University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

    ENGLISH 381, SECTION 001



    Four Credits

    M 3-6:30 p.m. (Screenings) and W 3:45-6:15 p.m. (Discussions), HHH 321

    Fall 2004, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire


    Office: HHH 425, (715) 836-4369

    Office Hours: M 6:50-7:30 p.m., T 9:50-10:30 p.m., W 6:20-7 p.m.,  
    MWF 12 noon to 1 p.m., and By Appointment.



    English 381, Topics in Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture: British Cinema offers an introductory survey of major highlights in the history of British film production, distribution, exhibition, and reception.  Beyond this, the course focuses more intensively, and extensively, on inquiring into the art and politics of representation, within British cinema, vis-a-vis British, English, Scottish, and Welsh identities, along lines of class, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, and sexuality.


    The English Department offers the rudiments of a developing program in the critical study of moving-image culture.  English 190, Introduction to Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture provides the initial basis, and then English 381, Topics in Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture, builds upon this basis to offer a more tightly focused inquiry into a shifting array of topics.  To date, we have offered the following sections of English 381: 1.)  “Cinematic Representations of Ireland and the Irish”; 2.)  “Hitchcock, the French New Wave, and Dogme 95"; and 3.)  “Film Noir.”  We aim eventually to offer as well 1.) a 400 level seminar on “Critical Theories of Film, Video, and Moving-Image Culture”; 2.)  a 200 level course surveying major trends and issues in the history of “World Cinema”; and 3.)  a year-long capstone project in which students who have completed English 190, our new 200 level course, English 381 at least twice (with two different offerings), and our new 400 level course, may work together on producing a video, from script to screen, that represents a theoretically-informed, critical inquiry vis-a-vis the art and politics of a specific aspect or dimension of contemporary moving-image culture.  At the same time, however, English 381 also serves as a general education course where students maintaining equivalent background (to that of English 190) and/or some kind of serious, substantial interest in film, video, and moving-image culture studies are welcome.


    I believe it is important to emphasize right at the beginning, for all of us, whatever your background entering this course, that we in the English Department at UWEC teach English 381 as a course in the critical study of film and video, and, yet even more specifically than this, as a course concentrating on the interpretation and evaluation of film and video in cultural context.

    Culture includes everything that we, as human beings, have created, built, learned, and conquered in the course of our entire history, in distinction from what nature itself has given us.  Specific cultures (as well as specific subcultures) comprise the sum total of the particular knowledges, capacities, fields of work (and fields of play), customs and habits, traditions, values and attitudes, social roles and identities, and shared ways of thinking, feeling, acting, interacting, and behaving that characterize and, more importantly than merely characterize, that internally unify and externally differentiate particular regions, classes, and other social groups.

    Film and video constitute principal constituents of 1.) moving-image culture (i.e., culture produced, distributed, exchanged, and consumed in the form of constellations of moving-images), 2.) human culture at large, and 3.) myriad specific national, regional, local, racial, ethnic, class, gender, sexual, generational, political, religious, artistic, philosophical, recreational, and avocational cultures (and subcultures).

    This course is designed neither to teach you how to make your own films, nor to provide you with an opportunity simply to enjoy watching films.  We will examine the ways that films provide pleasure for their audiences.  Yet our goal will not be simply to experience these pleasures ourselves, describe what they feel like, and then offer merely impressionistic and purely opinionated reactions on top of these descriptions that recount how far we can or cannot personally identify with and relate to what the films depict and what they attempt to make us feel. Instead, our objective will be to seek to understand how and why films produce these pleasures in the ways that they do–and also to understand what else always happens, simultaneous with the provision of pleasure, as a result of the kinds of pleasures and the ways of providing pleasures films characteristically offer.

    We will in fact give considerable attention to the many other effects–other than providing pleasure–that films can and do achieve, whether deliberately so or not.  In particular, we will inquire into films as providing us valuable knowledge about the real historical societies and associated specific cultures out of which these films emerge and into which they exert their impact-even where offering this kind of insight does not constitute a conscious aim of the film makers themselves, and even when we must critique the film's representations in order to produce this knowledge.

    Throughout the history of world cinema, three principal objectives have driven forward the production, distribution, exhibition, and reception of film:

1.) the provision of entertainment, especially as diversion, distraction, and amusement;

2.) artistic expression and communication–concerned with aesthetic issues such as capturing and conveying the felt experience of the ordinary and the extraordinary, the everyday and the unusual, the familiar and the unfamiliar, and, especially, "the beautiful" and "the sublime"–in both the natural world and human society; and

3.) social critique–as contribution to, and instrument of, social change.

Many films, as well as many cinemas, aspire to meet two or three of these goals, often employing one as means toward the achievement of at least one of the other two (e.g., artistic expression as a vehicle of social critique).  (“Cinema” here refers to a particular institutional form governing the production, distribution, exhibition, and reception of a series of films, especially a series of films sharing common subjects, styles, social vantage points, and cultural backgrounds: e.g., “German Expressionist Cinema,” “Classical Narrative Realist Hollywood Cinema,” “Italian Neo-Realist Cinema,” “French New Wave Cinema,” “Dogme 95 Cinema,” “1960s American Underground Cinema,” “British Free Cinema,” and “The New Queer Cinema.”)

    It is important that we subject film to critical study because, over the course of the past 110 years, audio-visual texts, especially audio-visual texts organized around the moving image, have come to exert an extremely powerful impact upon the shape and substance of individuals' lived experience of their relationship to the conditions of their own existence.  This impact is today prospectively as powerful, if not indeed often considerably more powerful, than that exerted by traditional print media.   In fact, film, television, video, and "cyberspace" have become principal sites within our contemporary capitalist societies for the production and dissemination, as well as the reproduction and reinforcement, of meanings, values, ideas, ideologies, and social modes of thinking, understanding, feeling, believing, acting, and interacting, even when presented to us as "sheer entertainment."


