ENGL444-20S1 (C) Semester One 2020


30 points

Start Date: Monday, 17 February 2020
End Date: Sunday, 21 June 2020
Withdrawal Dates
Last Day to withdraw from this course:
  • Without financial penalty (full fee refund): Friday, 28 February 2020
  • Without academic penalty (including no fee refund): Friday, 29 May 2020


This course investigates the changing place of women in film: as a glamorised spectacle and cultural commodity, as spectators and consumers, and also as creators and theorists.

This course investigates the changing place of women in film: as glamorized spectacle and cultural commodity, as spectators and consumers, but also as creators and theorists.  We will explore the development of feminist filmmaking and film theory within an international context, focusing specifically on the interrelation between American films and filmmakers and New Zealand and French national cinemas.  We will address topics that have historically engaged women filmmakers, theorists, and scholars.  These include: images of women on the screen; the notion of countercinema; the use of psychoanalytic theories; issues of female spectatorship; women's place in film genres, and issues related to race, class, and sexual preference as they intersect with feminism. While we focus primarily on the evolution of French feminist filmmaking and continental film theory, please note that the entirety of the course work is in English.  

We will begin with an introduction to the principles of feminist film analysis.  Through close interrogation of the workings of classical Hollywood cinema, we will locate ways that hegemonic culture has defined gender roles, sexual identities, and domesticity in the twentieth century.  Our attention to film genres will include a reappraisal of the contributions of Dorothy Arzner, a woman director who was able to constitute a body of work during Hollywood’s classical era.  To expand upon this discussion of a feminist countercinema, we will analyze constructions of femininity in national cinemas, addressing the auteurist works of Catherine Breillat, Agnès Varda, and Jane Campion.  The impact of women writers, such as Hélène Cixous and Julia Kristeva, on feminist film theory and filmmaking will also be addressed.  Class discussion will focus on issues of memory and identification, agency and the female voice, friendship between women, auto-portraiture, and the coming-of-age girl.

Learning Outcomes

  • Advanced ability to interpret and critically analyse films
  • Ability to evaluate and critique selected concepts and methods of the discipline
  • Advanced ability to analyse the relationship between films and their social, cultural and historical contexts
  • Independence and confidence in formulating ideas and presenting a critical position, both in oral and written communication
  • Advanced ability to produce a detailed, coherent and persuasive argument in the form of an academic essay
    • University Graduate Attributes

      This course will provide students with an opportunity to develop the Graduate Attributes specified below:

      Critically competent in a core academic discipline of their award

      Students know and can critically evaluate and, where applicable, apply this knowledge to topics/issues within their majoring subject.

      Employable, innovative and enterprising

      Students will develop key skills and attributes sought by employers that can be used in a range of applications.

      Biculturally competent and confident

      Students will be aware of and understand the nature of biculturalism in Aotearoa New Zealand, and its relevance to their area of study and/or their degree.

      Engaged with the community

      Students will have observed and understood a culture within a community by reflecting on their own performance and experiences within that community.

      Globally aware

      Students will comprehend the influence of global conditions on their discipline and will be competent in engaging with global and multi-cultural contexts.


Subject to approval of the Head of Department.


FREN444, GEND413, TAFS406, CINE401

Equivalent Courses

Timetable 2020

Students must attend one activity from each section.

Lecture A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Thursday 09:00 - 11:00 - (23/4-28/5)
Rehua 530 (20/2-19/3)
17 Feb - 22 Mar
20 Apr - 31 May
Film Screening A
Activity Day Time Location Weeks
01 Wednesday 16:00 - 19:00 A9 Lecture Theatre 17 Feb - 22 Mar
30 Mar - 5 Apr

Course Coordinator

Mary Wiles


Mary Wiles


Assessment Due Date Percentage  Description
Essay 1 35% Critical assessment of research (2,500 word essay)
Research question and proposal 10% 500 word assignment
Essay 2 55% 4,000 word essay

Textbooks / Resources

•  Course Reader
•  Ann Kaplan. Feminism and Film. 2000. (The text is available for purchase through UBS Bookshop and on three-day loan at the Central Library.)

Additional required readings will be made available to you.

(Image: "Now, Voyager (1942)" by Laura Loveday, licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.)


Film List

Week One:  Introduction to Feminist Film Theory

Week Two:  The Clinical Gaze
Screening:   Now, Voyager (Irving Rapper, US 1942)

Week Three: When Women Direct: Showgirls and Dorothy Arzner
Screening:    Dance, Girl, Dance (Dorothy Arzner, US 1940)

Week Four:   Women and Performance: Returning the Gaze
Screening:    Cléo from 5 to 7 (Agnès Varda, FR 1961)

Week Five:   Masochism and the Gaze
Screening:    Lola Montès (Max Ophuls, FR 1955)

Week Six:    The Female Voice: Hysteria
Screening:   The Piano (Jane Campion, NZ 1992)

Week Seven: Mothers and Loss
Screening:    Waru (Smith, Gardiner, Cohen, Kaa, Maihi, Wolfe, Simich-Pene, Whetu Jones, NZ 2017)
Vai (Arahanga, Aumua, Freshwater, Fuemana, George, Guttenbeil, McCartney, N. Whippy, S. Whippy, Fiji, Tonga, Solomon Islands, Kuki Airani (Cook Islands), Samoa, Niue and Aotearoa (New Zealand), 2019)

Week Eight:  Distanciation: The Destruction of Pleasure
Screening:    Je/Tu/Il/Elle (Chantal Akerman, FR 1974)

Week Nine:   The Road Movie Reinvented    
Screening:    Vagabond (Agnès Varda, FR 1985)

Week Ten:    Abjection and the Girl  
Screening:    À Ma Soeur (Fat Girl, Catherine Breillat, FR 2001)

Week Eleven: A Fairy Tale Reinvented
Screening:     Sleeping Beauty (Julia Leigh, AUST 2011)

Week Twelve: The Coming-of Age Girl in the Banlieue
Screening:      Bande de filles (Girlhood, Céline Sciamma, FR 2014)

Indicative Fees

Domestic fee $1,884.00

* Fees include New Zealand GST and do not include any programme level discount or additional course related expenses.

For further information see Humanities and Creative Arts.

All ENGL444 Occurrences

  • ENGL444-20S1 (C) Semester One 2020