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AIH263 - "History Written with Lightning": Film and the Past

Unit details

Year2017 unit information
Enrolment modes:Trimester 1: Burwood (Melbourne), Cloud (online)
Credit point(s):1
EFTSL value:0.125
Unit chair:

Matthew Richards





Incompatible with:

AIH363, AIH463

Contact hours:

Campus mode: 1 x 1 hour Class and 1 x 1 hour Seminar per week

Cloud (online): Learning experiences are via CloudDeakin


After watching D.W. Griffith’s cinematic interpretation of the recent American past, Birth of a Nation (1915), the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson commented that the film was ‘like writing history with lightning.’ The electrifying effect of film applied to representations of the past has resulted in an innovative way of ‘writing’ history which extends and informs the so-called visual turn in historical analysis. This unit examines the representation of the past within a range of fiction and nonfiction films from the earliest days of cinema to the present. Historical events analysed in this way may include, among others aspects, the American frontier, British society in the 1950s, the experience of women in the twentieth century, and the war in Vietnam. Topics studied include narrative or ‘story-telling’ strategies; aspects of film language, including montage; realism; film genre; and film music and the historical event. Within and through an examination of the ways in which film represents the past the unit simultaneously addresses two famous questions from the disciplines of historical studies and film studies: André Bazin’s ‘What is cinema?’ and E.H. Carr’s ‘What is history?’.


Campus mode:

Essay 50%

Presentation 10%

Test 40%


Cloud (online):

Essay 60%

Test 40%

Unit Fee Information

Click on the fee link below which describes you:

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