    Why British Cinema?  Let me begin to answer this question with my “personal reasons.”  First, I have long maintained a significant interest in British culture, including British film, often screening considerable numbers of British films in other film courses I have taught.  In fact, for a number of years I taught courses in “Introduction to Film” with a mini-section on “Contemporary British Cinema,” focusing on British realist, and naturalist, traditions, especially films concerned with representations of working-class lives, from working-class vantage points, as well as British films foregrounding feminist, multinational/multicultural, and glbt/queer issues.  I personally enjoy a wealth of British films, from a variety of genres, including comedy, horror, suspense, crime, and fantasy (as well as social realism and naturalism).  Second, as one who has concentrated in the “disciplines” of “English Studies” from high school onward, and who has always found it of particular interest and value to approach the study of literary texts in historical, social, and political context, while at the same time always impatiently pressing past boundaries dividing “literature” from other kinds of texts and areas of culture, I have been long well cognizant of a.) how closely tied, and in fact substantially indebted, American English Studies continues to be to British English Studies, and b.) the myriad close yet complicated ties (beyond the academic and intellectual fields of “English Studies”) that relate the United States and the United Kingdom.  Third, I derive considerable pleasure, stimulus, and reward from many, many products of British culture–from music to theatre to art to language to print journalism and commentary to radio and television, to name just a few, and I have had a fantastic time when I have been able to travel in Britain.  Fourth, not only have I developed friendships with a number of British men and women over the years, but also I have had many British, especially English, students take  my classes at UWEC, and elsewhere, over the course of my now nearly twenty years’ teaching at the university level   I have learned and otherwise gained a great deal from these people; I am grateful for the background, experience, perspective, interest, and enthusiasm they have brought to my life and to the life of my classes.  In fact, I am offering this course with this particular focus this semester in part due to the recommendation of a number of my past British film students.  And I am glad that a significant number of British students will join us this fall; I am sure you will contribute in an indispensably positive way to its success–as will also I am sure be the case from my U.S. students (and any students from other countries enrolled as well).  Fifth, teaching British Cinema provides me with the opportunity to focus in a sustained way on learning much more than I have yet to date about this topic; I find teaching a subject one of the best ways to learn about it.

    Beyond these personal reasons for teaching English 381 with this focus (“British Cinema”), I find a number of other, ultimately more important, reasons for doing so as well and, in particular here in the United States, in 2004.  To begin, the duration and extent of British impact across the world continues to be enormous, and cinema provides not only one significant vehicle for the exertion of this impact but also a crucial means to examine the broad range of this impact.  To take just one key example, today the United States is the world’s imperial–and imperialist–power, yet Britain, the British empire, and British imperialism represents the principal antecedent of this power; the U.S., and Americans, can–and should–learn a great deal of considerable value from the history of the British empire, and British imperialism, including its rise and fall, and, especially, from the history of the re-creation and re-direction of British society and culture in the aftermath of its loss of global preeminence following the end of World War II.  I am afraid, however, that this “American learning from Britain” may well not prove to be the case, at least any time soon, as I perceive current pride in American imperial(ist) hegemony as far from abating, at the same time as dangerous tendencies toward fascism and theocracy at home also draw the United States steadily further away from commonality not only with Britain but also with many of the rest of its erstwhile European “allies.”  (To be honest, Britain strikes me, at the present time, on average, as a considerably more “tolerant” and “accepting” place than much of the United States for someone like myself, an openly gay as well as committed leftist–and anti-imperialist–American.)  At the same time, although Britain and America often seem extremely closely linked, and multiply similar (which is certainly in part quite true), I find, even in today’s age of the so-called “global village,” that many extraordinary, striking, and indeed powerful social and cultural differences continue to distinguish Britain from America (and vice-versa).  In short, Americans can learn a great deal about the United States, and about American history, society, politics, and culture by comparison and contrast with that of Britain, while Britishers can learn a great deal about not only the U.S.–its history, society, politics, and culture–but also about Britain as well by studying British cultural production in the United States, taking into account diverse U.S. vantage points on “Cinematic Representations of Britain, Britishness, and the British.”  


    Britain has long faced considerable difficulties in sustaining a vibrant indigenous film production industry, as well a corresponding, substantial domestic audience for this production.  The economic power of American, especially Hollywood, film has often proven overwhelming, while, at the same time, many film scholars have often tended to denigrate the aesthetic quality of British cinema versus that of continental European–along with Central as well as East Asian–cinemas.  In fact, British criticism of British cinema, both popular and scholarly, often appears not only highly self-conscious and self-critical but also excessively defensive and pessimistic.  As I see it, British film culture, which is hardly identical with British film industry (especially British commercial film industry, and, in particular, British film industry harboring ambitions of competing with Hollywood on its own terrain) demonstrates a continuous vitality along with, at its best, an artistic innovativeness as well as a social-political consciousness, and conscience, that puts Hollywood to shame.  British films focusing on British subjects, from British vantage points, in British modes and styles, and with British sensibilities often indeed stand equal in achievement and value, at least as I see it, to that of the (classic) repertoires of films produced from any other nation.  In fact, it has proven enormously difficult for me to narrow the selection of films we will screen and discuss together in this course to twenty-six; I started with well over 200 possibilities, and I could easily name 100 other titles beyond this list I would like to consider as well if I had access to these, which I do not, unfortunately, because they are not as readily available, at least in VHS or DVD form.  So, in sum, British cinema has not yet always received due credit, even despite a vast proliferation of critical study devoted to this field over the course of the past ten years–along with recent upturns and creative developments taking place in both production and support for production of especially low(er) budget, and digital video, work in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.  (Even given this turn toward short film making and digital video production, most Americans who falsely imagine that little large-scale film production takes place outside of Hollywood would likely be greatly surprised to learn that hundreds of feature-length films continue to made each year in Britain, by British film makers.)   I hope that this course will foster expanded interest in learning and writing about, teaching, and possibly even making, more British films and videos in the years ahead.  I myself, for instance, look forward to the opportunity eventually to teach courses focused exclusively on Scottish and Welsh cinemas in the not too distant future.


