Film studies adds media segment, new classes

A panel presented TED-talk style speeches on of free speech in the media followed by a discussion. FILE PHOTO / THE FLAT HAT

The College of William and Mary’s film studies program is widening its lens.

Currently, the discipline focuses largely on how film and television have shaped Western culture, but it is implementing a number of changes this semester. The program leaders are deeming this revamped major “film and media studies,” and it will examine the digital age and its effect on cultures.

“There was a sense among us that media studies is something we need to pay attention to,” English and film studies professor Richard Lowry said. “This felt right. It fits with the direction the College was going.”

Lowry, along with a few other professors, was one of the main voices in shaping this new program. The film studies program worked closely with the literary and cultural studies program, which examines different works of literature and explores the theories behind them. By expanding the field, the professors spearheading the film and media studies program hope to apply that analysis to television, digital culture and social networking.

New introductory courses will be offered with the major along with modified existing classes. The department will move away from unmediated courses solely in literature and will also introduce a production requirement for students.

“This [program] will be pretty rigorous,” Lowry said. “The creativity of faculty never lets you down.”

The film studies program faculty decided to pursue the new major in 2012 and will showcase the classes online next year. English and American studies professor Arthur Knight, one of the key builders of the new program, said the team is now in the process of lining up introductory courses. Knight said the program will be similar to literary and cultural studies but will depart from analyzing books.

“Over the centuries, [the book] has been joined by a host of other media forms,” Knight said. “We’re eager to start.”

The current film studies program is taught by professors hailing from a variety of backgrounds such as English, world languages, art history, Russian and post-Soviet studies as well as literary and cultural studies.  Modern languages and post-Soviet studies professor Sasha Prokhorov said he hopes the film and media studies program will have an influence on other departments at the College.

“Film and media studies is a powerhouse for cultural theory courses,” Prokhorov said. “It brings fresh theoretical blood into my program.”


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