present—and the history of aesthetic and technological entanglements between film, television, digital media and the experience of space and place at various social scales and settings. We will consider the subtle role these media play in shaping the history of these theoretical and philosophical works in the modern era, but also how the stylistic dimension of the images helps to shape understandings of imperial power, national and global identity, and tele-commuted presence from this era to the present, and how the very same ideas of space and place that emerged from these understandings in the past can inform a critical engagement with the future of spatial mediation.


Sections of this course offered in 2014-15:

L0104: A Century of Montage / Montage of a Century

Cinematic Cities

“A lovely word. It has everything it needs to be popular.” —Sergei M. Eisenstein on montage

This seminar takes up montage as an aesthetic practice, an object of aesthetic theory, and an analytic method for thinking historically. We will consider the development of montage practice and theory in the contexts of Hollywood and the Soviet Union, giving particular attention to the cinematic and theoretical work of Sergei Eisenstein, Lev Kuleshov, Vsevelod Pudovkin, Esfir Shub, and Dziga Vertov. We will then turn attention to key practitioners of montage of the second half of the twentieth century who have taken up the question and challenge of historical representation as their key project, including montage work by Nicole Védrès, Alain Resnais, Guy Debord, Chris Marker, and Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin + Ann-Marie Miéville. While the focus of this seminar will be tightly trained upon a particular set of texts and contexts, the aim will be to produce a generative foundation from which to engage in a wide-ranging examination of montage that will enrich students’ own research in media and history. 

Screenings: Shorts by Griffith and Vorkapíc, The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (Kuleshov, 1924), Strike (Eisenstein, 1925), Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, 1926), The General Line/The New and the Old (Eisenstein, 1929), Man with Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929), Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (Shub, 1927), Chess Fever (Pudovkin, 1925), Mechanics of the Brain (Podovkin, 1926), Experimental Reanimation of Organisms (Brukhonenko and Tchetchuline, 1940), Critique de la séparation (Debord, 1961), L’Air de fond est rouge (Marker, 1977), Nuit et Brouillard (Resnais, 1955), l’Histoire(s) du Cinéma (Godard, 1988-1999), Paris 1900 (Védrès, 1947).

Readings: seminal texts by Vsevolod Pudovkin, Lev Kuleshov, Dziga Vertov, Sergei M. Eisenstein, as well as critical and philosophical texts by Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Engels, Alexandre Kojève, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Aumont, Ann Nesbit, André Bazin, and Georges Didi-Huberman.


L0204: Cinema and Moral Perfectionism: On Stanley Cavell's Film Theory

Media, Attention, and Crowds

The question that will occupy us here concerns the relation between cinema and moral perfectionism. The concept of “moral perfectionism,” as articulated by Stanley Cavell, does not imply a religious, ideological, or essential relation to codes of conduct that are external to the singularity of human experience, and that come to us as a series of prescriptions about what is right and what is wrong. Rather, in Cavell’s formulation, moral perfectionism refers to the effort we make daily to clarify ourselves to ourselves and also to others in a way that both acknowledges difference and is sustained by that difference. It is not by accident that Cavell’s philosophy of moral perfectionism was developed in relation to the cinema—as an experience of cinephilia—especially as cinema thrives on, and regularly enacts, a relation between repetition and difference: what repeats, repeats as same for the sake of what else we might see, what else we learn about the film and also about ourselves. Moral perfectionism is, in this way, a question about what it means to live a good life. Thus, we will be asking, along with Cavell, how cinema contributes to our own sense of moral perfection and an experience of the good life, which must include more than just ourselves, and must do so without reference to codes of conduct that are utterly external to ourselves. We will ask, in particular, how cinema—as a medium and social practice—uniquely provides us with an occasion to reflect on the possibility of reciprocity and social continuity, and works against more pernicious conceptions of morality that have been rightly identified and criticized by filmmakers like Von Trier, Haneke, Sirk, Scorsese, Fassbinder, Breillat, Jacobs, Bresson, Ferrara, to name only a few. Central to our consideration, then, will be questions about film as a form of the eternal return, sameness and difference, film and the automation of worlds, indexicality and the temptation of truth, genre and its relation to social norms, as well as the experience of humiliation and humbling that Cavell sees repeatedly enacted in classical Hollywood genre films and that he regards, in turn, as occasions for self-knowledge.