    Because it is so difficult to narrow down the selection of films, and related topics, to study in a short course focused on this large a topic (“British Cinema”),  we will concentrate on films made from approximately World War II to the present, especially films that help us in explore “Britishness” as a complex, dynamic, heterogeneous, and indeed often sharply contested phenomenon.  Many critics, historians, and makers of British film today emphasize that it ultimately makes little sense to imagine “British cinema” as a singular entity; instead, it makes much more sense to discuss “British cinemas” and to do so by examining the ways these multiple cinemas reflect, refract, respond to, and engage with multiple different, distinct (albeit related) lines of British identity.  In fact, given the increasingly international dynamics of film making today, some major writers on British film propose that we not consider film in “national” terms any more, but rather conceive of it as a “post-national” phenomenon, articulated along lines that regularly and extensively cross national boundaries.  While I am myself highly skeptical of positions that conceive of contemporary “globalization” as having largely effaced, even erased, the significance of national boundaries, and divisions, finding this often naively utopian and dangerously blind to the ways that “the nation,” “nationality,” and “nationalism” continue to function as major crucibles of power, we will certainly frequently explore what it means to conceive of films in relation to these categories–nation, nationality, and nationalism.  We will certainly inquire carefully into what makes “British films” “British” and in what ways do these films represent “British nations,” “British national identities,” along with critical versus appreciative modes of relating to “the nation” and, in particular, its major established institutions and centers of power.  We will become familiar with a number of key debates surrounding this nexus of issues.  Yet we will also consider the (potential) problems and limitations of approaching the films we study by interpreting and evaluating them in terms of their relation to questions of national, subnational, counternational, international, transnational, and postnational identities.

    At the same time, however, I do want to stress right away, from the very beginning of our work together this semester, the great significance of taking well into account regional difference, and diversity, when approaching “British Cinema.”  For instance, the vast majority of people living today in Scotland and Wales define themselves as Scottish or Welsh–and not simultaneously as also British, while, of course, most often at the same time they do not take at all kindly to using “British” and “English” interchangeably.  (For those unfamiliar with these facts, Great Britain includes England, Scotland, and Wales, while the United Kingdom includes England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland.)   Devolution, recently establishing the Welsh National Assembly and the Scottish National Parliament, marks the most visible, to outsiders, sign of a steadily increasing division of Britain (once again) into three “nations,” yet, for most people living in Scotland and Wales, the more fundamental divisions lie “closer to the ground,” in the different “cultures of everyday life,” including the different “structures of feeling,” they find prevalent within England, Scotland, and Wales–as well as in the mythical and ideological uses to which distinct historical traditions are put in these three nations.  At the same time, England hardly exists as a singular homogenous identity either: e.g., local cultures distinguish areas of Northern, Central, and Southwestern England from Greater London to often substantial degrees, even if we accept the idea, proposed by Daniel Dorling and Bethan Thomas of the University of Sheffield in their book, People and Places: a 2001 Census Atlas of the UK (Bristol: the Policy Press, 2004) that the UK is heading in the direction of a bifurcation between “The Metropolis” (an expanded and built-up Greater London, that encompasses all of Southern England, and extends from Gainsborough in the North to Penzance in the West) and “The Archipelago” (a series of “provinces” that include Wales, the West Midlands, all of Northern England, Scotland, and Northern Ireland).   


    I hope as we approach this course together that you will find it to be an enjoyable and enlightening experience.  I myself always learn immensely from my students, while I always at the same time structure my classes so that my students gain the opportunity to learn a great deal from each other as well as from me.  So far, it seems to work (at least for most of us).  Let’s aim to keep it up this semester.  Cheers.


     Students are required to purchase the following books (available at the UWEC Bookstore in Davies Center):
1.   Ashby, Justine and Andrew Higson, eds.   British Cinema, Past and Present.   London: Routledge, 2000.

2.   Murphy, Robert, ed.  The British Cinema Book.  2nd Edition.  London: British Film Institute, 2001.

3.   Contemporary British Cinema Supplement.  Cineaste.   New York: Cineaste.  Vol. XXVI, No. 4, Fall 2001.

4.   Street, Sarah.   British National Cinema.  London:  Routledge, 1997.

5.   Mike Storry and Peter Childs. eds.  British Cultural Identities.  2nd Edition.  London: Routledge, 2002.    

    I will supply copies of other texts we will use in this course.  Some of these will appear in the form of photocopied handouts, but most will be available on (and through) our Desire2Learn (D2L) electronic classroom.  In other cases, I will post links and documents on our Desire2Learn electronic classroom website.  I expect you to take responsibility for finding on-line credits information for the films we will screen this semester.  I have already recommended a considerable range of websites of relevance to this course, and I will add to this list as you proceed; please make use of these recommendations (these are available via our D2L classroom).

    From time to time students may be required to bring short texts, especially copies of your own writing, to class, and we will, as proves useful, discuss in class your writings on D2L.  

    Finally, I will supply copies of all films we will screen together this semester ( in all cases, in either DVD or VHS format, with large-screen projection and high fidelity stereo sound reproduction).   I will also provide students copies of films for interview conference and final project presentations.   Please note well that over 90% of these will be my own personal copies, so please respect that fact–and that I have willingly spent a considerable amount of my own money on these DVDs and VHS tapes so that we can make this the best course possible.   (I even purchased a number of Region 2/PAL standard videos in Britain–which we will be able to make use of once the classroom is set-up for this purpose later this semester.)



W 9/8: Introduction and Orientation; Screening of Selection from Cinema Europe: The Other Hollywood.

M 9/13: Screening, A Century of Cinema: Typically British and The Lady Vanishes.  

W 9/15: Discussion, A Century of Cinema: Typically British, The Lady Vanishes, and Readings.

