HIST2001 Restaging the Past: Cinema and the Practice of History

6 points
Not available in 2020UWA (Perth)Face to face
Not available in 2020AlbanyFace to face
Details for undergraduate courses
  • Level 2 option in the History major sequence
  • The area of knowledge for this unit is Society and Culture
  • Category B broadening unit for students
  • Level 2 elective
Historians do not have a monopoly on the telling of history. Since its birth, cinema has been deeply involved in narrating and communicating the past. Indeed, it is perhaps the primary focus through which people of the last four or five generations have engaged with the past. The heroes and villains, the tragedies and the comedies, the unexpected and the clich├ęd, which have gone into the restaging of history on the silver screen, are a fundamental part of how society through the twentieth century has talked about and imagined what has gone before.

Engaging with cinema gives students the chance to explore history, not only as a discipline but as social practice, while enhancing an awareness of representations of the past in everyday life. Students explore the extent to which films increase or decrease our understanding of historical issues, events and personalities. They consider how seriously on-screen accounts of the past should be taken, how historical films compare to academic accounts and what to make of the immediacy with which cinema projects interpretations of the past.

Cinema is not just a didactic tool; the ways in which film directors or newsreel producers choose their subject and how to portray it, or how these cultural products are used, hands back to the historian traces of the past itself. In other words, while cinema attempts to tell the past, it becomes itself a valuable source for investigating history. The moving images of history films are themselves historical documents which reveal the cultural imperatives of different ages or of different social groups, the projection of historically specific identities, world views forgotten, different constructions of the body and space, or fashion and demeanour.

The intersecting of these two approaches to cinema, that is history as film and film as history, is the focal point of the unit. It primarily examines European but also Hollywood and World Cinema.
Students are able to (1) describe and assess the basic historiographical issues characteristic of the discipline of History; (2) identify and evaluate the historiographical approaches for the study of film and history; (3) demonstrate a detailed understanding of the way film has interacted with history; (4) demonstrate the ability to locate appropriate sources for research essays; and (5) present arguments in both written and oral assessments using the conventions of the historical discipline.
Indicative assessments in this unit are as follows: (1) tutorial participation; (2) essay; and (3) assignment. Further information is available in the unit outline.

Supplementary assessment is not available in this unit except in the case of a bachelor's pass degree student who has obtained a mark of 45 to 49 overall and is currently enrolled in this unit, and it is the only remaining unit that the student must pass in order to complete their course.
Unit Coordinator(s)
Dr Giuseppe Finaldi
Unit rules
a Level 1 History unit
EURO1101 Europe Now: Cultures and Identities
GEND1901 Gender in Australia
HIST2223 Restaging the Past: Cinema and the Practice of History
Contact hours
lectures: 10 x 2 hours; tutorials: 10 x 1 hour

Ferro, M. Cinema and History: Wayne State University Press 1988

Nichols, B. Movies and Methods: University of California Press 1985

Rosenstone, R. A. Visions of the Past: the Challenge of Film to our Idea of History: Harvard University Press 1995

Sorlin, P. Film in History: Restaging the Past: Barnes and Noble 1980

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