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Auteures: Gender, Power, & Authorship in Film & Literature - ENG00139M

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  • Department: English and Related Literature
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Melissa Oliver-Powell
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: M
  • Academic year of delivery: 2022-23

Module summary

In Sight & Sound’s list of 100 greatest films, why are only two directed by women? Following the revelations of the Weinstein scandal, what do we do with the art of monstrous artists? Contemporary social movements such as #MeToo and #TimesUp are now asking challenging questions of how we think about authors, canons, and gendered power in creative industries. In the wake of these debates, this module seeks to engage you with intersectional feminist perspectives on urgent issues in theories and practices of authorship in film and literature across a range of contexts. We will think about women as writers, filmmakers, and labourers, discuss issues of how gender is represented on page and screen(s), and finally think about the multiple creative roles in film, television, publishing and the academy that complicate the idea of the author/auteur(e).

Building from leading theories of authorship and auteurism from the 20th Century, you will visit a variety of feminist ideas that challenge the figure of the author and consider its volatile relationship with gender on theoretical, aesthetic, and material levels. Over the course of the term, we will think about questions such as: How does authorship produce social and material power, and how is this linked to gender, patriarchy and race? How do experiences of gender affect authorship? How have artists, writers and filmmakers tried to create ‘feminine’, anti-patriarchal and anti-racist texts? How does gender intersect with other axes of power, including race, class, and sexuality? Can authorship be used as a political strategy? What are our ethical responsibilities and accountabilities when we discuss authorship? The module will encourage students to explore these ideas across a broad comparative range of cultures and contexts, and to think about literature and film alongside other media.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Spring Term 2022-23

Module aims

The aim of the module is to equip you with an advanced critical understanding of how gendered and raced power operates within film and literature. The module will encourage you to situate theoretical and material understandings of authorship within a range of historical contexts, and to reflect on the urgency of these issues in the contemporary moment, appreciating the porous exchange between art, experience, and politics. It will, finally, create space to consider our own academic practice and the nature of our responsibilities in approaching filmic, literary and critical texts.

Module learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, you should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with theoretical and practical issues of authorship in film, literature and their intersections, including some understanding of how these questions are situated within historical artistic movements

  2. Demonstrate an advanced understanding of and engagement with films and other screen media as a collaborative process and of the influences of multiple artistic and industrial roles on the creation of filmic texts

  3. Evaluate key debates within the relevant critical fields dealing with the ways in which questions of authorship and representation are impacted by gender and race, and apply appropriate theoretical frameworks to discuss these issues at an advanced level

  4. Produce independent arguments and ideas which demonstrate an advanced proficiency in critical thinking, research, and writing skills.


Task Length % of module mark
4,500 word essay
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

You will hand in an essay of 1,400-1,600 words in Week 6 of the Autumn term for the Postgraduate Life in Practice module. The main purpose of the essay is to ensure that the department can identify those students who may require additional assistance with academic writing skills. Material from this essay may be re-visited in either one of the January essays or the dissertation. It is therefore an early chance to work through material that might be used in assessed work. The title topic of the essay, like the title topic of all assessed work for the degree, is left open to the individual student.


Task Length % of module mark
4,500 word essay
N/A 100

Module feedback

You will receive feedback on all assessed work within the University deadline, and will often receive it more quickly. The purpose of feedback is to inform your future work; it is designed to help you to improve your work, and the Department also offers you help in learning from your feedback. If you do not understand your feedback or want to talk about your ideas further you can discuss it with your module tutor, the MA Convenor or your supervisor, during their Open Office Hours

Indicative reading

Texts studied on this module may include

  • François Truffaut (dir.), The 400 Blows

  • Alexandre Astruc, ‘The Birth of a New Avant-Garde: La Caméra-Stylo’

  • Roland Barthes, ‘The Death of the Author’

  • Hélène Cixous, The Newly Born Woman

  • Marie Darrieussecq, Truismes

  • Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen (dirs.), Riddles of the Sphinx

  • Julie Dash (dir.), Illusions

  • bell hooks, ‘The Oppositional Gaze: Black Female Spectators’

  • Black Audio Film Collective, Twilight City

  • The London Women’s Film Group, Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair

  • Ousmane Sembene, ‘The Promised Land’ in Voltaïque

  • Ousmane Sembene (dir.), La Noire de…

  • Chan-wook Park (dir.), The Handmaiden

  • Sarah Waters, Fingersmith

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.