        Readings (Read For Class): British National Cinema: “Introduction,” 1-3, and “Studios, Directors, and Genres,” 28-60.  The British Cinema Book: (Sarah Street) “British Cinema and the National Interest, 1927-1939," 28-34; (Tom Ryall) “A British Studio System: The Associated British Picture Corporation and the Gaumont-British Picture Corporation in the 1930s,” 35-41; (Robert Murphy) “Postscript: a Short History of British Cinema,” 310-317.  British Cultural Identities: “Places and Peoples,” 35-72.

M 9/20: Screening, Henry V and Select Short Films from Humphrey Jennings.

W 9/22: Discussion, Henry V, Select Short Films from Humphrey Jennings, and Readings.

        Readings (Read For Class): British National Cinema: “Borderlines I: Modernism and British Cinema,” 147-168.  The British Cinema Book: (Ian Aitken) “The British Documentary Film Movement,” 60-67; (Robert Murphy) “The Heart of Britain,” 71-78.  British Cinema, Past and Present: (James Chapman) “Cinema, Propaganda, and National Identity: British Film and the Second World War,” 193-206.  
M 9/27: Screening, Kinds Hearts and Coronets and Dead of Night.

W 9/29: Discussion, Kinds Hearts and Coronets, Dead of Night, and Readings.

    Readings (Read For Class): British National Cinema, “Genres from Austerity to Influence,” 61-78.  The British Cinema Book: (Tim Pulleine) “A Song and Dance at the Local: Thoughts on Ealing,” 79-84; (Vincent Porter) “Methodism versus the Market-place: the Rank Organization and British Cinema,” 85-92; (Ian Conrich) “Traditions of the British Horror Film,” 226-232; (Richard Dacre) “Traditions of British Comedy,” 233-240.

    * First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned. *

M 10/4: Screening, Saturday Night, Sunday Morning and Darling.

W 10/6: Discussion,  Saturday Night, Sunday Morning, Darling, and Readings.

    Readings (Read For Class): British National Cinema, “Genres from Austerity to Influence,” 78-91.  The British Cinema Book: (Andrew Spicer) “Male Stars, Masculinity, and British Cinema,” 93-100; (Christine Geraghty) “Women and 60s British Cinema: The Development of the ‘Darling’ Girl,” 101-108; (Peter Hutchings) “Beyond the New Wave: Realism in British Cinema, 1959-1963,” 146-152.  British Cinema, Past and Present: (Moya Luckett) “Travel and Mobility: Femininity and National Identity in Swinging London Films,” 233-245.   British Cultural Identities: “Education, Work, and Leisure,” 73-110.  

M 10/11: Screening, Peeping Tom and Blow-Up.

W 10/13: Discussion, Peeping Tom, Blow-Up, and Readings.

    Readings (Read For Class): The British Cinema Book: (Jeffrey Richards) “British Film Censorship,” 156-161; (Allen Eyes) “Exhibition and the Cinema-Going Experience,” 164-169.  British Cinema, Past and Present: (Marcia Landy) “The Other Side of Paradise: British Cinema from an American Perspective,” 63-79; (Pierre Sorlin) “From The Third Man to Shakespeare in Love: Fifty Years of British Success on Continental Screens”; (Adam Lowenstein) “‘Under-the-Skin Horrors’: Social Realism and Classlessness in Peeping Tom and the British New Wave,” 221-232.

M 10/18: Screening, If . . . and Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
W 10/20: Discussion, If . . . , Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Readings.

        Readings (Read For Class): British National Cinema, “Genres in Transition, 1970s-1990s,” 92-102.  Cineaste: (David Sterritt and Lucille Rhodes) “Monty Python: Lust for Glory,” 18-23.  The British Cinema Book: (Erik Hedling) “Lindsay Anderson and the Development of British Art Cinema,” 241-247.  British Cultural Identities: “Youth Culture and Style,” 139-173.

    * First Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due. *
M 10/25: Screening, Chariots of Fire and Orlando.

W 10/27: Discussion, Chariots of Fire, Orlando, and Readings.

        Readings (Read For Class): British National Cinema, “The Fiscal Politics of Film,” 4-27, and  “Genres in Transition,” 102-113.  The British Cinema Book: (Sheldon Hall) “The Wrong Sort of Cinema: Refashioning the Heritage Film Debate,” 191-199; (John Hill) “British Cinema as National Cinema: Production, Audience and Representation,” 206-213.  British Cinema, Past and Present: (Amy Sargeant) “Style and Authenticity in Historical Fictions on Film and Television,” 301-315; (Phil Powrie) “On the Threshold Between Past and Present: ‘Alternative Heritage,” 316-326.  Cineaste: (John Hill) “Contemporary British Cinema (Industry, Policy, Identity),” 30-33.  British Cultural Identities: “Gender, Sex, and the Family,” 111-138.

M 11/1: Screening, The Draughtsman’s Contract and The Last of England.

W 11/3: Discussion, The Draughtsman’s Contract, The Last of England, and Readings.

    Readings (Read For Class): British National Cinema, “Border-lines II: Counter-Cinema and Independence,” 169-187.  The British Cinema Book: (Michael O’Pray) “New Romanticism and the British Avant-Garde in the Early 80s,” 256-262.  British Cinema, Past and Present: (John Orr) “The Art of National Identity: Peter Greenaway and Derek Jarman,” 327-338.  British Cultural Identities: “Class and Politics,” 175-207.

M 11/8: Screening, Hedd Wynn and Human Traffic.

W 11/10: Discussion, Hedd Wynn, Human Traffic, and Readings.

    Readings (Read For Class): The British Cinema Book: (Martin McLoone) “Internal Decolonisation? British Cinema in the Celtic Fringe” (184-190).  Cineaste: (Stephen Chibnall) “Britain’s Funk Soul Brothers: Gender, Family and Nation in the New Brit-Pics,” 38-42; (Martin McLoone) “Challenging Colonial Traditions: British Cinema in the Celtic Fringe,” 51-54.  British Cultural Identities: “Ethnicity and Language,” 209-238, and “Religion and Heritage,” 239-272.

M 11/15: Screening, My Beautiful Laundrette and My Name is Joe.

