Yale’s film studies “canon”: the readings

My desk in the wake of oral exams
This is what my desk looked like in the wake of my oral exams, back in 2006

Long, long ago, I posted the the filmography from the “canon” exam that Yale’s Film Studies Ph.D. program administers to all of its graduating students. I promised to post the readings, too, and then promptly forgot. Anyway, here they are, in case you’re interested in some light reading. Apologies for the formatting errors; I didn’t have the wherewithal to clean this list up.

I. Non-fiction Modes of Film

a. Documentary and Ethnographic

Phil Rosen, “Document and Documentary: on the Persistence of Historical Concepts” in Rosen, Change Mummified

Trinh Minh-ha, “The Totalizing Quest of Meaning:” in Renov

Brian Winston, “The Documentary film as Scientific Inscription” in Renov

Dziga Vertov, Kino-Eye (“We: Variant of a Manifesto”; “Kinoks: A Revolution”; “On the Significance of Non-Acted Cinema”; “Artistic Drama and Kino-Eye”)


b. animation (to be decided)

c. Experimental

Stan Brakhage, “Metaphors On Vision”

Sitney, P.A “Major Mythopoeia” from Visionary Cinema

Maya Deren An Anagram of Ideas on Art, Form and Film

Annette Michelson. “About Snow.” October, No. 8 (Spring 1979): 111–24.


II. Institutions

a. Hollywood and beyond

Bordwell, Thompson, Staiger,  The Classical Hollywood Cinema

Bacher, Lutz.  “Letter from an Unknown Woman” in Max Ophuls in the Hollywood Studios

James Lastra, chapter 4 from Sound Technology and the American Cinema

Thomas Schatz, from The Genius of the System, Parts I and II.

Miriam Hansen, “The Mass Production of the Senses: Classical Cinema as Vernacular Modernism,” in Reinventing film studies

Vance Kepley, “Whose Apparatus: Problems of Film Exhibition and History” in Post Theory

N. Durovicova, “Local Ghosts: Dubbing Bodies In Early Sound Cinema,” In Film and its Multiples (Udine: Forum, 2003), 83-98


III. Cultural Studies/Film History

a. Early Cinema

Miriam Hansen, “Introduction” from Babel and Babylon

Yuri Tsivian, part I (pp. 1-121) of Early Cinema in Russia

Tom Gunning, “The Cinema of Attractions”; “’Animated Pictures’: Tales from Cinema’s Forgotten Future,” in Reinventing Film Studies,

A. Gerow,“The Benshi’s New Face: Defining Cinema in Taisho Japan,” Iconics

Charles Musser, “Pre-Classical American Cinema: Its Changing Modes of Film Production,” in Abel, Silent Film (Rutgers University Press, 1996), 85-108.


b. Race and ethnicity

Manthia Diawara, M. “Black Resistant Spectators”

Jane Gaines. “On Looking Relations”

Clyde Taylor, from Oscar Micheaux and his Circle

Richard Dyer, “White”


IV. Film Theory Topics

Except where noted via brackets ([ ]), selections taken from

Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, ed. Gerald Mast, Marshall Cohen, Leo Braudy (New York and Oxford: Oxford Univ Press)


Summary of Debates

Francesco Casetti Theories of Film 1945-95

Bordwell, “Convention, Construction and Cinematic Vision,” Post Theory


1. Film and Reality

Andre Bazin, What is Cinema? v. 1

Deleuze, Cinema 1: the Movement Image ch 1-4; Cinema 2: the Time Image, ch 1.

Siegfried Kracauer, “Basic Concepts”; “The Establishment of Physical Existence”

Rudolf Arnheim, “Film and Reality”; “The Complete Film”

Christian Metz, “Problems of Denotation in the Fiction Film”


2. Film Language and Style

Pier Paolo Pasolini, “Cinema of Poetry”

David Bordwell, Narration and the Fiction Film , part III

Jean Mitry, “Rhythm and Montage” [Aesthetics and Psychology of Cinema]

Sergei Eisenstein,  “Beyond the Shot” and “The Dramaturgy of Film Form”

Daniel Dayan, “The Tutor-Code of Classical Cinema”

Nick Browne, “The Spectator-in-the-Text: The Rhetoric of Stagecoach”

Raymond, Bellour, “The Obvious and the Code” [Rosen, Narrative Apparatus Ideol]

Noel Burch, Chapter One of Theory of Film Practice

Dudley Andrew, “André Bazin’s ‘Evolution’” [in Defining Cinema].


3. Sound and Image

Pascal Bonitzer, “Silence of the Voice” [in Rosen]

Jean Epstein, “Photogenie” [Abel, French Film Theory and Criticism I]

Jacques Aumont, “The Face in Close Up” [Dalle Vacche, The Visual Turn]

Roland Barthes, “The Third Meaning” [Image Music Text]

Michel Chion, “Projections of Sound on Image” [Audio-Vision]

Erwin Panofsky, “Style and Medium in the Motion Pictures”

Bela Balazs, “The Close-up” and “The Face of Man”

Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Alexandrov, “Statement on Sound”

Eisenstein, “Sound and Image (Montage 1938)” [in The Film Sense]


4. Media and Adaptation

Bazin, “Cinema as Digest” [Naremore: On Adaptation]

Eisenstein, “Dickens, Griffith and the Film Today” [in The Film Sense]

D. Andrew, “Adaptation”; “Echoes of Art in Orson Welles” [Film in the Aura of Art]

Noel Carroll, “The Specificity Thesis”

Stanley Cavell, “Photograph and Screen” from The World Viewed

Garrett Stewart  “Frame of Reference” [from Between Film and Screen]

Vivian Sobchack,“The Scene of the Screen:Envisioning Presence’”


5. Genre

Jean-Loup Bourget, “Social Implications in the Hollywood Genres”

Robin Wood, “Ideology, Genre, Auteur”

Jane Feuer, “The Self-Reflexive Musical and the Myth of Entertainment”

Solanas and Gettino, “Towards a Third Cinema” [in Robert Stam, ed., Film Theory]

Julio Garcia Espinosa, “For an Imperfect Cinema” [in Stam]

Lyotard, “Acinema” [in Rosen]

Rick Altman, “A Semantic/Syntactic Approach to Film Genre” [in Film/Genre]


6. Auteurs and Stars

Andrew Sarris, “Notes on the Auteur Theory in 1962”

Peter Wollen, “The Auteur Theory”

John Ellis, “Stars as a Cinematic Phenomenon”

Richard Dyer, from Stars


7. Ideological Analysis

Barthes, “Diderot, Brecht, Eisenstein” [in Rosen]

Heath, “Narrative Space” [in Rosen]

Editors of Cahiers du Cinéma, “Young Mr. Lincoln” [in Rosen]

Walter Benjamin, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”

J-L Baudry, “Ideological Effects of the Basic Cinematographic Apparatus”

Jean-Luc Comolli and Jean Narboni, “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism”

F Jameson, “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture” [from Signatures of the Visible]


8.Subjectivity, Gender

Christian Metz, “Identification,” “Mirror” “The Passion for Perceiving” from Imaginary Signifier

Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema”

Mary Ann Doane, “Film and the Masquerade: Theorizing the Female Spectator”

Gaylyn Studlar, “Masochism and the Perverse Pleasures of the Cinema”




4 Replies to “Yale’s film studies “canon”: the readings”

  1. Thanks so much. I studied with David and Michael R. back in the days of Xeroxed packets. I’ve been hoping to reconstruct this list! This is a big help. Anyone out there know the name of the article on Rita Hayworth and fame?

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