L0304: Of Monsters and Media

Media, Attention, and Crowds

This course will explore the concept and embodiment of "the monstrous," and the pivotal place monsters occupy in the history of moving image media, by gleaning the philosophical, theoretical, and historical insights provided by a wide range of films, TV shows, and multi-media works. In other words, we will be reading both "high" and "low" representations of monstrosity in visual media culture as philosophical meditations on the subject in their own right, each one articulated through a specific set of historical, theoretical, aesthetic, and sociopolitical terms and discourses. The central preoccupation of the course will thus be theoretical in scope, but engaged with historically specific discourses by necessity: what can the history of mass-media, and the seemingly fundamental obsession with monsters that unfolds there, teach us about the ontological relationship between the category of monstrosity, the simultaneously aesthetic and technological act of monstration (or showing), and the social anxieties about media, technology, and being that circulate around them in modern culture and thought? How might the figure of the monster help us rethink the relationship between the multiple different technologies, aesthetics, and cultures of mediation that "converge" throughout the modern history of monster media texts, but also in the more recent technical phenomenon of "media convergence" itself? And finally, how might a different view of these relationships help us make sense of the role that "monster media" have played in the articulation of sociopolitical categories such as "the normal," the human," and "the abject" over time? 

In order to engage with these kinds of problematics, screenings will be complemented by a rigorous course of readings in philosophy and theory (including film theory, media theory, and critical and cultural theory more broadly), but will place especial emphasis on the work of Jacques Derrida, deconstruction, and related traditions of post-structuralist thought. The point of this emphasis is not only to give students a sustained introduction to a complex but important tradition in contemporary thought--which, not coincidentally, plays a defining role in the way that scholars understand the "problem" of the monster in the modern imagination more generally--but to do so by providing them with a focused opportunity to explore the conceptual nuances of these ideas through the sensuous material features of the film, TV, new media, and sometimes even literary texts with which they entwine. By the same token, however, the textual features of the visual and literary works we look at will take on equal philosophical importance to their more properly academic counterparts, so that attending to the distinctly "monstrous" aesthetic and technological features of James Whale's Frankenstein, George Romero's multi-film zombie serial, and Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day--to say nothing of more "popular spectacles" like Zombieland, Godzilla, and the sitcom The Addams Family--can be understood as part of a multi-media discourse of "monstrosity" that supersedes any and all such categories and distinctions.

Sections of this course offered in 2013-14:

L0103: Cinematic Cities

Cinematic Cities

The screen practices we associate with film in its theatrical mode of presentation interacted closely and from the beginning with the culture of emerging urban modernity even before a workable cinematic apparatus was developed.  Exchanges between city and cinema then continued and intensified well into the end of the following century. This course explores selected moments in those exchanges between cities and cinemas. The “cinematic cities” idea implies taking film as a distinctly urban medium, and the modern city correspondingly as a cinematic phenomenon. The medium's technical features, especially montage and spatial manipulation, and film’s diverse roles as an entertainment, poetic, political and information vehicle, as well as cinematic representations of particular cities will be examined.
Cinematic Cities will first focus on two topics:  (1) the theorization of modern urban visuality in film, with special consideration of proto- and early cinema related to Paris in the writings of Baudelaire as interpreted by Walter Benjamin and radically reconfigured in Bretonian Surrealism and the films that derive from it; (2) 1920s Berlin, and the writing of Simmel, Kracauer and Benjamin, focused on films like Joe May’s Asphalt, Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, Phil Zutzi’s 1931 Berlin Alexanderplatz, Fritz Lang’s films M. The course will then shift to a topic chosen or elected for development by the class. Possible topics include: Film Noir and the post-war erasure of American cities; Hong Kong cinema and the ‘overexposed’ postmodern city; Rome and the post-war Italian urban film poetics.  


L0303: The Reality of Electronic Media (*NEW*)

Media, Attention, and Crowds

The course will explore the representation of reality in television and new media programming with a special emphasis on the phenomenon of "reality" programming in the era of convergence. Drawing from a range of different approaches--including close formal analysis, critical theory and philosophy, and industrial history, among others--it will introduce students to the field of scholarship on reality TV while also providing the resources to push it further by engaging with a longer history of debates about the nature of the relationship between reality and mediation; media technologies and sociological analysis; and the aesthetic paradigms of realism and naturalism that most heavily inform TV and new media representations of reality today. The goal will be to make sense of the sweeping, multi-faceted phenomenon of "reality entertainment" that has come to dominate the landscape of television and new media programming at precisely the same moment that the use of electronic media technologies has come to dominate the practical experience of reality in everyday life. 


