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Unit information: Imagining Britishness: Film,TV, and Personal Experience in 2018/19

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Unit name Imagining Britishness: Film,TV, and Personal Experience
Unit code FATV30019
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Mr. Metelerkamp
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Film and Television
Faculty Faculty of Arts


The idea of “Britishness” has perhaps never been more politically contentious, or complex and contradictory. Taking as a point of departure that cultural products both construct and reflect their subjects, this unit will consider how “Britishness” has been shaped and embodied on screen at particular moments, within genres, and in the work of particular authors (directors, writers, performers, studios).

Among the many sources which might be used are films of Noel Coward, Powell and Pressburger, David Lean, Ealing Studios, the 1960s British New Wave, the Bond series, 1970s "challenge"cinema (Anderson, Losey, Kubrick), TV sources such as Dad's Army, Monty Python, Fawlty Towers and many more; and other cinema iterations from Bill Forsyth, Danny Boyle, British Bollywood, Black British cinema, the Harry Potter series, as well as Merchant Ivory, "heritage" drama etc. etc. Representations of British characters in films from elsewhere (particularly Hollywood) may also be referenced. Equally important will be current programming: students will consider contemporary material of their own choosing (see below).

Each iteration of the unit will use a defined selection of limited groups of screen texts as the basis for comparison, reflection and enquiry. These will be interrogated in relation to the experiences, understandings and impressions of students themselves, so that changes and inflections in the perception of Britishness can be mapped with subtlety and appropriate complexity.This will be supplemented by texts chosen by students, as the basis for seminar presentation and discussion.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion, students will be able to demonstrate:

  1. an understanding of how national identity is constructed and how this changes over time
  2. an ability to interrogate and critically reflect upon screen artefacts with appropriate tools of textual analysis
  3. an ability to situate screen artefacts within their cultural and political milieu and thus develop a sense of changing contexts
  4. critical reflection on personal experience and to situate it within a broader cultural and political context

Teaching details

Weekly 2 hour seminar and weekly 3 hour screening.

Assessment Details

2,000 word essay (30%). ILOs 1-3

4,000 word essay (70%) ILOs 1-4

Reading and References

Ashby, J. and Higson, A. (eds.) (2000) British Cinema Past & Present. London: Routledge.
Higson, A. (1995) Waving the Flag: Constructing a National Cinema in Britain. Oxford: Clarendon.
Barnes, Julian (1998) England, England. London: Jonathan Cape Paxman, Jeremy (1998) The English. London: Michael Joseph
Shukla, Nikesh (ed.) (2016) The Good Immigrant. London: Unbound Smith, Zadie (2000) White Teeth. London: Hamish Hamilton
Street, S. (1997) British National Cinema. London: Routledge

Further texts as appropriate to the screen material featured in each iteration of the unit