This course is discontinued

ENG4531 – Marriage, Love and Romance in American History and Movies

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

Love and romance are often portrayed as universal, unchanging truths of the human condition, with marriage defined as the essential cultural institution which must be protected by the evangelical right wing in order to prevent chaos and utter destruction of the nation. Yet contemporary debates and court rulings over gay marriage are just the most recent of a long history of sweeping changes in the purpose, politics and practice of marriage.

This course will examine specific historical flashpoints in which the meaning of marriage, love and romance were widely challenged. The course begins with a case study from the revolutionary era – A Midwife’s Tale. The 19th century will be represented by competing visions of Little Women. The 20th century will use silent films, film noir, screwball, and contemporary romantic comedies.

There will be an examination of how these portrayals differ by race and ethnicity.  Finally, arguments and films about gay marriage will be compared to earlier films on interracial marriage.

Each case study will look in depth at a particular film – both historical docudramas and fictional films. Historical documents will be examined which highlight or expand upon aspects illustrated by the films. In addition to reading about the history of marriage, love and romance, this course will involve “hands on” historical research as well as active interaction with the films.

MA students will also look at various historical theoretical interpretations of marriage, love and romance, as well as romantic comedy theories. 

Learning outcome

After completing this course you:

  • know how to analyze a film from an historical perspective
  • have a deep understanding of historical changes in the purpose and practice of marriage, love and romance
  • know how scholars question and reinterpret family life, marriage, love and romance
  • have excellent communication skills in academic English – both orally and in writing
  • know how to construct and organize an analytical text in academic English
  • have a deep (thorough, excellent, etc) understanding of scholarly ethics and the appropriate tools for documenting your work


Students who are admitted to study programmes at UiO must each semester register which courses and exams they wish to sign up for in Studentweb.

Students enrolled in other Master's Degree Programmes can, on application, be admitted to the course if this is cleared by their own study programme.

If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.


Seminar, two hours per week for 10 weeks, 20 hours in all. MA students will have two additional two hour sessions without the BA students.

Students must pass an oral presentation and 2 response papers (2 pages each) in order to take the exam.

Attendance is obligatory on 8 out of 10 seminars. Additional absences must be justified by documentation to the exam coordinator. Read more about guidelines for obligatory activities.


The exam is a term paper of 10 standard pages.

You must submit your paper in Fronter in the course's "fellesrom". Read more about submission procedures.

Use of sources and citation

You should familiarize yourself with the rules that apply to the use of sources and citations. If you violate the rules, you may be suspected of cheating/attempted cheating.

Language of examination

The examination text is given in English, and you submit your response in English.

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

Resit an examination

Withdrawal from an examination

It is possible to take the exam up to 3 times. If you withdraw from the exam after the deadline or during the exam, this will be counted as an examination attempt.

Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.


The course is subject to continuous evaluation. At regular intervals we also ask students to participate in a more comprehensive evaluation.

Reports from periodic evaluations (in Norwegian)

Facts about this course






This course is taught irregularly.

Teaching language