Sections of this course offered in 2012-13:

L0202: The Thought of Film: Cinema and Mind

The Thought of Film

In 1948, the French film theorist and filmmaker Alexandre Astruc imagined an important relation between film and thought when he wrote that: “A Descartes of today would already have shut himself up in his bedroom with a 16mm camera and some film, and would be writing his philosophies on film: for his Discours de la Méthode would today be of such a kind that only the cinema could express it satisfactorily.” For Astruc, and many others in the history of film theory, film has an especial affinity for thought—for the depiction of consciousness itself—since what appears in the image are relations between objects and people in space unmediated by language. For this reason, film theorists have been attracted to cinema as an extension of the mind, as a machine that records and assembles the world just as we ourselves do in moments of reflection. This course will survey the history of film theory in light of this preoccupation, beginning with early classical film theorists like Hugo Munsterberg, Rudolf Arnheim, V.I. Pudovkin, Jean Epstein, and Sergei Eisenstein, moving outward to consider the relation between epistemology and ontology in the writings of Annette Michelson and Stanley Cavell, and toward a reflection on the status of film/mind analogies in contemporary film theory—including forays into cognitive and analytical film theory, the cinema books of Gilles Deleuze and his commentators (especially D.N. Rodowick), the Wittgensteinian language games of Edward Branigan, and the reflections on aesthetic seriousness as a mode of thinking that one finds in the film writings of the philosopher Alexander García Düttmann, among others. In this course, we will ask what it means for film to be a form of philosophy, especially as film theory and film philosophy appear, in our time, to be converging. We will also—given our insistence on the film/mind relation—be inquiring about the privileged status of epistemology in the history of film theory, concerned as we will be to learn what a this preoccupation with epistemology in film theory truly begets.


L0302: The Society of the Spectacle Today

Society of the Spectacle

In The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord describes spectacle as “a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.” Given the increasingly pivotal role that both images and moving image media technologies play in the formation of social and political relations today, it is easy to understand why Debord’s landmark treatise has generated so much interest among media theorists and philosophers in recent years. And yet, the historical relevance of Debord’s work seems to rise only as the relevance of its theoretical and philosophical insights—which have been heavily critiqued from a number of quarters—seems to decline. What does it mean, then, to read The Society of the Spectacle today? The course will provide students with a critical introduction to Debords writings and films about spectacle, as well as the large body of literature these pivotal works have produced in cinema and media studies. At the same time, though, it will incorporate contemporary interpretations and critiques of spectacle from both continental philosophy and media studies, as well as screenings from a broader array of cinema, TV, and new media spectacles, in order to promote new ways of engaging with the both the timeliness and the untimeliness of Debord’s idea today.


Sections of this course offered in 2011-12:

L0101: Textuality of the Cinematic Body

In this course we will examine the various ways in which the body is constructed, circulated, and read as text in cinema, where the superficial bears the burden of signification.  More specifically, we will consider the role of the body in a variety of cinematic genres, including musicals, pornography, horror, and melodrama, in order to explore a wide array of inscriptive practices that serve to map the body as a whole or privilege certain constituent parts, as well as the hermeneutical acts such practices encourage.  While our primary object of study will be a set of filmic texts and film-related scholarship (be it theoretical, historical, and/or critical in nature), we will also be reading material from philosophy, psychology, and literary studies on a wide array of topics, from the histrionics of hysteria to the spectacle of race, from the kinetics of dance to the paroxysms of pain.  As a result, we will gain insight into not only the relationship between corporeality and cinema, but also, more generally, the ways that concepts such as surface and depth, materiality and meaning, appearance and essence, affect and intellect are defined both against and through each other within visual culture at large.  