W 11/17: Discussion, My Beautiful Laundrette, My Name is Joe, and Readings.

    Readings (Read For Class): British National Cinema, “Border-lines II: Counter-Cinema and Independence,” 187-196, and “Conclusion,” 197-200.  The British Cinema Book: (Alan Lowell) “The British Cinema: the Known Cinema?,” 200-205; (Geoff Brown) “Paradise Lost and Found: the Course of British Realism,” 248-255; (Steve Chibnall) “Travels in Ladland: the British Gangster Film Cycle, 1998-2001," 281-291.  British Cinema, Past and Present: (Julia Hallam) “Film, Class and National Identity: Re-Imagining Communities in the Age of Devolution,” 261-273, and (Claire Monk) “Underbelly U.K.: the 1990s Underclass Film, Masculinity and the Ideologies of ‘New’ Britain,” 274-287.  Cineaste: (Cary Rajinder Sawhney), “‘Another Kind of British’: an Exploration of British Asian Films,” 58-61.

M 11/22: Screening,  Blacks Britannia and Secrets and Lies.

    * Second Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Assigned. *

M 11/29: Screening, Wonderland and .Morvern Callar.

W 12/1: Discussion, Blacks Britannia, Secrets and Lies, Wonderland, Morvern Callar, and Readings.

    Readings (Read For Class): The British Cinema Book: (Jim Pines) “British Cinema and Black Representation,” 177-183; (Brian McFarlane) “The More Things Change . . . British Cinema in the 90s,” 274-280; (Robert Murphy) “Citylife: Urban Fairy-Tales in Late 90s British Cinema,” 292-300.  British Cinema, Past and Present: (Andrew Higson) “The Instability of the National,” 35-47.  Cineaste: (Charlotte Brunsdon) “London Films: From Private Gardens to Utopian Moments,” 43-46; (Duncan Petrie) “Devolving British Cinema: the New Scottish Cinema and the European Art Film,” 55-57; (Noel McLaughlin) “Short Sighted: Short Filmmaking in Britain,” 62-63; “British Cinema Questionnaire,” 64-66.  British Cultural Identities: “Conclusion: Britain Towards the Future,” 273-291.
M 12/6: Screening, Aberdeen and Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself.

W 12/8: Discussion, Aberdeen and Wilbur Wants to Kill Himself.

    * M 12/13, Second Learning and Contribution Reflection Paper Due, by 5 p.m. in my English Department Mailbox, Room HHH 405. *

    ** Interview Conference and Final Project Presentation Dates to be Announced. **



    Monday afternoons we will screen films, usually two per session. We will try to take a short (five-minutes long maximum) break in between the screening of each film (we’ll be tight for time, so please don’t stretch this beyond five minutes; if you need a break, for whatever reason, other than at this time right between the two films, feel free to take it, but try to be quick, and also try not to be too distracting as you leave–for instance, please try not to block the projection as you walk past it on your way out).  Occasionally screening sessions will run slightly longer than 6:30, although I’ve really tried hard to fit two films into three and one-half hours each week, and we should not run past 7 any night; students are expected to stay through the end of the screening when this happens (unless you absolutely must go somewhere else immediately at that time).  Screening sessions will in fact end early enough times to counterbalance the number of times they end late, and when they end early you will be able to leave early as well. You may bring cushions, pillows, blankets, fold-up chairs, and any other kind of material that you might find more comfortable to sit on during these screenings than the seats already available in the classroom. You do not need to do this, but you may if you wish. You may also bring snacks as long as you try not to make a mess and as long as you clean up after yourself.  And you may invite friends to attend screenings, as long as they respect the fact that students in the class need to pay close attention to the films, and will not be able to do so if they are distracted.

    Wednesday afternoons we will discuss readings from textbooks and other sources as well as the screenings from the previous Monday afternoon.  We will take a five-minute break during this session.  Discussion will proceed according to a variety of formats.  At times I will make relatively short, informal presentations, but I prefer not to lecture; instead I want to work directly and closely together with you so that we can together come to grips with the films, and the issues, this course addresses.  Rather than present lectures in class, as need be I'll prepare and post lectures, and lecture notes, on Desire2Learn for you to study and review on your own.

    At times students will do some short writing before or during class to help facilitate discussions, at times students will work in small groups, at times students may make short presentations to the whole class, and at times we will refer to writings you have posted on Desire2Learn.   Frequently we will watch clips from films previously screened, and we will also, from time to time, watch clips and shorts from additional sources as well as DVD extras on the films we have screened.

    I will maintain ultimate responsibility, authority, and control for the direction of our class discussions, yet I will do my best to make sure we hear extensively from everyone else.  I recognize and respect that the students enrolled in this class represent differences in prior knowledge, experience, training, work, or other preparation vis-a-vis areas central to our collective focus of inquiry, and that some are more versus less inclined as well as more versus less comfortable speaking in class.  Yet I expect that these differences, along with differences in social, cultural, economic, political, and ideological ascriptions, affiliations, and commitments, all will be brought to the fore so that each member of the class can contribute to its success from both where she is at and toward where he aspires to be.


     This university is a liberal arts institution; education in the liberal arts (and sciences) represents the historic and central commitment of what we do together on this UW campus-not vocational training and pre-professional development.  Our university administration and faculty support this commitment so strongly that they have asked that all syllabi elaborate the official goals of the baccalaureate, as well as identify which ones the course in question will help you achieve.  According to the UWEC administration, the baccalaureate degree shall work to develop the following for UWEC students:

1.) an understanding of a liberal education.

2.) an appreciation of the University as a learning community.

3.) an ability to inquire, think, analyze.

4.) an ability to write, read, speak, listen.

5.) an understanding of numerical data.

6.) a historical consciousness.

7.) international and intercultural experience.

8.) an understanding of science and scientific methods.

9.) an appreciation of the arts.

10.) an understanding of values.

11.) an understanding of human behavior and human institutions.

