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MA2057 Film Theory: Hitchcock and Point of View

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Tutor: Jacob Leigh

Teaching: 10 hours lecture, 10 hours seminar

Value: ½ unit

Availability: Spring term only 

Course Outline:  

The central concern of this course is with point of view in narrative films, taking as case studies the films of Alfred Hitchcock. In particular, we look at various ways in which our epistemic relationship to the characters and actions of films is an essential aspect of film narrative. We are also concerned with the challenges that thinking about point of view presents to film analysis and film theory.

Assessment:

All components of the course are compulsory: students must attend all screenings, lectures and seminars. If students attend less than 70 per cent of the course, they will automatically fail (unless an adequate medical or other certificate is produced). If a student misses a seminar presentation or does not do the required reading, this will count as a missed seminar. Final assessment is by means of one 5,000-word essay. I will fail any work that I find to be plagiarised, whether through direct quotation, paraphrasing or insufficient referencing. Please see the Undergraduate Student Handbook for further details about plagiarism.

Before the start of the course, all students must watch North by Northwest (1959). There are several copies in Founder’s library.  

Course Breakdown

1. Film: Rear Window (1954)

Reading: Wilson, George (1988) ‘Film, Perception and Point of View’, in Wilson, Narration in Light: Studies in Cinematic Point of View. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press, 1-15.

Topics: Point of view and the opening of Rear Window; introduction to cinematic point of view; exposition of Wilson’s first chapter; discussion of Rear Window. 

2. Film: Rope (1948)

 Reading: Perkins, V.F. (1972) ‘Participant Observers’, in Perkins, Film as Film: Understanding and Judging Movies. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd., 134-157.

Topics: Gay subtext; transference of identification; association; tone; suspense and humour; fascism. 

3. Film: Psycho (1960)

Reading: Pye, Douglas (2000) ‘Movies and Point of View’, Movie 36, January, 2-4 & 8-15.

Topics: The five axes of point of view – spatial, temporal, cognitive, evaluative, ideological.

 4. Film: Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

 Reading: Chatman, Seymour (1990) ‘A New Point of View on “Point of View”’ from Chatman, Coming to Terms: The Rhetoric of Narrative in Fiction and Film. Ithaca and London: Cornell U.P., 139-160.

Topics: Shifts in point of view; distinction between surprise and suspense; ideology; sexuality; identification; the waltzing couples.

 5. Film: The 39 Steps (1935)

Reading: Branigan, Edward R. (1984) ‘The Problem of Point of View’ from Branigan, Point of View in the Cinema: A Theory of Narration and Subjectivity in Classical Film, 1-28.

Topics: Unrestricted narrational authority; epistemic distance, reliability and authority; the crofter sequence.

6. Film: The Man who Knew Too Much (1956)

Reading: Smith, Murray (1995) ‘Engaging Characters’ and ‘The Place of POV’, from Smith, Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion and the Cinema. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 73-86 and 156-165.

Topics: Point of view and identification.

7. Film: Sabotage (1936)

Reading: Carroll, Noël (1996) ‘Toward a Theory of Point of View Editing: Communication, Emotion, and the Movies’ from Carroll, Theorizing the Moving Image. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 125-138.

Topics: The implied filmmaker; narrative and narration; surprise and suspense; domestic rebellion; intentionality and authorship; Joseph Conrad and point of view.

8. Film: Rebecca (1940)

Reading: Lothe, Jakob (2000) ‘Narrative Communication’ from Lothe, Narrative in Fiction and Film. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 27-48.

Topics: David O. Selznick and authorship; novel and film; the gothic and the paranoid woman’s film; a woman’s point of view; oblique or off-centre point of view; first-person narration.

9. Film: Vertigo (1958)

 Reading: Smith, Susan (2000) Mise en scène’ from Smith, Hitchcock: Suspense, Humour and Tone. London: BFI, 76-91.

Topics: Ideology; masculinity in crisis; identification; masquerade; performance; suppressive narrative; Scottie’s authorial and epistemic authority; distance; generic shift; transformation.

 10. Film: Marnie (1964)

Reading: Perez, Gilberto (1998) ‘The Narrative Sequence’ from Perez,The Material Ghost: Films and their Medium. London and Baltimore: The John Hopkins University Press, 50-81.

Topics: Expressionism; female point of view.

Reading list

Essential Reading

Wood, Robin (2002) Hitchcock’s Films Revisited. New York: Columbia UP.
 
There have been four different editions of this seminal work on Hitchcock, the first published in 1965. The most recent edition (2002) contains all that was previously published plus an excellent new preface on Wood, Hitchcock and the history of film study in the UK since the mid-1970s.  
   
Wilson, George (1988) Narration in Light: Studies in Cinematic Point of View. Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press. Along with Wood’s, Hitchcock’s Films Revisited, Wilson’s book on point of view is the key text for this course. . Baltimore and London: John Hopkins University Press. Along with Wood’s , Wilson’s book on point of view is the key text for this course.
    
Smith, Susan (2000) Hitchcock: Suspense, Humour and Tone. London: BFI. Smith develops ideas from both Wilson and Wood and applies them to a range of Hitchcock’s films in an incisive, clear and accessible way.

Rothman, William (1982) Hitchcock: The Murderous Gaze. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press.  This is a groundbreaking study of five Hitchcock films that remains a model of intelligent film scholarship.

Perkins, V.F.  (1972) Film as Film: Understanding and Judging Movies. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd. If you did not read this last year, I advise you to buy it and read it now. It contains many insights on Hitchcock.

