Approaches to Documentary (020P3)

30 credits, Level 7 (Masters)

Autumn teaching

You explore key issues and debates in the history and theory of documentary.

From a 'boom' in theatrical documentary to DIY footage posted online, recent years have witnessed significant changes in the commercial, aesthetic, technological, political and social dimensions of documentaries.

You will consider such developments in the light of earlier trends in documentary and ongoing debates about the purpose, form and efficacy of the mode.

You will address aesthetics, power, the politics of representation and ethics across a range of documentary material from film, television and the internet.

Topics may include:

  • documentary modes (observational, ethnographic, auto/biographical, etc)
  • truth claims and trust
  • feminist documentary
  • documentary ethics
  • audiences for documentary
  • hybridity and re-enactment
  • the politics of documentary
  • documentaries online.


50%: Lecture (Film)
50%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Portfolio)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 44 hours of contact time and about 256 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2022/23. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.