Film Studies Major Planned
The study of film has become an immensely popular academic discipline among Oberlin students and faculty. In recent years, many professors from a wide range of departments have made increasing efforts to incorporate film into their courses, considering film an important medium through which to teach their respective subjects. Currently, students can only concentrate in film studies. As of yet, no major is available.
In response to growing popular demand among both students and faculty, strong motions have been made to create a film studies program. The program would be interdisciplinary, consisting of faculty from a wide range of departments including, among others, German, Spanish, English, East Asian Studies and African American Studies. Specified courses in these departments in which film has been incorporated would be counted towards a film studies major.
Rian Brown-Orso, a professor of art, currently teaches digital video production. Hers is the first course of this nature has been offered at Oberlin, and it is immensely popular.
She spoke highly of the proposed program, emphasizing the importance of its being acknowledged as a major. While claiming that film production should eventually be incorporated into the program, Brown noted that presently, the College lacks the facilities and experience to successfully implement it.
“My pipe dream would be to unify them,” Brown said. “It is essential to have film studies involved in making. To understand the process of production will enhance overall understanding in positive, necessary ways.”
She said she hopes to see a relationship develop between film studies and art once the program has formed its initial foundation and is ready to expand. More immediately, she would like to see the creation of a film festival at Oberlin.
The proposal is on hold for the moment but is expected to return to the Educational Plans and Policies Committee next fall for further consideration and could be established as a major as soon as the end of the next academic year. “The problems now are largely organizational,” Associate Dean Bob Geitz said.
Much is dependent upon the choice of replacement for Daniel Goulding, professor and chair of the art department, which has yet to be confirmed. Goulding, whose film courses have been immensely popular among students for years, plans to retire at the end of this semester. He occupies the only position in the school solely devoted to film studies.
His replacement, who will have a tenure-track position, will be expected to teach five film courses a year, and will have a crucial role in the development of the program. Film professors from other departments will be expected to dedicate between 40 to 60 percent of their time to the teaching of film.
Goulding, who will not be present to see the program come to fruition, spoke of it with enthusiasm. “It will be interdisciplinary in nature. This is the best way. It draws on the strengths of individual departments but is captive to no one. It has a clear identity.” He continued to say this was the right time to act and that the program, if successful, has the potential to put Oberlin at the “forefront of small liberal arts schools” in the area of film studies.
Centered on Goulding’s replacement, the program would be governed by a committee headed by William Day, an English professor who has made film a major component in the curriculum of many of his courses. He has volunteered to be the chair of the program. “[Film studies] has a huge audience,” Day said. “It made us think it was time to move.”
Along with creating a major, the program would also offer a wider range of film-related courses than what currently exists. Although there would be no additional film studies positions added, it is expected that if the major is created, other teachers would be motivated to shift their focus toward film as well.
“I’m tremendously excited about this,” Day said. “It will be good for the College and a really exciting prospect in terms of teaching and bringing people together.”
The proposed program will allow a stronger communication between students and faculty interested in film studies. Professors from various departments will be able to coordinate with each other more easily and establish relationships between subjects taught and techniques explored, with an interest in creating more advanced courses than are presently offered.
The committee will be able to lobby to make sure that an adequate film collection exists. Furthermore, more concentrated efforts will be made to bring filmmakers and scholars to campus. “By creating this program,” Day said, “we will be able to go beyond what we can currently do.”
Currently, the proposed program emphasizes film history, theory and criticism and does not, as of yet, include a film production component. The committee decided a production component, at this stage, would be premature. “We could do a first-rate job in film studies or a second-rate job in both,” Day said.
If passed, the program is anticipated to be met with great approval from the student body, as film courses are among the most popular offered at the College. Senior Mike Lyon teaches two ExCos on Asian cinema and seemed enthusiastic about the proposed program, saying, “I am extremely pleased that Oberlin is finally instituting it, although I wish they’d gotten to it four years earlier!”
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