    UWEC strives to help you meet these objectives in the course of the higher education you pursue here.  Please note that in making these our foremost aims, we at UWEC clearly distinguish ourselves from technical colleges as well as from all other UW schools, especially places like Stout, River Falls, and Stevens Point.  English 381, British Cinema aims to help contribute to you meeting goals 1-4, 6, and 9-11.

    These goals cannot be met passively by the student: each requires your striving toward it to be met.  Striving means learning actively, completing assignments in a thorough and timely fashion, participating in class discussion, and making connections (above and beyond those emphasized by us in the classroom) between what we do while meeting in class and what you do when engaged outside of the classroom.


    The English Department aims to provide you with an intellectually challenging education. This means we will often include texts and introduce topics in our courses that candidly explore adult issues, including ones offering representations that may, on occasion, prove unsettling, disturbing, and even offensive to some of you.

    The higher educational academy is not a "safe space" separate from the rest of the "real world" where you can expect to be sheltered from encountering anything you might find disagreeable or objectionable.  On the contrary, we expect you to take up the challenge to confront these kinds of texts and topics in a mature, responsible way, and that means bringing directly to bear your negative reactions-including your reactions of shock, dismay, and discontent-in class discussions and in your writings and presentations for class.  If you find a position or practice represented in a text or topic included in the assigned readings for class or screenings in class to be objectionable, it is therefore of crucial importance that you raise your objections openly and honestly, not simply claim personal exemption from having to see, hear, or talk, read, and write about these kinds of matters.  After all, disturbing positions and practices exist extensively outside of the classroom as well as in what we read, see, hear, and otherwise confront in and for class; what we confront in class exists in this institutional space as symptomatic of positions and practices that operate beyond the confines of the classroom, the course, and the university.  If and when you find any text or topic genuinely appalling, you maintain the ethical responsibility, as a mature adult and as a responsible citizen, not simply to try to hide from these positions and practices but rather to work to critique and change them.

    Students should expect therefore that you may well on occasion encounter representations that you will find troubling, in this UWEC course and in many others as well; within this Department you will receive no right of exemption from engaging with these and no welcome for simply complaining (especially to a higher administrative authority) about their inclusion.  Instead you should bring your objections forthrightly to bear in your contributions to class discussion.  Finally, to conclude this particular point of discussion, a professor differs from a high school teacher in many respects, but one key difference is that we maintain a principal professional, ethical responsibility forthrightly to represent the most advanced knowledges in our fields of expertise and to proceed from there to work toward their further development and dissemination.  In short, we must create, advocate for, and profess these knowledges; you should expect that your professors may from time to time take strong and indeed controversial positions on difficult and challenging issues, eschewing the pretense of disinterested neutrality.  To do anything less than assume this responsibility, and to do so with alacrity, would be to shirk our professorial responsibility and to render ourselves unworthy of maintaining our professorial position.


    I expect students in this course to strive to become sincerely interested in learning about the subject matter of this course, and to be consistently intellectually serious as well as academically diligent in their pursuit of this learning.  I expect students to bring actively and extensively to bear-in your writing and your contributions to class discussion-insights you gain through your engagement with the texts and topics addressed as part of this course, and I expect you at the same time to relate these texts and topics as closely and as fully as possible to subjects of genuine interest and concern in your own lives.  Finally, I expect students to let me as quickly as possible when and if you have any questions or problems about any aspect of how you are doing in and with the course, so that I can do everything I possibly can to help answer these questions and solve these problems.


    In evaluating all work done for this course, I will take account of how carefully, seriously, intelligently, enthusiastically, and imaginatively students engage with the concepts, issues, positions, and arguments addressed in the course and represented by the texts we read, the films we screen, by me, and by each other.


    Attendance is required at both screening and discussion sections.  Students are allowed three unexcused absences, maximum.  Other than that, except for a serious problem or a significant emergency, your grade will suffer significantly if you miss class.  If such problems or emergencies require you to miss additional classes beyond the three allowed, you need to supply me with written documentation that explains why you needed to miss class and/or arrange to talk with me in my office about what you have been dealing with.  No student who misses more than seven classes total will pass this course.

    I also expect students to arrive on time and to stay through the end of class; I will not count you as present if you do not do so (unless you explain what serious problem or significant emergency requires you to arrive late or leave early).

    Learning and Contribution

    What This is and Why it is Important

    My foremost aim in teaching this course is to help you learn something of significance and value.  I will judge you to a significant degree on what you learn, how–and how hard–you strive to learn, and on how–along with how well–you contribute to the learning for the rest of the class.

    You cannot learn or help others learn if you do not contribute.  If you don't contribute to the work of this class not only will you fail to derive as much gain from it as would be the case if you did contribute, but also you will deprive everyone else of the benefit of your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, values, knowledge, and experience.  In fact, to remain passively silent in class exploits the work of others who actively engage.

    Class Participation

    Class participation represents an important opportunity to learn, not just a place in which to demonstrate what you have learned.  By raising questions, testing and trying out ideas, taking risks and making mistakes, you learn a great deal–and help others learn a great deal as well.  You learn through talking, not just talk to show what you have learned.  Don't ever hesitate to speak forth in class if you have anything at all to throw into the mix.

    At the same time, just talking a great deal does not necessarily mean that you are making a quality contribution to the class by aiding the learning that we aim to accomplish.  Quality of participation is much more important than quantity, although a sufficient quantity is indispensable to insure quality.  Still, I want to emphasize here that I perceive talking for talking's sake, especially talking which pulls us off on far-fetched tangents, which remains disconnected from and disengaged with the readings, the screenings, and the focus of class, or which effectively silences others, to be negative participation.

    Quality class participation does not, moreover, involve merely asking questions of me and responding to my questions; quality class participation requires you to work as assiduously as you can to advance a serious and substantial discussion with your peers as well as with me about the texts and topics subject to discussion.  Students in this class should, therefore, be prepared to engage with and respond to each other in class discussion, and I will take particular note of how well you do so.