L0201: Colour and the Moving Image

Jean-Luc Godard once noted that Coca-Cola and Communism share an affinity for the same saturated red—wondering, thereby, how it could be that this beacon of capitalism could share a mode of identification with a system to which it is entirely opposed. The paradoxical character of red—and the polyvalence of colour more generally—has led, until very recently, film theorists and film historians to ignore it, and for a number of reasons. For one, colour poses serious problems for interpretation. If one colour can mean many things, how will we understand any given instance? To make matters worse, we all perceive colour slightly differently and colour has been known to fade in time. If that is so, I may be inclined to wonder if the blue motif that I am analyzing will appear to others in the same way? How am I to know if what appears now has appeared before? Colour, then, is primarily a problem of interpretation and perception, especially if we believe that interpretations can be right or wrong. Our task in this course, however, is not to enlarge the skepticism about colour and interpretation. Rather, in considering philosophical, scientific, and historical discourses about colour, we will arrive at a variety of ways of analyzing colour style in film and video art. Likewise, as we begin to come to terms with the perceptual instability as a positive phenomenon, we will consider how and why dominant histories of film style have been written, especially as the taming of colour has been central to an ongoing categorical distinction between narrative cinema and the avant-garde, morality and hedonism.

L0301: Media/Participation

In the age of TiVo, YouTube, and voter-based reality shows such as the global Idols and Got Talent franchises, it is easy to think of the “new” in new media as a short-hand for the revolutionary promise of consumer participation in the construction of both global and national popular culture. However, the phenomenon of participatory media is hardly as “new” as new media technology, nor is it the self-evident bearer of democratic values that many proponents of "social media" technology would like to suggest. In order to make sense of the complex social and political issues that surround contemporary discourses of participatory media—as well as their mobilization by activists and consumers alike—this course will provide a historical survey of “old” media technologies and aesthetics of participation, running from 19th century popular theater to 20th century radio, film, television, and activist video art, but with an extended concentration on the participation-driven television shows of the fifties that set the generic precedent for contemporary television and internet programming. At the same time, it will provide a theoretical and philosophical inquiry into the very notion of participation as it intersects with theories of democratic politics and activism. In short, the course will provide an intensive opportunity to think about the politics of participation and the sociopolitical challenges they present in contemporary media culture.



This course provides each student with the opportunity to write a major research paper on a topic to be devised in consultation with an individual member of the Cinema Studies core faculty. Students will be encouraged to make use of the special collections housed with the Media Commons as the basis for their research projects.



A variety of placement settings connected to film culture.  Each placement will entail some form of film-related research and/or examination of / participation in how organizations use and study film and disseminate it within a broader cultural field.  Students will produce a report at the end of their internship outlining the learning experience and the implications for research and film scholarship.



Offers students the opportunity to design a reading list, research project and/or writing assignments in the student’s designated area of interest.




Through a series of case studies – from vaudeville to dance halls, amusement parks to movies – the course considers the intersecting dimensions of social difference brought together in the new commercial public sphere and their impact on debates about cultural hierarchy and social distinction.



This course will explore the history of American film comedy from the origins of cinema to the end of the studio era in the early 1960s. In its various forms, comedy has always been a staple of American film production. But it has also always been a site of heterogeneity and nonconformity in the development of American cinema, with neither its form nor content fitting existing models of classical film practice. This course accounts for that nonconformity by exploring comedy's close and essential links to “popular” cultural sources (in particular, vaudeville and variety); it considers how different comic filmmakers have responded to and reshaped those sources; and it examines the relation between comedy and social formation (class and ethnicity in particular). Rather than engage the entire spectrum of comic styles (romantic comedy, genre parody, screwball, etc.), this course focuses on a single tradition bridging the silent and sound eras: the performance-centered, “comedian comedy” format associated with performers as diverse as Charlie Chaplin, Mae West, the Marx Brothers, and Bob Hope. The methodology will be interdisciplinary throughout, examining the history of screen comedy as a history of the changing social patterns that produce and permit laughter.



Personal filmmaking first emerged with the avant-garde in the 1950s, as artists explored the performativity of identity via the apparatus. Focusing primarily on the German cultural context, we will explore how such films reference national social and political history while also unsettling inherited distinctions between public and personal archives, public event and private experience, historiography and subjective memory, national character and personal identity, and family and self. Films covered will include experimental feminist films from the 1970s, more recent family films investigating the legacy of the National Socialist past, personal documentaries about the Holocaust produced by children of Holocaust  survivors, experimental queer cinema, and the contemporary avant-garde. We will view these films parallel to reading theories of subjectivity and authorship advanced by Roland Barthes, Philip LeJeune, Sidonie Smith and Julia Watson, psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan, philosophers Michel Foucault, Jacques Derrida, and Judith Butler.



