lit221 : Classical Hollywood

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Convenor(s): Dr Jonathan Rayner


Please note: This module may or may not run in any given semester. Please check with the tutor.

General Information

This module offers an advanced introduction to the technical, historical, cultural and institutional study of Hollywood cinema.  In a series of lectures, seminars and related screenings, the classical style and mode of production will be examined in detail.  Topics and films for discussion will be drawn from both the classical studio era and the post-classical period in order to highlight the consistency and evolution of Hollywood and its products, and to contextualise them in relation to contemporary American society.


  1. To acquaint students with the circumstances of production and consumption of Hollywood cinema during the Classical period.
  2. To examine the style of Hollywood filmmaking and its manifestation in narrative film, as a commercial and ideological text.
  3. To train students in the close textual and contextual reading of examples of popular American film.

Learning Outcomes

On completing the module, students should be able to:
  1. Account for the circumstances of production and their impact upon the making and viewing of Hollywood films in the Classical period
  2. Interpret the formal and ideological properties of Hollywood film texts
  3. Undertake close textual and contextual reading of examples of popular American film


The delivery of the module will combine a series of tutor-led presentations and seminars.  These will be linked to weekly topics and screening of set films. Students are required to attend all combined hour sessions, seminars and screenings (or view films from the DVD library in advance of seminars) and read the specified set texts in each week of the semester.


The module will be assessed via two coursework submissions.  Assignment 1 (1,500 words/40%) will consist of a piece of close textual analysis.  This should follow the pattern of shot analyses undertaken in seminars.  You may examine a film of your own choice or use an example covered in seminar sessions.  Assignment 2 (2,500 words/60%) will consist of a critical essay.  These assessed exercises are intended to help you develop and articulate your capacity for detailed textual analysis of film, and to encourage a wider critical and contextual understanding of the significance of this analysis.

Relationship between Learning Outcome and Assessment Methods

The module intends to aid students in the acquisition of critical, interpretative skills for the interrogation and contextualisation of Hollywood cinema and its output.  Appreciation of the circumstances and examples of Hollywood production are intended to extend students'  critical grasp of film history, the significance of popular cultural forms and their interrelationship with consuming society.  Assessment exercises will consolidate skills of close textual analysis established at level 1, and develop students' facility for contextualisation of popular cinema.


A study of the Hollywood film industry is recommended, such as American Cinema-American Culture by John Belton 2nd edition (McGraw-Hill, 2002) or Hollywood Cinema by Richard Maltby (Blackwell, 1995). A very useful text which spans the industrial, social and political contexts, and the critical and theoretical debates on Hollywood is John Hill and Pamela Church Gibson (eds.) American Cinema and Hollywood (OUP, 2000).  In preparation for the analytical element of the assessment, students (especially those who did not take LIT181 Introduction to Cinema) should read an introductory film studies text such as Film Art by David Bordwell and Kristin Thompson (McGraw-Hill various editions). 

Lectures & Workshops

Weekly topics for lectures and screenings will include:  the musical; the gangster film; film noir; science fiction film; horror film; the western.

Contact Details

Dr Jonathan Rayner

Information last changed: Thursday 07th of April 2016 :: 01:16:30 PM (BST)


The University of Sheffield, Western Bank, Sheffield, S10 2TN, UK