    I would like you to come to class with strong opinions on the topics of discussion, to be ready to share your opinions with the class, and to be open-minded enough to debate your thoughts and to push them as far as they will go.  This last aspect will at times involve what some may think is overanalyzing things, or pushing the envelope to the point where meaning may even seem to break down, but this process is often absolutely necessary to understand a topic fully.

    In evaluating class participation, I find a modification of a system designed by my colleague, Professor Mary Ellen Alea, useful: A = Nearly daily response, but always with consistently useful, insightful comments and questions; B= Daily response, with regular comments and questions; C = Less frequent, occasional questions and comments; D= Usually or entirely quiet, or, F=Engaging in behavior that disrupts the learning processes for you and your fellow students, such as by talking while others are speaking.

    Alternative Forms of Contribution

    Contribution to the class certainly can extend far beyond mere speaking in class: it may include a variety of ways in which you can bring to bear your insights to help yourself as well as the rest of us gain from the experience of this course.  Excellent writings for and in response to class in papers, conferences, presentations, and Desire2Learn postings can help make up for limitations as far as participation in class goes.  At the same time, listening carefully, respectfully, and thoughtfully in class discussions is an important contribution to class as well.

    Learning and Contribution Reflection Papers/Learning and Contribution Reflection Grades

    Learning and contribution will constitute 40% of the overall course grade.  A significant component of this will involve you writing two learning and contribution reflection papers.  The assignments for these papers will each involve two parts.

    First, I will ask you questions that will require you to engage in extended written form with issues concerning some of the films and readings we have been studying for the immediately preceding portion of the semester, as well to demonstrate what you are learning from working with these texts.  These questions will change from the first to the second paper, and you will most likely have multiple options from which to choose, with each option involving somewhat different kind of work on your part.

    Second, I will ask you questions that will require you to assess how, and how well, you have been contributing to your own learning, and that of others in the class.

    As I see it, these papers provide you a useful opportunity to communicate with me how you believe you are doing with the course, as well as why so, and to demonstrate your critical self-reflexivity, the hallmark of a liberal arts education.  As you are assessing your own learning and contribution, you may include thoughts in reaction to issues raised in class discussion that you did not have the opportunity or did not feel comfortable enough to share in class; these additional reflections will help me get a better sense of what you have been thinking about and how you have been responding to class discussions, as well as to the readings.  I will take into account what you write in determining your learning and contribution grade for the preceding semester period; performance on these papers represents a vital component of your learning and contribution grade.

    These papers should be typed, double-space, on single sides of standard white letter-sized (8" X 11") typewriter, computer printer, or photographic paper.  All pages should be numbered, and you should place your name at the top of each page.  You may use any standard font you wish, yet you should keep your point size between 10 and 12 points.  Papers must be stapled, and you are responsible for doing so, not me. You should try as best possible to follow all rules and conventions of Standard Written English and MLA format (or any other well-established, conventional format) for citation and documentation of sources.

    I recommend an approximate average target range of 2000 words (roughly eight double-space, typed pages) for each learning and contribution reflection paper.  

    Each learning and contribution grade (including each learning and contribution reflection paper) will be worth 20% of the overall course grade.  Late papers will lose 1/3 of a letter grade for each day they are turned in after the deadline, unless you arrange with me ahead of time for an extension due to some kind of serious problem that prevents you from completing your paper on time.

    Desire2Learn Postings (Reflections, Comments, Critiques)

    I am creating a Desire2Learn electronic classroom website for this class.  Beyond me posting material here for you to retrieve, I am also asking you periodically to post short reflections, comments, and critiques on this site that engage with readings and screenings in dialogue and debate with your fellow classmates.

    Here's how this assignment will work.  After each Wednesday discussion class meeting you will have the opportunity to post a reflection, comment, and/or critique on issues directly related to the films and readings discussed in class that Wednesday.  Then, once your fellow students have posted their thoughts, you will have the opportunity to post in response–especially arguing with and/or against, and critiquing what they have written (you may also respond to yourself).  

    In writing these reflections, comments, and/or critiques I suggest an approximate target average of 500 to 1000 words.  These are “semi-formal,” which means you should try to write as clearly and cogently as possible, but I will not be a stickler for minute kinds of fine points of style in evaluating what you write.  

    You need not post on Desire2Learn every week; I expect a minimum of three initial posts and a minimum of nine response posts during each half of the semester, for a minimum total of six initial posts and eighteen response posts.

    You may respond for up to eighteen days after class meets for assignments 1-5, up to eleven days for assignment 6, up to four days for assignment 7, up to eighteen days for assignments 8-12, up to eleven days for assignment 13, and up to four days for assignment 14.   Aim to keep up with this task on a regular basis so that you are not cramming responses in at the last moment, and so that what you post does contribute to (your own and fellow students’) significant learning, reflection, discussion, and debate–the more your posts do so, the better your grade will turn out to be.   Please do feel free to argue with and critique each other (focusing, of course, on positions represented by and practices supported by your peers, not on denigrating persons).  


    I expect the opportunity to engage in this kind of supplementary, informal dialogue will help you in your learning and contribution, as well as make the course more interesting and meaningful for you.  It will also give you the chance to test out and receive potentially helpful feedback on ideas you might want later to pursue in class discussions, in papers, with your interview conference assignment, and as part of the final project.  In addition, this will give you a chance to share ideas that you thought of after class discussion, or that you needed more time to think out and formulate effectively in your own mind before sharing these, and Desire2Learn postings should help students who are shy about speaking forth extensively in class discussion.  I know everyone in class has much of value to offer, including those who do not feel as readily inclined or as comfortable to voice this in class discussion as some others.

    The Desire2Learn postings will be graded twice, once half-way through the semester and once at the end of the semester.  Here, my evaluation will be quite succinct, focused, and holistic.  The grade for your Desire2Learn postings will contribute the following percentages of the overall course grade: 12.5% for the first half of the semester, and 12.5% for the second half of the semester.

