FAVz083 Styles and Practice of Film Historiography

Faculty of Arts
Spring 2020
Extent and Intensity
2/0/0. 5 credit(s). Type of Completion: zk (examination).
Casper Tybjerg (lecturer), Mgr. Radomír D. Kokeš, Ph.D. (deputy)
Guaranteed by
Mgr. Radomír D. Kokeš, Ph.D.
Department of Film Studies and Audiovisual Culture - Faculty of Arts
Supplier department: Department of Film Studies and Audiovisual Culture - Faculty of Arts
Mon 30. 3. 9:00–11:40 C34, Tue 31. 3. 12:00–13:40 C34, Wed 1. 4. 10:00–13:40 C34, Thu 2. 4. 14:00–17:40 C34
Course Enrolment Limitations
The course is also offered to the students of the fields other than those the course is directly associated with.
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Course objectives
This series of lectures will be based on my nearly-completed book, The Historiography of Filmmaking – through the Lens of Carl Th. Dreyer. I will examine the theory of film history-writing, focusing on what has been called aesthetic film history. In the last ten to fifteen years, much of the energy in film historical research has been in the area called New Cinema History, which has emphasized the importance of archival documents but also sought to shift the focus of the discipline towards the history of movie-going as a social phenomenon and away from the history of cinema as an art form. I also emphasize the importance of archival work, but I am more interested in using it to illuminate what filmmakers did.
Many of the examples I will present involve Carl Th. Dreyer’s film La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc (France 1928). I strongly recommend that you watch the film before coming to the lectures.
I will start off by giving an introduction to the film and Dreyer’s work, along with an overview of how the writing of film history has been discussed theoretically. The second lecture will emphasize the importance of what I call ecdotics, that is, the study of different editions and versions of the same film, as well as the things we can learn from studying films as physical objects. The third lecture will look at La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc as a historical film, and what we can learn about film history by looking at the relation between Dreyer’s film and his historical sources. The fourth lecture will examine different ways of looking at the relation between the accounts historians write and the past reality they seek to describe; I will argue while we create certain images of ourselves as historians through the style of presentation we choose, we should not assume that these images necessarily reflect full-blown, considered philosophical commitments. In fifth and final lecture, I will talk about my ongoing research into the Kammerspielfilm genre in the German cinema of the 1920s, how different historians have written about it, and what we perhaps can learn from archival sources.
Learning outcomes
After completing the course, the student can:
Distinguish different types of film historiography
Explain the importance of distinguishing between different editions and versions of the “same” film
Conduct a stylistic analysis of a piece of historiography or similar scholarly prose
Discuss theoretical problems of film historiography
  • Lecture 1) La Passion de Jeanne d’Arc and the theory of film historiography (relevant readings: Allen & Gomery, ch. 3)
  • Lecture 2) Ecdotics and facture: The importance of the film as artifact
  • Lecture 3) Joan the Screenwriter? Historical films and the historical record
  • Lecture 4) The styles of film historical writing
  • Lecture 5) Studying the Kammerspielfilm (relevant readings: Eisner, ch. 11; Kracauer, ch. 8)
  • ALLEN, Robert Clyde and Douglas GOMERY. Film history : theory and practice. First edition. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1985. xii, 276. ISBN 0075548712. info
Teaching methods
Lectures, reading + one screening. Students are obliged to read the items on the reading list marked as required - these will be provided in the student materials - and familiarise themselves with the suggested titles as a way of preparation for the course. The 100% attendance at the lectures is compulsory and will be checked throughout every lecture.
Assessment methods
Apart from the compulsory attendance students will have to pass two tests. First test is preliminary and it will take place just before the start of the first lecture. With three questions, the test will check the knowledge of the required items from the reading list. The other test is final, consisting of three questions testing both students' acquaintance with the reading list as well as their knowledge and skills gained throughout the course itself. Twelve points maximum can be gathered from both of the tests; six points are the necessary minimum in order to pass the course successfully.


1) Allen, Robert C., and Douglas Gomery. 1985. Film History: Theory and Practice, chapter 3, “Reading Film History,” New York: McGraw-Hill.
2) Eisner, Lotte. 1973. The Haunted Screen: Expressionism in the German Cinema and the Influence of Max Reinhardt, chapter 11, “‘Kammerspielfilm’ and ‘Stimmung’”. Berkeley & Los Angeles: University of California Press.
3) Kracauer, Siegfried. 2004 [1947]. From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film, chapter 8, “Mute Chaos”. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
Language of instruction
Further Comments
Study Materials
The course is taught only once.

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