Toles, George (2001) A House Made of Light: Essays on the Art of Film. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. This superb book contains three essays on Hitchcock, including an excellent one on Psycho. .

On questions of point of view useful reading will include:

Bordwell, David (1988) Narration in the Fiction Film. London: Routledge.  

Branigan, Edward (1984) Point of View in the Cinema: A Theory of Narration and Subjectivity in Classical Film. Amsterdam: Mouton Publishers.

Branigan, Edward  (1992) Narrative Comprehension and Film. London and New York: Routledge. . London and New York: Routledge.

Browne, Nick (1982) The Rhetoric of Filmic Narration. Ann Arbor, Mich.: UMI Research Press.

Smith, Murray (1995) Engaging Characters: Fiction, Emotion and the Cinema. Oxford: Clarendon Press.

Smith, Susan (1999) ‘The Spatial World of Hitchcock’s films: The point-of-view shot, the camera and “intrarealism”’ CineAction 50, September, 2-15.

White, Hayden (1987) The Content of the Form: Narrative Discourse and Historical Representation. Baltimore; London: The John Hopkins University Press.

Informative discussion of Hitchcock will be found in: 

Allen, Richard and Ishii-Gonzalès, Sam (eds) (1999) Alfred Hitchcock: Centenary Essays. London: BFI.

Allen, Richard and Ishii-Gonzalès, Sam (eds) (2004) Hitchcock: Past and Future. London and New York: Routledge.

Auiler, Dan “Vertigo” The Making of a Hitchcock Classic. Saint Martin’s Press.

Barr, Charles (1999) English Hitchcock. Moffat: Cameron and Hollis.

Barr, Charles (2002) Vertigo. London: BFI.

Bellour, Raymond (2000) The Analysis of Film. Bloomington Indiana UP.

Boyd, David (1995) (ed.) Perspectives on Hitchcock. New York: Simon and Schuster Macmillan. .

De Rosa, Steven (2001) Writing with Hitchcock: The Collaboration of Alfred Hitchcock and John Michael Hayes. London: Faber and Faber.

Deutlebaum, Marshall and Poague, Leland (eds) (1986) A Hitchcock Reader.Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press.

Durgnat, Raymond (1974) The Strange Case of Alfred Hitchcock, or The Plain Man’s Hitchcock. London: Faber.

Durgnat, Raymond (2002) A Long Hard Look at Psycho. London: BFI.

Gibbs, John, and Pye, Douglas (2005) Style and Meaning: Studies in the Detailed Analysis of Film. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Kolker, Robert (2004) Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Psycho’: A Casebook. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Leitch, Thomas M. (1991) Find the Director and Other Hitchcock Games. Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press.

Leitch, Thomas M. (2002) The Enyclopedia of Alfred Hitchcock Facts on File Inc

Leitch, Thomas M. (ed.) (2003) Alfred Hitchcock, Routledge Film Guidebooks Series. London: Routledge . Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press.

Leitch, Thomas M. (2002) . Leitch, Thomas M. (ed.) (2003) . London: Routledge

McGilligan, Patrick (2003) Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. London: John Wiley and Sons Ltd. . London: John Wiley and Sons Ltd.

Modleski, Tania (1988) The Women Who Knew Too Much: Hitchcock and Feminist Theory. New York: Methuen.

Mogg, Ken (1999) The Alfred Hitchcock Story. London: Titan Books.

MoralLee, Tony (2003) Hitchcock and the Making of Marnie. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Morris, Christopher (2002) The Hanging Figure: On Suspense and the Films of Alfred Hitchcock. Greenwood Press.

Raubicheck, Walter and Srebnick, Walter (eds) (1991) Hitchcock’s Rereleased Films: From Rope to Vertigo. Detroit: Wayne State University Press.

Rothman, William (1988) The “I” of the Camera: Essays in Film Criticism, History and Aesthetics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

There is also a new edition (2004) in the library, which contains additional essays on Hitchcock. .

Singer, Irving (2004) Three Philosophical Filmmakers: Hitchcock, Welles, Renoir. Cambridge, Mass. and London: The MIT Press.

Sterrit, David (1993) The Films of Alfred Hitchcock. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Walker, Michael (2005) Hitchcock’s Motifs. Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press.

Useful books about film theory and film narrative include the following:

Andrew, Dudley (1984) Concepts in Film Theory. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Bordwell, David (1985) Narration in the Fiction Film. London: Methuen.

Braudy, Leo and Cohen, Marshall (eds) (1999) Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Carroll, Noël (1988) Philosophical Problems of Classical Film Theory. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Cavell, Stanley (1979) The World Viewed: Reflections on the Ontology of Film, Enlarged Edition. Cambridge, Mass. and London: Harvard University Press.

Collins, Jim, Radner, Hilary and Preacher Collins, Ava (eds) (1993) Film Theory Goes to the Movies. New York and London: Routledge.

Freeland, Cynthia A. and Wartenberg, Thomas E. (eds) (1995) Philosophy and Film. New York and London: Routledge.

Lapsley, Robert and Westlake, Michael (1988) Film Theory: An Introduction. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
 
Stam, Robert and Miller, Toby (eds) (2000) Film and Theory: An Anthology. Blackwell. Manchester: Manchester University Press.

Journals

You should familiarise yourself with the journal CineAction, held in the basement of Founder’s library, as over the years it has published many good articles on Hitchcock. In particular see issues 50 and 52. , held in the basement of Founder’s library, as over the years it has published many good articles on Hitchcock. In particular see issues 50 and 52.

   
 
 
 

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