    Interview Conference

    Approximately one-third of the way through the semester, I will ask you to meet in conference outside of class with me to engage in an extended, serious, critical discussion of one British film we have not yet previously screened together this semester.   I estimate we will talk together for approximately one hour.  You will work on this assignment in a group of three to four students from our class.  

    I will give you a copy of the film sufficiently ahead of time so you can screen it, review it carefully, and prepare to offer an incisive reading of it in our conference.   I will also give you specific questions ahead of time that I want you to come to the conference prepared to address.

    This assignment will be worth 15% of the overall course grade.  I will give you individual grades for this assignment (although they may well turn out all the same), and I will give you all copies of a written form after the conference providing each of you an opportunity individually to evaluate (in confidence) each other member’s contribution to the group’s work–as well as to evaluate yourself.  I will take into account these evaluations in determining your individual grades.  

    Final Group Project

    Once again, you will work together with fellow students from our class on this project.  Groups may consist of four to six students.  I will give each group three British films we have not screened together as part of the course.  Your task will be to prepare a presentation that uses these films as a point of departure, reference, and return in order to helps illuminate, as well as stimulate thinking and discussion, in relation to a.)  a significant issue in British cinema studies, as well as b.) a significant issue in British history, society, politics, and/or culture.  You yourselves, in your groups and in consultation with me, will determine, based upon what the films you are working with suggest, precisely what these specific issues will be.  At the end of the semester you will present what you have come up with as part of a public class conference; you will have approximately 45 minutes time to present, followed by 45 minutes time to engage in–and lead–discussion.  

    These projects may involve incorporation of original creative work, depending upon the interests and talents of the members of your group.  For instance, you may create and present a.) your own short video (or film); b.)  an exhibition of visual or plastic art; c.) a music, theatre, dance, and/or spoken word performance; and d.) other kind of collages or montages from multiple, mixed media.  You certainly should incorporate use of clips from the three films into your presentation, including into the creative portions I have just described as possible forms this presentation may take.  You do not need to create and present any of this kind of material, however, if you do not wish to do so, as long as you can find a way successfully to illuminate and stimulate (as I described in the preceding paragraph).  In other words, you can present the results of research and critical analysis to us, together with the screening of illustrative clips, along the lines of what you would commonly find at a professional academic conference (and you may prepare the same kind of poster or array of posters that many academic conferences often include at “poster sessions”).

    I will make more specific suggestions to you for this project with the assignment, and this assignment will describe the goals, parameters, and criteria for evaluation in greater detail than I do here.   Also, we will, each group and I, meet in a conference sufficiently ahead of the time of the presentation so I can help assist you in your planning and preparation.  I do recommend, however, that you right away start paying attention to ideas addressed in the readings and screenings for the course that particularly interest you, so that you may well be able to pursue these further with your final group project.  I will give you some choice over what films you will use to launch and anchor this project, but this will be limited to titles of which I myself, the English Department, and McIntyre Library own copies, as well as what else we might be able readily to find at local libraries and video stores.  

    Just to give you some initial idea of what might be areas in which you focus with this project, consider production, distribution, and exhibition as each separate areas, and imagine you might inquire into a specific issue in one of these areas, and think about the prospect of looking into a particular issue involving the representation, reception, influence, impact, or engagement these (and other, related British) films provide versus one specific aspect of British, English, Scottish, or Welsh identities–such as one specific question of class, race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, or sexuality.

    This assignment will be worth 20% of the overall course grade.   Once again, I will give you individual grades (although they may well turn out all the same), and once again I will give you all copies of a written form after your presentation providing each of you an opportunity individually to evaluate (in confidence) each other member’s contribution to the group’s work–as well as to evaluate yourself.  I will, as with the earlier interview conference, take into account these evaluations in determining your individual grades.          

    Finally, each student is required to attend and participate actively in discussion for one other group’s project presentation besides your own.   In addition, you will receive 2.5% extra credit for each additional group project presentation you attend and engage with in discussion beyond the one required of you.

    Class Field Trip/Extra Credit

    I will work together with you to organize a class field trip related to the focus of this course.  I want to make this a fun occasion that expands beyond what we do in class as well as enhances it.  Students who help organize the field trip will receive 5% extra credit for so doing. Students who participate in the field trip will also receive 5% additional extra credit.  I will pay for a significant percentage of the cost of the field trip, i.e., transportation (within reason).  I welcome suggestions, although I can tell you right away that most likely whatever we do will involve us traveling on a Saturday to the Twin Cities.  I hope to plan this fairly early in the semester, and then do it sometime in, say, mid to late October.  Friends are welcome to join us.  If you can’t make the field trip, but would like the opportunity for extra credit, I will find something else that you can do.


    I encourage you to meet with me in conference during office hours or at another mutually convenient time to discuss any issue of interest or concern that you develop as a student in this course and as a member of this class.  I recognize the value of learning that takes place in conferences; I know this can at times be equally as important, and in fact occasionally even more important, than what takes place in class.  It also provide you an opportunity to contribute beyond what you say in class and write for class.  So please do not hesitate to meet with me at any time you think this might be helpful to you.  I want to help you in your understanding of issues addressed in readings, screenings, and discussions, as well as in your writing and participation.  And you may certainly also feel free to contact me by e-mail or by (my campus office) phone as well.   

    Any student who has a disability and is in need of classroom accommodations, please contact the instructor and the Services for Students with Disabilities Office.


    I strive to be as accountable to my students as possible. I believe it is crucial that students become aware of the ideas and the values which shape and direct their education, and I believe students should expect that all of their teachers will be prepared to explain why they teach as they do.  Please, therefore, take the time, as early as you can this semester, to read through and think carefully about my "Statement of Teaching Philosophy" that I have posted on my UWEC faculty website:

This statement explains WHY I teach as I do.  I think it is extremely important that you know and understand where your teachers are coming from in teaching you as they do.  You will find me one who trusts you sufficiently always to be frank about this with you.

Return to Professor Bob Nowlan's Home Page

UW-Eau Claire Home

This material is copyrighted (©)

Professor Bob Nowlan

Last Updated:  September 7, 2004