Course Title: Authorship and Narrative in the Cinema

Part A: Course Overview

Course Title: Authorship and Narrative in the Cinema

Credit Points: 12.00


Course Code




Learning Mode

Teaching Period(s)


City Campus


335H Applied Communication


Sem 2 2006,
Sem 2 2007,
Sem 2 2008,
Sem 2 2009


City Campus


345H Media and Communication


Sem 2 2010,
Sem 2 2011,
Sem 2 2012,
Sem 2 2013,
Sem 2 2014

Course Coordinator: Peter Kemp

Course Coordinator Phone: +61 3 9925 9935

Course Coordinator Email:

Course Coordinator Location: 9.4.40

Pre-requisite Courses and Assumed Knowledge and Capabilities


Course Description

The main focus of this course are issues relating to narrative, genre and authorship (or auteurism) in the cinema. This course examines how these ‘broad’ concepts operate as ways of understanding, categorising, reading, marketing, historicising and contextualising specific films. Within this context the course will introduce you to specific theoretical concepts and a broad program of reading and viewing within the field of Cinema Studies.

The specific focus of this course is an analysis of authorship in relation to the cinema of specific directors (for example, Ernst Lubitsch, Blake Edwards, Robert Altman, Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Jacques Demy, John Ford, Michelangelo Antonioni, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jean-Luc Godard, Jane Campion). A director’s cinema will be used as launching-pad to discuss and analyse a range of other films and such topics as: the place of the author within cinema; the significance of particular styles of narration at specific points in film history; the possibilities offered and difficulties faced by directors in different production conditions; issues of multiple authorship; the relevance of film history and criticism to authorship; the importance of an understanding of film history to particular filmmaking practices; intertextuality; the development of specific genres (such as the gangster movie, the Western, the filmusical, the romantic comedy) over time; the explicit relation between specific films and traditions over time; the relation of cinematic authorship to such areas as technology, economics, film marketing and promotion.

The choice of particular ‘auteurs’ as our point of focus will also allow us to analyse films from different countries, systems of production, and filmmaking practices (both canonical and non-canonical, classical, non-classical and post-classical films), and across the history of cinema. Thus, the course explores short and feature film practice in the United States (its specific and core focus), France, and Italy, as well as other countries.

You will gain an understanding of how authorship, narrative and genre operate as ways of understanding, categorising, reading, marketing and contextualising cinema. You will also become familiar with the various theoretical, historical and critical writings within these areas of Cinema Studies.

Objectives/Learning Outcomes/Capability Development

See below.

Upon completion of this course you will be able to:

a) recognise and analyse how certain stylistic elements (such as mise-en-scene; editing; sound; camerawork) contribute to our understanding of authorship and narrative in the cinema;
b) analyse and read in detail passages of specific films in relation to issues surrounding authorship and narrative in the cinema;
c) engage with and evaluate a range of debates, discussions, and commentaries that address and critique issues pertinent to the study of authorship and narrative in the cinema;
d) appreciate and examine the interrelationships between key aspects of authorship and narrative in the cinema (thematics; stylistics; story design; use of star persona(s); genre dynamics; classical Hollywood/ European art film narration; deployment of screen space and time);
e) identify and explore how phenomena such as film scholarship, trade journalism, box-office trends and commercial marketing practices participate within a system that works across the field of authorship and narrative in the cinema

This course will equip you with an informed understanding of key debates around authorship and its impact upon mainstream Hollywood and European cinemas, especialy how it relates to theories of narrative, genre, performance and marketing (distribution and exhibition).

Overview of Learning Activities

Classes will be made up of a mixture of seminars, film screenings and group-based activities. The course also has an extensive guided reading component. You will also be required to analyse and discuss the relationship between the written material they read and the films they see.

In general, students will develop and further skills in visual literacy, analytical reasoning, historical and critical interpretation, film-based research and confidence in the practices and procedures of university teaching and learning. It is intended that this course will also be fuelled by student-led discussion. There will be both individual and group exercises to further develop ideas based explored in classes.

Overview of Learning Resources

RMIT will provide you with resources and tools for learning in this course through our online systems. All relevant course materials, including required and suggested reading, will be made available to you. You will also be expected to make extensive use of the library resources.

Overview of Assessment

You will be assessed on how well you meet the course’s learning outcomes.

Assessment may include a range of activities such as written assignments, group projects and presentations. The assessment activities aim to reward not only your ability to research and present information but also your ability to synthesise and present arguments.

Feedback will be given on all assessment tasks.

If you have a long term medical condition and/or disability it may be possible to negotiate to vary aspects of the learning or assessment methods. You can contact the program coordinator or the Disability Liaison Unit if you would like to find out more.

RMIT’s assessment charter summarises your responsibilities as an RMIT student as well as those of your teachers.