ASIU 111:Film Genre

Instructor: Jason M. WardOffice: SOS115

Telephone: (212) 338 1806E-mail:


Office Hours: Thu 10:30-14:20 or by appointment

Course Description:

What is genre? Are film genres a marketing tool, a by-product of journalism or a fundamental way of understanding and discussing motion pictures? Is there such a thing as a ‘genre film’ or is no movie immune to genre criticism? What are the generic tropes associated with certain genres? Can a film belong to more than one genre? Does a film’s genre stay the same over time? Does a genre-based view expand or delimit our conception of a motion picture? These are some of the many questions, concerns and misconceptions raised by the study of film through genre.

This Aesthetic and Interpretive Understanding (ASIU) course will introduce the aesthetics and interpretation of film and genre theory. The students will be provided with opportunities to think critically, express their thoughts verbally and in writing, and make effective use of their knowledge and skills in formulating their thoughts for a range of diverse assessments and activities. The class is student-based and develops the students’ understanding of film genre through theircritical reading, academic writing, film and text-based presentations, and creative engagements with genre. Specifically, the students will provide background and commentaries on a ‘generic film’ of their choice, prepare a PowerPoint presentation for one of the weekly readings, and produce written work on various aspects of genre in theory and practice.

Textbook(s) and/or Other Required Materials:

The course-pack will include chapters from the following texts. These readings will be used for most of the class discussions and assessments:

Abbott, Stacey and Deborah Jermyn. Falling in Love Again: Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema. London: I.B.Tauris, 2009. Print.

Aufderheide, Patricia. Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007. Print.

Austen, Jane, and Seth Grahame-Smith. Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Philadelphia: Quirk Books, 2009. Print.

Costello, John. Science Fiction. Harpenden: Pocket Essentials, 2004. Print.

Dave, Paul and Gillian Parker. "The Upper Classes: The Heritage Film." Visions of England: Class and Culture in Contemporary Cinema. Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2006. Print.

Duncan, Paul. Film Noir. Harpenden: Pocket Essentials, 2000. Print.

Gallagher, Mark. Action Figures: Men, Action Films, and Contemporary Adventure Narratives. Palgrave Macmillan: Gordonsville, VA, 2006. Print.

Grant, Barry Keith. "Approaching Film Genre." Film Genre: From Iconography to Ideology. New York: Columbia University Press 2007. 4-28. Print.

Hayward, Susan. Cinema Studies: The Key Concepts. London: Routledge, 2000. Print.

Higson, Andrew. Film England: English Filmmaking since the 1990s. London: I. B. Tauris, 2011. Print.

Hughes, Howard. Spaghetti Westerns. Harpenden: Pocket Essentials, 2001. Print.

King, Geoff. "Genre Benders." New Hollywood Cinema: An Introduction. London: I.B. Tauris, 2002. 116-46. Print.

McKay, Sinclair. A Thing of Unspeakable Horror: The History of Hammer Films. London: Aurum Press Limited, 2007. Print.

Neale, Steve. Genre and Hollywood. Florence, KY: Routledge, 1999. Print.

Odell, Colin and Michelle Le Blanc. Horror Films. Harpenden: Pocket Essentials, 2003. Print.

Prince, Stephen. American Cinema of the 1980s: Themes and Variations. New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 2007. Print.

Sobchack, Thomas. "Genre Film: A Classical Experience." Film Genre Reader Ii. Ed. Grant, Barry Keith. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1995. 102-13. Print.

Schrader, Paul. "Notes on Film Noir." Film Genre Reader Ii. Ed. Grant, Barry Keith. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1995. 213-27. Print.

Shumway, David, R. Modern Love: Romance, Intimacy, and the Marriage Crisis. New York: New York University Press, 2003. Print.

Tompkins, Jane P. West of Everything: The Inner Life of Westerns. Cary, NC: Oxford University Press, 1993. Print.

Wright, Judith Hess. "Genre Films and the Status Quo." Film Genre Reader Ii. Ed. Grant, Barry Keith. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1995. 41-49. Print.

Wood, Robin. "An Introduction to the American Horror Film." Movies and Methods Volume II. Ed. Nichols, Bill. Vol. 2. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1985. 195-220. Print.

Other Required Materials:

The following films will be shown and discussed throughout the course to provide students with a foundation of ‘genre films’ranging from the forties until the present day. Because the course is also designed to improve the students’ academic English language abilities, the selection has been restricted to films in English:


Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920)

Double Indemnity (1944)


Suspiria (1977)

Star Wars (1977)

Die Hard (1988)

When Harry Met Sally (1989)

Pride and Prejudice (1995)

Cowboys and Aliens (2011)

Side By Side: Can Film Survive Digital? (2012)


The students will help to provide a more complete picture by selecting additional filmsand bringingkey scenes from these filmsto class as part of the Film Clip Presentation assignment.