An in-depth examination of the intersection of cinema and nationhood, such as British Social Realism or German New Wave. Content in any given year depends on the instructor.

Sections of this course offered in 2016-17:

L0101: Cinema and Nation: Realism, Revolt, and Iranian Cinema

This course will consider the relationship between realism and the political dimensions of cinematic form in Iranian cinema.  We will take a long view of Iranian cinema, from turn-of-the-century travelogues to the dissident Iranian New Wave to contemporary transnational art cinema. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which practices of film analysis, the geopolitics of spectatorship, and realism taken for value have shaped scholarly debates on Iranian cinema and non-Western cinemas more broadly. Readings include texts by Fredric Jameson, André Bazin, Siegfried Kracauer, Negar Mottahedeh, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Hamid Naficy, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Hamid Dabashi, and Joan Copjec, among others.



An in-depth examination of aspects of documentary and non-fiction media, such as first-person filmmaking, interactive documentary, or reality television. Content in any given year depends on the instructor.



An in-depth examination of aspects of documentary and non-fiction media, such as first-person filmmaking, interactive documentary, or reality television. Content in any given year depends on the instructor.


Sections of this course offered in 2017-18:

L0101: On Cronenberg & Villeneuve

The figure of the auteur plays a vexing role in the burgeoning subfield of Film Philosophy. While philosophical accounts of film tend to revolve around the works of prominent European and American directors—in other words, works that fit comfortably into the categories of industrial, national and aesthetic identification that defined auteur theory at its inception—they also tend to revolve around bodies of critical and continental thought that put these same categories of identification and interpretation into question. In an effort to take the methodological and conceptual paradoxes of this scenario seriously while also working to address them in new ways, this course will stage a philosophical engagement the films of David Cronenberg and Denis Villeneuve—two filmmakers who are widely recognized among the most important auteurs of contemporary art film, but who achieved this distinction by working across, beyond and between the industrial and geopolitical contexts of America and Europe, and perhaps not mistakenly, by making films that question the concepts of identity, agency, knowledge and social belonging most essential to the designation of a national film auteur.
Apart from providing students with an immersive introduction to these two major figures of Canadian cinema and the philosophical debates their films engage, the course will work through the uses and contradictions of the auteur designation, exploring how the often graphic and disturbing nature of the films themselves might help us rethink a whole range of themes in the history of philosophy that encompass and extend beyond this designation—including the meaning of artistic originality, the relation between media and reality, the nature of moral law and its violation, and the entanglements of mind, technology, and body. The primary goals of the course will be three-fold: to introduce students to some of the key methodologies in the study of film philosophy, especially as they depend on skills of close formal analysis that cut across the reading of written philosophical texts from philosophy and of moving image media; to reexamine some of the points of contact between the history of film theory, the history of critical and continental philosophy and the emergent subfield of Film Philosophy; and to lay the groundwork for a more expansive mode of Media Philosophy that might push beyond all three of these sub-disciplinary formations. In this sense, students should expect a course that both straddles and disrupts the disciplinary categories of Media and Philosophy.



Sections of this course offered in 2016-17:

L0101: Film and Contemporary Political Philosophy

In the field of film philosophy, a great deal attention has been paid—and rightly so—to the work of continental philosophers and their reflections on film and media, whether as art, as related sound-image concepts about time, presence, and intermediality, or else as forms of social control. In this seminar, we will turn our attention instead to the recent work of a range of North American political philosophers who have begun to write seriously about film and not merely as a mode of illustration but as a medium vital to our experience and understanding of questions about the will, the force of law, community, and freedom, as well as a host of important ethical questions about what a good life consists in and how cinema—and images more broadly—contribute to that experience and understanding. Through close readings of films and key philosophical texts, we will consider a range of ideas about all of these issues, especially with respect to how these ideas might broaden the scope, or be put into conversation with, film and media theory. In addition to considering a number of questions about these issues, the focus on largely North American philosophers writing on, or with, film will give us an occasion to consider the role that place and culture, and North American film and philosophical traditions (or absence of traditions, as the case may at some points be) more specifically come to play in the elaboration of their concepts. Likewise, many of these philosophers are informed by the continental tradition, but work in ways that are often intentionally difficult to indicate in absolute terms. In this sense, we might also begin to ask what a North American philosophical sensibility might be, especially insofar as the antagonisms one otherwise feels between continental and analytical sensibilities are not so insistently displayed here. Among others, we will read recent work by Drucilla Cornell, Bonnie Honig, Frederic Jameson, Davide Panagia, Robert Pippin, and Jean Paul Ricco.



