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The Discipline of Genre - TFT00008I

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  • Department: Theatre, Film, Television and Interactive Media
  • Module co-ordinator: Prof. Duncan Petrie
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: I
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

Genre is a central concept in cinema and television that is relevant to film and programme-makers, distributors and exhibitors, audiences and critics alike. As a means of differentiating and categorising product, genre has been central to the film industry since the silent era and subsequently came to be adopted and used extensively in television. It is highly relevant to the creative process in both industries, providing sets of conventions and expectations that structure and guide both the work of film and television makers but also the branding and marketing of product and the responses of audiences and critics. But generic conventions and frameworks can also provide an opportunity for innovation - from putting a new spin on familiar material, to combining aspects of different genres, to simply breaking and subverting the ‘rules’. In this way, constraints can be seen as an aid, rather than simply a limitation, to creativity and it is on this proposition that the main philosophical approach of this module is built. The introduction will be followed by weekly case studies that foreground a variety of examples of innovative approaches to genre that both maintain the significance of the generic frameworks while attempting to provide innovative approaches to the genre. There are four weeks when the focus will be on the operation of genre in film, with case studies of innovative approaches to the western, horror, parody and the period film. We will then move on to consider the application of genre to television, this time with case studies on the sitcom, tele-fantasy, the soap opera and the crime drama.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

  • to introduce students to the centrality of genre as a key principle of product differentiation and creative organisation in film and television
  • to introduce students the concepts, methods and terminology necessary for a critical analysis of genre and its function within film and television production and reception
  • to acquaint students with the development of genre theory and criticism in film and television studies
  • to acquaint students with particular constructions and uses of genre in film and television history
  • to provide a more detailed understanding of the creative uses of genre within contemporary film and television production
  • to provide a more detailed understanding of the importance of genre in the marketing and consumption of contemporary films and television programmes

Module learning outcomes

  • students will understand the characteristics and function of genre as a critical concept, as a means of product differentiation and as a creative context for production in film and television
  • students will gain a familiarity of the primary characteristics and uses of genre in film and television history and the developments of particular genres over time
  • students will be able to analyse films and television programmes in relation to the conventions, structures and creative possibilities of genre
  • students will understand the significance, the creative application and the institutional function of genre in contemporary film and television production and consumption


Task Length % of module mark
2500 Word Essay
N/A 40
3000 Word Programme Proposal
N/A 60

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The formatives will run from weeks 7-10


Task Length % of module mark
2500 Word Essay
N/A 40
3000 Word Programme Proposal
N/A 60

Module feedback

Feedback will be received on the formative assessment within a week of the seminar presentation.

Indicative reading

  • Steve Neale, ‘Questions of Genre’, Screen, Vol. 31, No. 1, spring 1990.
  • Glen Creeber (ed.), The Television Genre Book (London: BFI, 2001).
  • Ian Cameron and Doug Pye (eds.) The Movie Book of the Western (Studio Vista: 1996).
  • Ed Buscombe (ed.), The BFI Companion to the Western (London: BFI, 1993).
  • Andy Tudor, ‘Why Horror?: The Peculiar Pleasures of a Popular Genre’, in Cultural Studies, Vol. 11, No. 3, 1997.
  • Noel Carrol, ‘The Nature of Horror’ in Mark Jancovich (ed.), Horror: The Film Reader (London: Routledge, 2002).
  • Carol Clover, Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film (Princeton University Press, 2015).
  • Wes D. Gehring, Parody as Film Genre (Westport: Greenwood Press, 1999).
  • Neil Archer, Beyond a Joke: Parody in English Film and Television Comedy (London: IB Tauris, 2017).
  • Samantha Lay, British Social Realism: From Documentary to Brit Grit (London: Wallflower, 2002).
  • David Forrest, New Realism: Contemporary British Cinema Edinburgh: EUP, 2020).
  • Brett Mills, Television Sitcom (London: BFI, 2005).
  • Tricia Dunleavy, ‘Tradition and Innovation in Situation Comedy’, in Television Drama: Form, Agency, Innovation (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).
  • Sue Turnbull, The TV Crime Drama (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014).
  • Tobias Hochscherf and Heidi Philipsen, ‘Beyond the Bridge: Contemporary Danish Television Drama (London: I.B. Tauris, 2017).
  • Catherine Johnson, Telefantasy (London: BFI, 2005).
  • Faye Woods, ‘Telefantasy Tower Blocks: Space, Place and Social Realism Shake Ups in Misfits, Journal of British Cinema and Television, Vol. 12, No, 2, 2015.
  • Charlotte Brunsdon, Screen Tastes (London: Routledge, 1997).     
  • Dorothy Hobson, Soap Opera (Cambridge: Polity, 2003).
  • Deirdre E. Pribram, Emotion, Genre, Justice in Film and Television: Detecting Feeling (London: Routledge, 2010).
  • Jane Roscoe & Craig Hight, Faking It: Mock Documentary and the Subversion of Factuality (Manchester: MUP, 2001)
  • Thomas Schatz, Hollywood Genres: Formulas, Film-Making and the Studio System (Boston: McGraw Hill, 1985).
  • Julie Selbo, Film Genre for the Screenwriter (New York: Routledge, 2015).
  • Rick Altman, Film/Genre (London: BFI, 1999).
  • Julie F. Codell, Genre, Gender, Race and World Cinema (Oxford: Blackwell, 2007).
  • Please check the VLE weekly for essential and recommended readings.

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.