Course Objectives:

This course is designed to help the students:

  • Recognize and distinguish between filmic genres
  • Understand and engage with the aesthetics of film
  • Read films through genre
  • Identify and questionconceptions of genre
  • Acquire and deploy a lexicon of filmic terms
  • Comprehend and participate in academic discourse on film
  • Detect and critique generic tropes
  • View and discuss a range of canonized ‘genre films’
  • Creatively re-conceptualize a film within a different genre, setting, or socio-historical context.

The course objectives will be met through developing an understanding of:

  • genre as both a byproduct of the motion picture industry and a tool of poetics
  • specific ‘genre films’ such as the western, horror, gangster, sci-fi, heritage, or art film
  • content that is determined by genre
  • generic tropes and audience expectations for particular genres
  • the differing methods of narrative at work in a film
  • the function of different types of shots and angles in film
  • the role of light, shadow and color in film
  • the significance of setting in terms of space and period
  • the use of casting, movie-stars, and diverse acting styles
  • the effects of diegetic and non-diegetic sound and music in film
  • the use of parallel and juxtaposed scenes
  • the use of motifs and symbolism
  • the distinct challenges of different genres for both filmmakers and critics

Course Outcomes:

In addition to familiarizing the students with the ways in which film communicates through genre, the course also aims to improve students’ study skills, writing and presentation skills and their abilities to read and think critically. This will be achieved by asking the students to do the following in groups, pairs, individually,and in adherence to deadlines:


•film and genre by utilizing and developing an appropriate vocabulary

•social, cultural, and historic issues related to genre

•established theories of genre and critique them


•to an audience and offer background and real-time commentary on a film clip which reflects a particular genre


•critical essays on genre theoryin preparation for presentations and quizzes

•literary works for presentations, in-class activities and the journal

•to recognize and illustrate intertextuality between media


•summaries of both textual and visual sources for the graded journal

•to demonstrate knowledge of the course readings

•comparisons between different genrefor class activities

•descriptions of the elements of each film’s genre, such as mise en scène, plot, characters, music etc.

Course Assessment

Reading / Film Pop Quizzes20%

There will be eightregular pop quizzes to check that the students are keeping up with the homework readings and weekly films in order to participate fully. The students should assume that there will always be a quiz and do the weekly reading to be prepared and benefit more from the lesson. Each quiz is worth 2.5 points, will be unannounced and at the beginning of the lesson. If a student misses a quiz through lateness or absence, s/he can make up one quiz by visiting the teacher’s office during office hours before Week 14. If you miss a film through absence, you will be expected to watch it before the next lesson -the library or teacher can loan you a copy.

Film Genre Journal20%

The students should buy a notebook for the courseto use as a journal and always bring it to the lessons. After viewing each of the course films, the students should write 200 words in the journal about how the film represents, defies or synthesizes aspects of genre with reference to the weekly readings. All the work in the journal must be entirely the students’ own knowledge and opinions with no information copied from the internet or any other secondary sources. The journal will be collected at the end of the semester and graded according to completion, effort and how well it demonstrates comprehension of the course content.

Film Clip Presentation20%

Each group should find a film clip of 5-10 minutes from a film, which they believe conveys a certain genre and present both the film clip and their explanation of how it fits within their understanding of this genre to the rest of the class. Deviations from the genre or overlaps with other genres should also be discussed. The students should consider aspects such as the film’s stars, soundtrack, style, content and motifs. They might also talk about how the film is marketed through its trailers and posters. An assignment sheet will be provided with more details, guidance and grading criteria and the teacher will model the presentation before the student presentations begin.

PowerPoint Assignment20%

In groups, the students will be responsible for putting together a simple PowerPoint presentation onone of the readingsin the course-pack and connecting it to the textsdiscussed in the previous weeks. To do this, each group should produce a PowerPoint presentation containing a 200-word summary, four discussion questions with answers, and two multiple choice questions about the reading or its vocabulary. As with the Film Clip presentation, an assignment sheet will be provided with more details, guidance and grading criteria and the teacher will model the presentation in the weeks before the student presentations start.


For this assessment, each student willanswer questionsabout the entire course content and films. The questions will be about aspects of genre discussed in the readings over the semester.


