What to read before starting the Film Studies BA

We’d like to emphasise that the reading below is not mandatory. When you arrive at King’s, you will be given reading lists for every module (you will do 8 in your first year) and access to plentiful online resources through the library, KEATS (the College’s virtual learning environment) and the online reading lists system. However, should you want to feel especially well-prepared to start studying film at undergraduate level, below are some suggestions prepared by the teachers of some of the first-year modules.

That said, if you want to get hold of one single resource that would help you prepare for all aspects of your study, staff are agreed that **The Cinema Book**, edited by Pam Cook, would be the best overall suggestion. 


Semester 1 (September) 

  • Research and Scholarship in Film Studies 

Harper, Sue. “Studying film at university.” In Film: The Essential Study Guide, edited by Ruth Doughty and Deborah Shaw, 1-6. London and New York: Routledge, 2009. Available on Google Books at https://books.google.co.uk/books?id=_Al9AgAAQBAJ&lpg=PR7&ots=xXKvCBCUy-&pg=PA1 

  • Introduction to Film Studies: Forms 

For this module (and for anyone who will ever study film!), I’d really recommend reading VF Perkins’s book Film as Film (particularly the chapter “How is What”). If you can’t get hold of that book cheaply or easily, there are other articles by Perkins available online – for example, http://www.rouge.com.au/9/moments_choice.html 

  • Film History Modules (both semesters) 

There are a number of film history modules that use Geoffrey Nowell-Smith [ed.] The Oxford History of World Cinema (1997). It is a brilliant, wide-ranging source. It can be borrowed for reading for free on archive.org. Please note: the Internet Archive allows only a limited number of readers to “borrow” books simultaneously, and there is sometimes a bit of a virtual queue for popular/textbook titles like this one. When you come to KCL, the library has an e-book but it would be a useful book to own (if you like reading hard copies). 


Semester 2 (January onwards) 

  • Critical Debates in Film Studies

Some background reading in film theory, to start getting comfy with the vocabulary of theory students will encounter in the original texts assigned in the module would be very advantageous, though not required.  I’d suggest for them to get hold of any of these (in the understanding that these books provide a solid path into the module, but they’re not the primary module reading):  

Film Theory. An Introduction by Robert Lapsley and Michael Westlake (Manchester UP). The second edition (2013) is going cheap online; the first edition (1988) is available to read (not to download) for free at the internet archive (archive.org). 

A great, up-to-date book for you to have, useful (though ambitious reading) for this module and all your theory-oriented modules through the degree is Film Theory. An Introduction through the Senses by Thomas Elsaesser and Malte Hagener, whether the first or second edition – but a bit more dear, and it’ll be fully available to you for free as an e-book once you enrol. 

Or, alternatively, the small & easy to carry-on-holiday Spectatorship. The Power of Looking On, by Michele Aaron (Wallflower, Short Cuts, 2007). 


Happy reading and we look forward to welcoming you in September!


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