Film Concentration for English Majors Explores Visual Texts

“I think I had [an interest in film] from the very beginning,” Texas State English professor Dr. Suparno Banerjee explains. “I started my scholarly writing with film.” Dr. Banerjee works to deepen his students’ understanding of course material by incorporating film into his classes and analyzing the themes within specific genres such as science fiction, which he often teaches. He welcomes exploring a text alongside its filmic adaptation, stating that “one major way of representing is in film” and comparisons of text and adaptation can reveal more about the issues presented in class.

To supplement the discussions of colonialism Dr. Banerjee held in several of his courses last Fall, he hosted a showing of Two Flags followed by a talk with its director, Pankaj Rishi Kumar. The documentary pertained directly to his course material in its exploration of the politics of the post-colonial town Pondicherry, India and allowed students to explore the representation of these issues on screen, as well as discuss them with the director in a Q&A session. Being able to discuss the work with other attendees, professors, and sometimes filmmakers or directors offered a unique experience for students to engage in a discussion of the issues that surface in their course texts.

Dr. Banerjee’s perspective on the value of teaching film as text and its important role in the English Studies is supported by the Film Studies emphasis offered to English majors. Requiring a subset of three Advanced English film elective courses distinguishes this degree path from the traditional English major. These classes cover such topics as Theory and Criticism in Film (ENG 3320), Writing for Film (ENG 3306), The Southwest in Film (ENG 3309), allowing students to personalize their academic investigations.  Whether students are interested in filmmaking, understanding various texts, or analyzing film alongside literature, the Film Studies emphasis prepares undergraduates to think critically about film. Integral to the development of the emphasis is Dr. Rebecca Bell-Metereau, its Coordinator, who explains that the program allows students to evaluate “film adaptation, try their hand at video editing, or explore such topics as gender, monster theory, politics, or conspiracy films.”

Senior Lecturer Jon Marc Smith recalls his own interest in film, which led him to pursue screenwriting after he completed his MFA in Fiction at Texas State. Smith explored the screenplay as a genre by reviewing academic film criticism and the history of film. This passion rewarded him, when in 2010 he co-wrote a screenplay that was made into a film, Dance with the One, featured at Austin’s SXSW Festival. That same year Smith created the Writing for Film (ENG 3306) class at Texas State, which is now one of the Advanced English electives approved for the emphasis. Smith also now teaches Writing for Film and An Introduction to the Study of Film (ENG 3307), allowing him to work with students developing the same interests he had. He believes the study of film helps students understand that “visual texts [that] are a part of modern life,” and that “learning to do filmic criticism or create visual media is directly relevant to most students,” regardless of their particular academic goals or interests.

Topics and themes explored in recent Film Studies courses include English Department Chair Dr. Victoria Smith’s Fall 2019 course Advanced Topics in Film: Mainstream Queer Cinema (ENG 3308), which evaluated Queer films as modes of representation and how they interact with their audiences, considering such elements as “filmic aspects – the mise-en-scene, cinematography, and editing.” In The Southwest in Film (ENG 3309), offered by Dr. McClancy this Spring 2020 semester, students evaluate Western film, investigating the filmic and cultural aspects of Westerns that “work to create place, ideology, and nation.”

From exploring colonialism, to queer theory, to nationhood, Film Studies courses reflect the diverse content offered in the English Department curriculum. Dr. Banerjee and Mr. Smith, like their colleagues teaching in the emphasis, see films as “visual texts,” providing an opportunity to apply the critical skills all Texas State English majors gain through their studies. Students interested in learning more about the Film Studies emphasis, its requirements, or the electives offered should visit the course catalog, speak with their academic advisor, or email Dr. Bell-Metereau (rb12@txstate.edu) directly.

 

Kennedy Farrell, English Major

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