This grade will be based on each student’s class conduct and attendance and points will be awarded for students who ask and answer pertinent questions particularly during the class.

The following is a summary of the percentage breakdown for the final grade.

Reading Quizzes20%


Film-clip Presentation20%

PowerPoint Assignment20%

In-class Assessment15%


Plagiarism and Collusion Policy:

Plagiarism is presenting someone else's words or ideas as your own, without proper reference. You are graded on your own individual work, not another's masquerading as your own. Any student found plagiarizing on or colluding in writing assignments may fail the assignment, fail the course, and/or be referredto the university's disciplinary council. This may result in suspension from the university. You commit plagiarism when:

  • You copy someone else's writing and do not put it in quotation marks and identify the source.
  • You take someone else's writing, change some of the words, and do not identify the source.
  • You take someone else's ideas or sequence of ideas, put them into your own words, and do not identify the source.
  • Someone else writes your assignments or changes your writing and thus creates a false impression of your abilities.

You engage in collusion when:

  • You receive unauthorized help with your writing by paying or otherwise inducing another person to do the writing for you.

Grading Scale:

A = 100 – 90% B+ = 86 – 83 %C+ = 76 – 73 %D+ = 66 – 63 %

A- = 89 – 87%B = 82 – 80 %C = 72 – 70%D = 62 – 60 %

B- = 79 – 77%C- = 69 – 67%F = 59 – 0%

Required Course Materials:

1. Reading packet – This will be made available in the Xerox centre (located in student centre). I will also provide the readings electronically via Dropbox

2. A notebook to use as a journal, which isused in every class and handed in for assessment

3.An English/English dictionary

4.Writing implements: pens, pencils, and an eraser

5. A binder to keep together class hand-outs, assignments, blank paper and other documents.

Class Attendance and Participation:

Class attendance is required, and any absences can negatively impact your participation grade. Attendance will be taken on ten random days and logged on KUAIS. Based on this attendance log, if you accumulate more than 5 unexcused absences, it will result in a reduction of your final grade for the course:6 unexcused absences = 5% penalty, 7 = 10%, 8 = 15%, 9= 20%. If you accumulate more than 9 unexcused absences, you will automatically fail the course. Consult with your instructor if you believe there are extenuating circumstances that have made it impossible for you to regularly attend class. Please come to class on time; each three times you arrive to class more than five minutes late will count as one absence.

Week 1 (5th7thFeb): INTRODUCTIONS



Syllabus overview

Week 2 (12th & 14thFeb): APPROACHING GENRE

Grant, "Approaching Film Genre"



Sobchack, "Genre Film: A Classical Experience"

Wright, "Genre Films and the Status Quo"

Hayward, Cinema Studies: “German Expressionism”

Film 1: Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari (1920), 73 minutes

Week 4 (26th28thFeb): GENRE FILMS - FILM-NOIR

Duncan,Film Noir

Film 2: Double Indemnity (1944), 107 minutes

Week 5 (5th7thMar): GENRE FILMS – THE WESTERN

Hughes, Spaghetti Westerns, Tompkins, The Inner Life of Westerns

Film 3: Django(1966), 88minutes

Week 6 (12th & 14th Mar): GENRE FILMS – HORROR

Odell and Le Blanc, Horror Films, Wood, American Horror Film

Film 4: Suspiria (1977), 98 minutes

Week 7 (19th& 21st Mar): GENRE FILMS – SCI-FI

Costello, Science Fiction

Film 5: Star Wars (1977), 121 minutes.


Paul and Parker, "The Upper Classes: The Heritage Film"

Film 6: Pride and Prejudice (1995), 50 minutes


Gallagher, Action Figures, Prince, US Cinema of 80s andNeale, Genre and Hollywood

Film 7: Die Hard (1988), 131 minutes

Week 10 (9th & 11ndApr): Spring Break

Week 11 (16th & 18th Apr): GENRE FILMS – THE ROM-COM

Abbott and Jermyn. Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema

Film 8: When Harry Met Sally (1989), 96 minutes

Week 12 (23rd & 25th Apr): GENRE FILMS – THE DOCUMENTARY

Aufderheide, Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction

Film 9:Side by Side (2012), 99 minutes

Week 13 (30th Apr & 2nd May): GENRE FILMS – COMBINING GENRES

King, "Genre Benders"

Film 10: Cowboys and Aliens(2011), 118 minutes


In-class Assessment

Student Film-Clip Presentations

Week 15 (14th16thMay): STUDENT PRESENTATIONS

Student Film-Clip Presentations

Course Evaluations