An in-depth examination of a specific topic in film and media history not covered by the core curriculum, such as Women’s Film Festivals, or Animals and Film. Content in any given year depends on the instructor.


Sections of this course offered in 2017-18:

L0101: Issues in Silent Cinema

This course will investigate recent thought about silent cinema, concentrating on pertinent methodological frameworks and cultural practices specific to cinema before sound.  The course will cover both the early cinema period and the years that follow, and take up issues both historiographical (e.g., periodization, institutionalization) and topical (e.g., gender and silent cinema, intermediality).  The course will also consider how practices that occurred during the period (including those related to exhibition, presentation, and reception) and those pertinent to the present day (such as restoration and preservation) affect our understanding of cinema’s earliest years.”





An in-depth examination of a specific topic in film and media theory not covered by the core curriculum, such as theories of the viewing subject, film and phenomenology, or reviewing spectator studies. Content in any given year depends on the instructor.


Sections of this course offered in 2017-18:

FALL L0101: Adorno and Media Theory

This course will look at Theodor Adorno’s influential writing on media and mass culture in light of recent technological developments in image production and dissemination. We will tend, as well, to more recent efforts in media theory to either reinforce in new ways, or else deny, Adorno’s insights about the relation between aesthetics and technology and the possibility of autonomy. The course will be divided in two halves. In the first half, we will read Adorno’s largely skeptical accounts of mass culture as a form of mass deception. In the second, we will turn to his writings on aesthetic autonomy in order to ask what autonomy could mean for cinema with respect to both industrial modes of production and avant-garde practices. Readings will include The Dialectic of Enlightenment, The Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass Culture, Aesthetic Theory, Composing for the Films (with Eisler), and Philosophy of New Music, among other works. We will look at a diverse range of films, television shows and forms of new media.


WINTER L0101: Ordinary Media

This seminar is addressed to a single question: how do we attend to the ways in which technological media articulate our ordinary? Computation and computational devices are now everywhere in the overdeveloped West: ubiquitous, atmospheric, ambient. Ordinary. Beyond the substance of the problem (already significant in itself), the ordinariness of new media technologies calls for new methods of study. Critical reflection honed on aesthetic objects correlated with human experience and organized by sustained and concentrated attention (e.g., cinema) seems ill-suited to address problems at this scale (which is either too small or too large) and this level of intensity (which is too diffuse).

How we address ourselves to this question will be largely driven by student interest. The first third of the term will programmed by Professor Richmond, framed as an introduction to the problem. To give shape to the problem of the ordinariness of our media, we will read both in recent digital media theory (e.g., Tung-hui Hu, Seb Franklin, Benjamin Bratton, John Durham Peters) as well as in theories and philosophies of the ordinary (e.g. Stanley Cavell, Lauren Berlant, Nigel Thrift, Kathleen Stewart). The form and content of the second third of the term will be devised by students (and guided by Scott), as a development and elaboration of the question through case studies. The final third of the term will be structured around students’ final projects, which will typically take the form of a substantial research paper, but could also include any number of alternative forms of research practice.


Sections of this course offered in 2016-17:

L0101: Making Faces: Identity, Performance, and the Face on Film (exclusion: ENG6070H)

In this course, we will explore the meaning of the face on screen. Much has been said about the face in cinema, with much of that discourse focusing on the close-up. This course will explore this work while also examining the historical context and material specificity of the face on screen. Beginning in the early silent era, when the close-up was becoming an accepted part of cinematic language, we will examine the numerous ways the face has created meaning on screen, as well as the numerous ways the screen image has shaped our understanding of the face. We will study films and performers that have been central to theories of the screen face, and we will read criticism and theory that takes up the aesthetic, political, and ethical meaning of the face.


This course will examine various presentations of the real in cinema. From the earliest motion pictures to documentaries and current “reality-based” media, the urge to represent the real has driven the development of new genres and sparked a century of debates. In looking at various representations of ‘reality,” we will interrogate the relationship between form and content, both in the works themselves and in critical debates about realism, representation, aesthetics, ethics, technology, and politics.  What counts as “real”? How do efforts to picture class, race, and ethnicity impact our understanding of realism?  How do new technologies affect the demand for — and even the definition of — reality on screen? We will look at early, classic and contemporary examples of documentary and other reality-based forms (including television and web-based programming), and we will read film studies and critical theory.



