Oct. 26, 1995
Vol. 15, No. 4

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    New Cinema & Media Studies program to be established

    A new Cinema & Media Studies program to be created within the Humanities Division over the next few years "will make the University both a major center for teaching and research and an important voice in current debates on popular media culture," according to Miriam Hansen, the Andrew W. Mellon and Ferdinand Schevill Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities and Director of the Film Studies Center.

    Hansen chairs a planning committee that will spend the next two to three years creating a formal major at the undergraduate level and a degree-granting committee at the graduate level.

    Film studies is currently part of English Language & Literature, although film courses are also being offered through Germanic Studies, Art and Romance Languages & Literatures, and an increasing number of students in other departments in both the Humanities and the Social Sciences are focusing their research on film and related media. The new Cinema & Media Studies program will build upon this student interest, as well as on Chicago's strong traditions in interdisciplinary and historical scholarship.

    "The program in Cinema & Media Studies will link the study of cinema with the strong interdisciplinary and historical scholarship for which Chicago is known," Hansen said.

    "Chicago's interdisciplinary tradition is especially suited to helping the program break new ground in the area of film studies," she said. "Older graduate programs in cinema studies -- at the University of California at Los Angeles, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, Northwestern -- offer specialized programs of study in film history, theory and criticism. But Chicago students have always been encouraged to approach film from a wider historical and cultural perspective."

    Hansen said this approach has helped gain national attention for research by University students in the past few years. Last year, two Chicago students received the top awards in the Society for Cinema Studies' highly competitive and prestigious essay and dissertation competitions.

    Hansen also said that Chicago can make an important contribution in cinema studies in the area of non-Western national cinemas, an area of increasing interest to Chicago faculty members as well as students from a range of departments in the Humanities and Social Sciences divisions.

    "Like most film studies programs in this country, the focus of our course offerings are still primarily on American cinema, that is, for the most part, Hollywood," Hansen said. "But there are so many rich traditions of cinema worldwide, and a growing number of students are now working on non-Western national cinemas, in particular Chinese and Indian cinemas. The planning committee feels that a formal program in Cinema & Media Studies can help expand traditional notions of culture and civilization by looking at both Western and non-Western forms of film and media practice."

    One example of this interest is the upcoming appearance on campus of noted German filmmaker and author Alexander Kluge at 4 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 2, in the Quantrell Auditorium of the Film Studies Center, Cobb 307. Kluge will present selections from his extensive German television work and will discuss media politics, cinema and the public sphere.

    "The details of the Cinema & Media Studies Program will take some time to work out, but interest on campus grows stronger every year," Hansen said. "I feel that the general environment of academic excellence and intellectual vitality at Chicago is one of the reasons the Cinema & Media Studies program will be among the most attractive and exciting new programs at the University."

    -- Jeff Makos