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Department of Anthropology and Sociology

The Other in Horror and Science Fiction Films

Course Code:
Course Not Running 2015/2016
Unit value:
Year of study:
Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

Course objectives:

This course focuses on mainstream films and attempts to analyse them within an anthropological context. The main aim of the course is to enable students to think about the social construction of the Other; how films can articulate a certain fear relating to Others and, thus, maintain a cultural space for discourses about Others. The pertinent example is how horror and science fiction films ‘imagine’ responses to such Others, particularly in relation to the issue of invasion. Audiences are exposed to various responses to imagined invasions, but the dominant trope remains that the correct form of response is to immediately kill, attack or go to war with these invading Others. Thinking particularly of the US domination in this film genre, the course asks students to consider how responses to 9/11 had already been shaped by Hollywood’s fictive representations of how to deal with invading/murdering Others.

Course Outcomes:

By the end of this course students will have a good knowledge of how to analyse films, especially genre films, in terms of historical, social and political contexts. Learning about the ablility of texts, in this case films, to have a variety of meanings and be open to many interpretations will expose them to a wide range of theories (feminist, Marxist, pyschological), which they will be expected to learn to use as tools of analysis. They will have gained the transferable skills of organising and giving short, to-the-point presentations, adding to their public speaking skills. They will also learn to be responsible for putting together their own essay titles and organising a relevant bibliography and filmography. Finally, classes are held as seminar discussions, promoting the core skills of listening and learning from their fellow students.

Scope and syllabus

Lecture Programme:
  • Week 1 Halloween
  • Week 2 Alien
  • Week 3 Buffy the vampire slayer
  • Week 4 Blade
  • Week 5 Blade runner
  • Week 6 Reading week
  • Week 7 Terminator
  • Week 8 Independence Day/Starship Troopers/ Men in Black/Mars Attacks (class to choose one)
  • Week 9 Galaxy Quest/Matrix (class to choose one)
  • Week 10 Dune
  • Week 11 Course consolidation week, see Lola during office hours

Method of assessment

Assessment will be by means of coursework and a course essay. There are two pieces of assessed coursework. The first consists of a 10 minute presenation which is assessed in terms of 5% for giving the presentation, and 10% on the notes prepared for the presentation, these are due at the end of the presentation itself. These notes should be no longer than 850 words. The second piece of coursework, assessed as 5% of the overall mark, involves composing the question for the course essay, this is due by 4 pm on Friday of 7th week. This question must be accompanied by a paragraph of 150-300 words maximum explaining the aims and key themes of the proposed essay. In addition to the word count, also included should be a mini-bibliography of proposed readings (no less than 5) and the title of one or two films you are planning to view in relation to you proposed essay. The course essay, 80% of your final mark, should be no longer than 4,000 words

Suggested reading

There is a course pack for the course, but other expected readings include:
  • Bourke, Joanna 2005 Fear, a cultural history. London: Virago. Main Library
  • Freud, Sigmund 1956 The ‘uncanny’ in his Collected papers, vol iv. London, Hogarth Press. In the main library and a copy in the department xerox collection. Also online at http://www-rohan.sdsu.edu/~amtower/uncanny.html.
  • Simmel, Georg 1950 The stranger in The sociology of Georg Simmel. NY: The Free Press. In the main library and a copy in the department xerox collection. Also online at http://midiacidada.org/img/O_Estrangeiro_SIMMEL.pdf.
  • Otis, Laura 1999 Arthur Conan Dolye: an imperial immune system in her Membranes, metaphors of invasion in nineteenth-century literature, science and politics. London: The John Hopkins University Press. Senate House and copy in department library.
  • Robin, Corey 2004 Fear, the history of a political idea. Oxford: OUP. Main Library.