This course will consider the role race has played in defining film genres and film language. We will look primarily at American films, from the silent era to contemporary cinema and we will consider how the representation of race informs (or deforms) film narratives. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which race, gender, and sexuality intersect in film and film theory.




Taking their cue from the title of Claire Johnston’s foundational article in feminist film theory, “Women’s Cinema as Counter Cinema,” many feminist filmmakers of the last 30 years have defined their charge as follows: to talk back to patriarchal texts through their radical retelling.  As a result, much of feminist cinema is characterized by intertextuality.  While talking back in this manner can be an extremely effective critical approach, allowing for the production of works that challenge those iconographic and narrative traditions that reify conventional definitions of femininity and masculinity and/or deprive women of agency, it also runs certain risks – chiefly, the re-centering rather than de-centering of the patriarchal text at hand and the exclusion of certain audience members (i.e., those who are unfamiliar with that text).  In this course we will explore the political and aesthetic possibilities of talking back by examining various examples of feminist cultural production that are intertextual in nature from a perspective informed by theoretical writings on feminist aesthetics and filmmaking practice.



This seminar examines the relations between Surrealism and the cinema in interwar France, and the aesthetic, political, and theoretical debates produced by their encounter. To what extent may Surrealism, in its varied iterations, be productively read through the optic of cinema, and even as a cinematic movement? And to what extent is cinema an implicitly Surrealist medium? In addition to tracing a precise history of Surrealism, cinema, and its discontents between the end of World War One and the outbreak of World War 2 through works by Louis Aragon, Antonin Artaud, Georges Bataille, Walter Benjamin, André Breton, Luis Buñuel, René Clair, Joseph Cornell, Salvador Dalí, Robert Desnos, Louis Feuillade, Sigmund Freud, Germaine Dulac, Man Ray, Jean Painlevé and Geneviève Hamon, Jean Vigo, and others, this class explores the potential of Surrealism as a methodology for critical and theoretical studies of cinema, literature, culture, and history.



It was arguably the international avant-garde of the 1950s that first inspired wider exploration of the camera’s potential as a technology of the performative self. Since then, first-person filmmaking has gained ground, dovetailing with disparate social trends across the decades, including those of the New Wave, and more recently, resulting in feature-length autobiographical documentaries that circulate at festivals and garner commercial appeal. Using the German cultural context as case study within a comparative framework, this interdisciplinary seminar draws on diverse theories of subjectivity, including recent scholarship in performance studies (Goffman, Butler, Phelan), Lacanian psychoanalysis, documentary theory (Gaines, Nichols, Odin, Renov), phenomenology (Sobchak), post-structuralism (Barthes, Derrida, Foucault), and theories of cultural memory (Assmann, Halbwachs, Nora) and of transgenerational trauma (Caruth, Felman, Laub). We will explore how the subjective stance navigates a line between exhibitionistic display and introspective narcissism and, in the process, also blurs the lines between public event and private experience, between national historiography and subjective memory, between families of origin and the bounded self. Consideration will be given to both socio-historical context and continuing innovations in narrative form (confession, diary, testimonial), including the nesting of different technologies (photography, Super 8, home video, archival newsreel, cell phone). Our chronology will include avant-garde and feminist filmmaking of the 1970s, but focus primarily on productions of the past 15 years, including: investigative family films by (grand)children of both Holocaust survivors and Nazi perpetrators,  experimental queer cinema, reconstructed family historiographies of immigration to Germany, and mainstream features.


Affiliated Courses



The 'Berlin School ’ is a shorthand moniker that emerged among critics and curators around the millennial turn as a means to reference a heterogenous group of German directors whose work was gaining visibility and sustained attention. Their emergence parallels the installation of the so-called Berlin Republic, when the German government transferred its official seat of power from Bonn to its pre-World War II location. The politics and aesthetics of these filmmakers can be situated in the same lineage with the Nouvelle Vague and the New German Cinema. Their films emphatically resist the temptation to deliver escapist narratives to a public struggling with the erosion of the social welfare state under the pressures of globalization; instead, they continue to pursue an uncompromising realism focusing in exacting and uncanny detail upon the forms of subjectivity, both ordinary and extraordinary, produced among different social groups and classes. We will review the films of contemporary directors Christian Petzold, Thomas Arslan, Angela Schanelec, Ulrich Köhler, Benjamin Heisenberg, and others, with consideration for theories of affect, duration, and the everyday, together with contemporary social and aesthetic theory.

