SOAS University of London

School of Arts

Orientalism on Screen

Module Code:
155901413
Credits:
15
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Term 2

The degree, of which this course forms a core module, is predicated on the fact that in the global and political world of the twenty-first century the image is becoming increasingly significant as a communication system through which we understand society, the world and our place within it. Within that world, it also becomes increasingly important that we look at the ‘images’ that we hold of each other and of the Other: notions of Orientalism are therefore far from having lost relevance.

Orientalism on Screen aims to provide students with a broad overview of the principal concerns and themes of Western films set in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and indigenous films dealing with other nations in the region. Through an engagement with film and with film theory, its focus is on the dominant and stereotypical views and (mis)representations of modern Asian, African and Middle Eastern societies and how they view themselves. The course will look at the significance of the external, visual perspective on the region; the encounter between Western characters and those of local origin; and the dramatic dilemmas that face the foreign traveller/visitor to, or adventurer in, the region. In doing so it will introduce students to the theoretical and critical perspectives of orientalism and postcolonialism. Each of the films selected for viewing and discussion will in addition provide scope for the discussion of key issues pertinent to understandings of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and the most significant events in its political history.  

Prerequisites

Pre-requisite course:  Introduction to Cinema (BBK): FFME00254ACS

The course Global Screen Industries: 155901412 is a co-requisite course.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate:

  1. an awareness of the basic features of orientalism and postcolonial theory
  2. an understanding of the nature of the problems and nuances of studying Asia, Africa and the Middle East as a cultural Other from an ‘outside’ perspective, in comparison with the study of the other from ‘within’ the region
  3. an understanding of the impact of colonial and imperial power relations on the construction of cultural perspectives 
  4. a knowledge of film theory and film viewing from a critical perspective
  5. a background knowledge of the political and historical issues raised in Western films set in Asia, Africa and the Middle East
  6. a knowledge of indigenous productions dealing with other countries of the same region

In terms of generic skills, students will have had further tuition and feedback on essay writing and will have learned how to extract and process information from cinematic and secondary sources, and to combine the two. As a result of the emphasis on group discussion of the cinematic texts explored in this course, they will learn how to contribute constructively to debates, how to accommodate the views of others in the learning group and how to present their own views orally.

Workload

This course will be taught over 10 weeks with a 1 hour lecture and a 1 hour seminar/tutorial classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

Orientalism on Screen aims to provide students with a broad overview of the principal concerns and themes of Western films set in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and indigenous films dealing with other nations in the region. Through an engagement with film and with film theory, its focus is on the dominant and stereotypical views and (mis)representations of modern Asian, African and Middle Eastern societies and how they view themselves. The course will look at the significance of the external, visual perspective on the region, the encounter between Western characters and those of local origin; and the dramatic dilemmas which face the foreign traveller/visitor to the region. In doing so it will introduce students to the theoretical and critical perspectives of orientalism and postcolonialism. Each of the films selected for viewing and discussion will in addition provide scope for the discussion of key issues pertinent to understandings of Asia, Africa and the Middle East and the most significant events in its political history.

As it core to the second year of the BA Global Cinemas and Screen Studies, it provides foundation for understanding ‘Otherness’ beyond simplistic concepts of Us and Them on screen.

Lectures and tutorials will be based on film screenings of films set in a selection of the following locations: Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, (British) India, Nepal, Japan, China, Egypt, the Congo, South Africa.

Method of assessment

An essay of 1,500 words to be submitted on day 1, week after reading week, term 2 (30%); an essay of 4,000 words to be submitted on day 1, week 1, term 3 (70%).

Suggested reading

  • Adair, Gilbert. 1981. Vietnam on Film. London: Proteus.
  • Adair, Gilbert. 1989. Hollywood’s Vietnam. Heinemann.
  • Anderegg, Michael. 1991. Inventing Vietnam. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  • Anderson, Ben. 2006. Imagined Communities. London: Verso
  • Ashcroft, Bill and Pal Ahluwlia. 2001. Edward Said. New York and London: Routledge.
  • Bhabha, Homi K. 1997. The Location of Culture.  London: Routledge.
  • Matthew Bernstein and Gaylyn Studlar (eds.), Visions of the East. Orientalism in Film. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Blum-Reid, Sylvie. 2003. East-West Encounters: Franco-Asian Cinema and Literature. London and New York: Wallflower Press.
  • Bristow, J. 1988. ‘How Men Are’. In New Formations 6: 119-31.
  • Childs Peter and Patrick Williams, An Introduction to Post-Colonial Theory, Harlow: Pearson Education, 2006.
  • Chowdhry, Prem. 2000.  Colonial India and the making of empire cinema: image, ideology and identity.  Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  • Comber, Michael and Margaret O’Brien. 1988. ‘Evading the War: the Politics of the Hollywood Vietnam Film.’ In History June.
  • Conrad, Joseph. 1988. Heart of Darkness (critical edition, ed. By Robert Kimbrough including a number of critical articles on ‘Apocalypse Now’ in relation to Conrad’s text). New York and London: Norton.
  • Cooper, Nicola. 2001. France in Indochina. Colonial Encounters. Oxford and New York: Berg. (See esp. chaps 6 & 7.)
  • Devine, Jeremy M. 1999. Vietnam at 24 Frames a Second. Austin: University of Texas Press.
  • Dittmar, Linda and Gene Michaud. 1990. From Hanoi to Hollywood. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press.
  • Haltof, Marek. 1996. Peter Weir: when cultures collide. London: Prentice Hall.
  • Shiach, Don. 1993. The films of Peter Weir; visions of alternative realities. London: Charles Letts.
  • Kleinen, John. 2004. “Framing ‘the Other’: A Critical Review of Vietnam War Movies and their Representations of Asians and Vietnamese.” In Srilata Ravi, Mario Rutten and Beng-Lan Goh, Asia in Europe: Europe in Asia. Singapore: ISEAS.
  • Loomba, Ania. 1998. Colonialism/Postcolonialism. London: Routledge
  • Moore, Gene M. Conrad on Film. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Phillips, Gene D.. 1995. Conrad and Cinema. The Art of Adaptation. (esp. chapter 8). New York: Peter Lang.
  • Murray, Alison. 2002. ‘Women, Nostalgia, Memory: Chocolat, Outremer and Indochine.’ In Research in African Literatures, Volume 33, Summer.
  • Rayner, Jonathan. 2003. The films of Peter Weir. New York: Continuum.
  • Said, Edward. 1978. Orientalism. New York: Penguin Books.
  • Said, Edward W. 1993. Culture and Imperialism. London: Chatto and Windus
  • Studlar, Gavin and David Desser. 1988. ‘Never having to say you’re sorry: Rambo’s rewriting of the Vietnam War.’ In Film Quarterly 42, 1 (Fall 1988).
  • Sutcliffe, William. 1997. Are you experienced? London: Penguin.
  • Harris, John. 2001. The backpacker. Chichester: Summersdale.
  • Barr, Emily. 2001. Backpack. London: Headline.
  • Westerhausen, Klaus. 2002. Beyond the Beach: an ethnography of modern travelers in Asia. Bangkok: White Lotus Press.

Disclaimer

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