Document Type

Theses, Ph.D


Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Studies on Film

Publication Details

Thesis submitted to the Technological University Dublin in Candidature for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy September 2014, School of Media Faculty of Arts.


This thesis applies historical empathy as a lens through which Ireland’s filmic heritage can be explored within the teaching of history. In its approach, the research asserts that critical perspective recognition and affective exploration can be achieved through a sustained model of historical narrative inquiry. Undertaking textual analysis of a series of pre-televisual films from the National Film Archive, it argues that there is value in these records for understanding the formulation and assessment of political and social representation in the nascent Republic. While remaining cognizant of the constraints placed on both the educational and archival professions in Ireland, the thesis determines that the unique characteristics of film make it an invaluable resource for history scholarship. It further emphasizes the manner in which working with the medium in an empathic mode exposes young people to a series of critical-theoretical subject positions that have wider benefits beyond the four walls of the Irish classroom.

Despite the fact that Ireland’s engagement with cinema, and film education, is as old as the medium itself, this thesis operates against a contemporary backdrop that sees film and moving image media explicitly ignored in the educational landscape. It argues that a number of politically and religiously determined actions in the middle of the 20th century relegated the initial momentum the medium maintained into a state of virtual non-existence. While recent revisions to policy and intent have created spaces for critically engaging with film and moving image media at both subject-specific and cycle-wide levels, the nationally sanctioned plan of action through the year 2020 sees working with any kind of media as little more than the capability to send an email. Through analysis of the filmic record and its use within the classroom – and a championing Ireland’s film heritage as viable and necessary to a comprehensive history syllabus – this thesis intends to redress such thinking.