Drawing on recent exemplars of world cinema whose stories take place against the backdrop of contemporary Germany and neighbouring countries, this seminar examines mobility – and it’s antithesis, immobility -- as an increasingly complex cipher. Domestic and transnational productions alike advance diegetic stories that focus on the transience, itinerancy, and flux that have come to characterize contemporary life for widespread numbers of people across the continent and beyond. Readings from social and cultural theory offer a lens through which to excavate uneven modernities, revealing archaic residues of earlier life worlds that haunt protagonists pressured into motion (or alternately, trapped in stasis) by neoliberalism’s tectonic shifts in economy, infrastructure, and social welfare. Recent writings on aesthetics, realism, genre, and affect will also inform our engagement with the ‘realist turn’ in film style that often mediates this contemporary preoccupation with territorial dislocation.


This course provides an introduction to the field of theoretical writing addressing the nature of digital media and the role of technology in modern and contemporary culture from a humanistic perspective. In doing so, this course will consider a range of critical pressure points that have been central to media studies, technology studies, digital humanities, art and performance, cinema studies, and archival studies. How have developments in digital culture and theory impacted the critical commonplaces of analogy, time, space, sound, motion, network, body, and narrative? Do digital networks, databases and data modeling, algorithmic mediation, hyperlinks, and ever-accumulating indexes alter the conditions of knowledge, artistic practice, subjectivity, and the place of ideology critique?

In dialogue with critical paradigms that have been fundamental to the discourse of critical theory, including affect, power, constructionism, archives, colonialism, nationalism, and the politics of race, gender, and sexuality, we will reflect on the parameters of a deeply significant archeological shift from the conceptual apparatus of “perspective” to the elastic platforms of “fold” that are emphasized, if not wholly embodied, by the digital condition. Such a shift turns around the paradoxical inscription of novel procedures of archivization, accumulation, divergence, and fractal simultaneity in past paradigms of projection, the baroque, dialectics, surveillance, and philosophical teleology. This course will provide students with the opportunity to scrutinize the work of a wide spectrum of thinkers central to critical theory in digital discourse, including Martin Heidegger, Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan, Wendy Chun, Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, Alexander Galloway, Eugene Thacker, Jacques Rancière, Jussi Parikka, Katherine Hayles, Lisa Nakamura, Arjun Appadurai, Frederick Kittler, Alan Liu, Lev Manovich, Timothy Murray, Donna Haraway, Mark Poster, Gilles Deleuze, Mark B. N. Hansen, Brian Massumi, Erin Manning, and David Rodowick. We will examine how these different approaches to digital media and technology inflect what Karl Marx called the history of the sense, or the relation of political and aesthetic experience.

In order to foreground the intellectual trajectories that surround digital media, it is important to examine pre-digital media theories before moving into writing on digital new media. The syllabus thus follows the reception of media theory in North America starting with the work of University of Toronto English professor Marshall McLuhan in the 1950s and 1960s. It then moves backward in time to examine several German critics writing in the 1930s and 1940s. However, the bulk of the syllabus focuses on the work of digital theories in the late twentieth/ early twenty-first centuries, which mark the dawn of networked personal computing.

The course presumes no prior experience in digital discourse, only a basic familiarity with analytic writing at the graduate level. The course is open to both Master’s and Doctoral students.


This course will explore musicological approaches to cinema by looking at the films of arguably the most famous director of the twentieth century, Alfred Hitchcock.  In a career spanning half a century, Hitchcock’s output of some sixty films ranged from the silent era to the advent of Dolby Sound, with composers spanning several generations of greats, from Franz Waxman to John Williams.  Hitchcock’s music varies widely, from non-diegetic orchestral scoring in nearly every film after 1930 to key diegetic uses such as whistling and singing.  Using these films as a starting point, the seminar will explore theoretical approaches to film music, in particular the seminal work of Michel Chion.  The seminar will conclude with a consideration of music’s role in how Hitchcock came to be “Hitchcock.”