Sunday, March 06, 2005

Is a cinema studies course the new English 101?

The NYTimes asks the question this way: "Is a Cinema Studies Degree the New M.B.A?" They open with a story about a current law school student whose undergraduate major was film:

"'People endowed with social power and prestige are able to use film and media images to reinforce their power - we need to look to film to grant power to those who are marginalized or currently not represented,' said Mr. Herbst, who envisions a future in the public policy arena. The communal nature of film, he said, has a distinct power to affect large groups, and he expects to use his cinematic skills to do exactly that."

Marginalization, representation: doesn't really sound like an MBA degree to me. The analogy comes from the apparently surprising usefulness of a film degree: the article describes film majors who have gone on to get jobs in various industries beyond Hollywood. But what's much more interesting (and unsurprising) is the portrayal of the study of filmic media as the development of literacy:

"At the University of Southern California, whose School of Cinema-Television is the nation's oldest film school (established in 1929), fully half of the university's 16,500 undergraduate students take at least one cinema/television class. That is possible because Elizabeth Daley, the school's dean, opened its classes to the university at large in 1998, in keeping with a new philosophy that says, in effect, filmic skills are too valuable to be confined to movie world professionals. 'The greatest digital divide is between those who can read and write with media, and those who can't,' Ms. Daley said. 'Our core knowledge needs to belong to everybody.'"

All the more reason to make FY "comp" courses into courses that integrate a variety of literacies: traditional, visual, digital. Not that the idea of visual media as rhetoric is going to surprise any of my colleagues in rhet/comp (or at least not any who are likely to read this blog), but it's always interesting to see a popular venue putting these ideas into circulation.


Metanote: This article is the kind of thing I would usually clip (literally, with scissors) and save, either in a pile with other clippings or maybe in a folder. For the most part, such clippings rarely see the light of day or get much use. Blogging about news pieces that catch my eye is far more productive: writing about them makes them more memorable, and as long as my archive holds up I'll be able to find the link to the article with a couple of clicks. One more reason blogging makes me happy.

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