Writing and Film II


The purpose of this seminar is to develop a critical comprehension of the text designed for visual and dramatic impact, tracing its origins back to classic Greek theatre, and recognizing Aristotle’s matrix in current plots. 
Supported by the Greek tragedies, we will analyse the tragic frame in XXth century film, from the noir era to Scorsese and contemporary film. In the end the students should recognise both the structures that enable the dramatic emotions: fobos and eleos, and the classic heroic temper in multiple characters: from Oedipus to Hamlet and Travis Bickle, Walter Neff or Norma Desmond.
Students will be introduced to the close connection between tragic drama and the building of a democratic society, through representation of the tensions between self and other, between individualism and collectivity. Furthermore, we will approach the quarrel between Plato and Aristotle, about quality vs. quantity, and low and high culture. 

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Abel José Barros Baptista


Weekly - 3

Total - 280

Teaching language



Available soon



  • Edipo Re, Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1968.
  • Night and the City, Jules Dassin, 1950.
  • The Bad and the Beautiful, Vincent Minelli, 1952.
  • Taxi Driver, Martin Scorsese, 1974.
  • Johnny Guitar, Elia Kazan, 1950.
  • A Place in the Sun, George Stevens, 1951.
  • Sunset Boulevard, Billy Wilder, 1950.
  • Gun Crazy, Joseph H. Lewis, 1950.
  • Ace in the Hole, Billy Wilder, 1951.
  • Double Indemnity, Billy Wilder, 1944.
  • Panic in the Streets, Nicholas Ray, 1950.
  • The Square, Ruben Östlund, 2017.


  • ARISTÓTELES, Poética, FCG, Lisboa, 2004.
  • BELFIORE, Elizabeth S., Murder Among Friends, Oxford University Press, 2000.
  • CONARD, Mark, The Philosophy of Film Noir, University Press of Kentucky, 2007.
  • EUBEN, Peter (ed.), Greek Tragedy and Political Theory, University of California Press, 1986.
  • KNOX, Bernard M. W., The Heroic Temper, Studies in Sophoclean Tragedy, University of California Press, 1964.
  • McKEE, Robert, Story, Harper Collins, NY, 1997.

Teaching method

The four proposed themes are drawn from the teachers’ field of expertise and academic research. During class, students will be exposed to theoretic framing and discussion of the proposed filmography. They will also be given tools (keywords, authors, etc) to do their own research on the subject and encouraged to question their findings in class. The full film viewing will be extra classwork, with very few exceptions.
After attending the proposed course, organized around three classes per theme (plus one special class where students are invited to participate in an oriented discussion of a film of their own choice), the students will be asked to present a paper (from 6 to 12 Pages) about one or multiple themes of the course applied to a film or play, chosen freely, within 15 days after the class period. 

Evaluation method

Evaluation Method - Written Essay(100%)

Subject matter

Mimesis: Development of drama (from narrative to dialogue, to theatre, to film) optimizing conditions to promote catharsis. Aristotle’s appeal to liberate the text from referential value. Irony and pleasure are provided by violence and danger.
Myhtos: Recognising hamartia, peripeteia, and anagnorisis, beyond set-ups, pay-offs, twists and stock-actions. Tragic potential in stories of blindness, finitude, change and loss. Paranoia and claustrophobia in the tragic universe.
Ethos: A monster-fighting time and space. Self-centred guiltiness and disengagement from the world, seen as miasma; the hero as a dead man pursuing happiness. Tragic behaviour as a repetitive compulsion, rigidity, excess and loneliness. Self-recognition and the end of the story.
Politics: Democratic lessons: to please one God is to hurt another; agon between means and ends; turning the ruler into the ruled; the hard balance between loyalty and justice. Promoting the Matros Nomos or the «American Way».


Programs where the course is taught: