Film

The study of film is primarily concerned with motion picture history, theory and criticism. These areas are approached through intensive critical analysis of individual films, through research into the primary documents of filmmakers and the film industry, and through the construction of theoretical models of film forms and styles, national cinemas, film genres, and the economics of the film industry. Film production is meant primarily for students studying history, theory and criticism as a way to enhance their understanding of the practical decisions filmmakers confront. The program is not designed for students whose sole interest is in film production.

Recent and forthcoming graduate level seminars include:

  • Metacritical Poetics (Professor Ben Singer)
  • Documentary Theory (Professor Vance Kepley)
  • Film Stylistics (Professor Lea Jacobs and Emeritus Professor David Bordwell)
  • Film and Allegory (Professor Jeff Smith)
  • Cognition, Emotion, and Evolutionary Aesthetics (Singer)
  • Film Historiography (Kepley)
  • The Hollywood Blacklist (Smith)

Recent and ongoing dissertation topics have examined:

  • Science Fiction and the American Film Industry (Brad Schauer)
  • The Hollywood Social Problem Film (Pearl Latteier)
  • Robert Altman before M*A*S*H (Mark Minett)
  • Stalinist Cinema in the Soviet Union (Maria Belodubrovskaya)
  • The Cinema of Errol Morris (David Resha)
  • The Invention of Robert Bresson: Style and Taste in the French Cultural Market for Quality Cinema, 1934–1959 (Colin Burnett)
  • Eastman Color: Technology and Aesthetics (Heather Heckman)
  • The Experience of Video in American Art of the Seventies (Eric Crosby)

 Need more information? Watch this video brought to you by Jenny Oyallon-Koloski, Maureen Rogers, and Nora Stone, three graduate students in the program.

So you want to study movies? from Nora Stone on Vimeo.

Criteria for "Good Standing" in Communication Arts

The degree track normally requires four semesters of coursework, with three courses per semester. Students admitted to the program are expected to complete the following masters curriculum:

  • CA 355: Introduction to Media Production
  • CA 358: History of Documentary
  • CA 454: Critical Film Analysis
  • CA 455: French Cinema
  • CA 463: Avant-Garde Film
  • CA 556: American Film Industry: Studio System
  • CA 664: Classical Film Theory
  • Two 900-level seminars.

Some required courses may be waived if the student already has taken equivalent courses (to be determined by the student's advisor after reviewing syllabi and other relevant materials). Students who enter the program without an undergraduate degree in film may be required to take additional coursework.

The MA Comprehensive Exam consists of six hours of writing, normally distributed across four questions, followed by an oral defense. Exam areas and reading lists are determined in consultation with the students' core faculty members. There is no option to write a thesis in lieu of the comprehensive exam.

Students' progress will be evaluated by the film faculty as a whole each year; a meeting to discuss performance may be required.

Successful completion of the Master's degree requires 30 credit hours of coursework. This requirement includes that at least 50 percent of these credit hours must be received in courses specifically designed for graduate work, which the Graduate School defines as: courses numbered 700 and above; courses numbered 300-699 that are specifically designed for graduate students in a graduate program; courses numbered 300-699 that assess graduate students separately from undergraduate students; courses numbered 300-699 that have a graduate student enrollment greater than 50 percent in a given semester. If you have any questions about which courses meet these requirements, contact your advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, or the graduate coordinator.

Criteria for "Good Standing" in Communication Arts

The PhD in Film prepares students for a future scholarly career. It is designed to train students to conduct research and to disseminate knowledge in the classroom and in other professional settings. Reflecting this overall aim, the program integrates course work, research, and teaching experience.

Successful completion of the PhD requires 51 credit hours of coursework. This requirement includes that at least 50 percent of these credit hours must be received in courses specifically designed for graduate work, which the Graduate School defines as: courses numbered 700 and above; courses numbered 300-699 that are specifically designed for graduate students in a graduate program; courses numbered 300-699 that assess graduate students separately from undergraduate students; courses numbered 300-699 that have a graduate student enrollment greater than 50 percent in a given semester. Coursework taken towards the completion of a Master’s Degree in the Department of Communication Arts may count toward this requirement. Coursework taken outside of the Department and UW-Madison may count toward this requirement with the approval of the Graduate Committee. If you have any questions about which courses meet these requirements, contact your advisor, the Director of Graduate Studies, or the graduate coordinator.

Requirements for Successful Completion of Degree

  • Comm Arts 665: Contemporary Film Theory
  • Comm Arts 958: Seminar in Film History (when taught as Historiography of Film)
  • Completion of a 12 credit minor
  • Successful completion of the PhD Preliminary Exam
  • Timely progress towards the dissertation and successful dissertation defense
  • A tool requirement (proficiency in a foreign language equal to at least four semesters of college level instruction)

PhD Minor

The 51 graduate-level credits required for the PhD include work in the doctoral minor. The minor requirement is designed to give breadth to the doctoral program and should expose the student to subjects and/or methodologies that expand upon and complement his or her work in Film. The minor requirement can be fulfilled in one of three ways:

  • Option A: 12 credits in a single department other than Communication Arts
  • Option B: 12 credits distributed across two or more departments other than Communication Arts; may include non-Film courses within Comm Arts (distributed minor)
  • Option C: 12 credits outside the Film area in Communication Arts (intradepartmental minor)

Preliminary Examination

Upon completion of the above criteria, a PhD preliminary examination totaling 12 hours of writing is administered. The examination is administered three times a year:

  • Late August
  • End of the fall semester
  • End of the spring semester

The examination covers a combination of general and specialized areas. General-area segments of the exam test overall knowledge of film theory, history, and criticism. One specialized-area segment tests the student's anticipated dissertation area, to be chosen in consultation with the student's advisor.

Dissertator Phase

Upon passing the preliminary examination, the student enters the dissertator phase. The student begins by writing a dissertation proposal. The aim of a dissertation proposal is to articulate a scholarly question or problem and a plan for addressing it. The proposal should:

  • Identify and explain the significance of the dissertation topic
  • Analyze the state of the scholarly literature on the topic
  • Describe preliminary arguments or hypotheses the dissertation will investigate
  • Identify the primary research sources for the dissertation
  • Sketch out a research and writing schedule

The proposal is developed in consultation with the student's advisor and must be formally approved by the advisor before the student may proceed with writing the dissertation. Once the proposal has been approved, the student must form his/her dissertation committee. A dissertation committee consists of five members:

  • The student's advisor
  • At least two members from within the program
  • At least one member from outside the department

In accordance with Graduate School policy, doctoral students must orally defend and deposit the dissertation within five years from the date of passing the preliminary examination.

Students wishing to pursue an internal minor in the Department of Communication Arts must elect to study in one of four graduate tracks:

After consulting with a faculty member in the chosen area of specialization, students must complete 12 credits of course work, all of them above the 400-level and at least two above the 600-level. Note that courses below the 400-level required as prerequisites for advanced courses cannot be counted toward completion of the minor.

Students with no prior film studies background are encouraged to take Comm Arts 350: Introduction to Film before enrolling in more specialized courses, but CA 350 will not count as one of the four courses in the minor track.

  • CA 352: History of World Cinema
    • Provides a survey of film history. It is recommended for all graduate students seeking a minor, and it is particularly appropriate for students interested in national cinemas (German, French, Italian, etc.). Graduate students should enroll in the section being taught by the professor.
  • CA 354: Film Styles and Genres
    • Examines the concepts of group style, individual style, and genre, using films drawn from the range of film history. It is especially appropriate for students in literary studies and art history. Again, graduate students should enroll in the professor's discussion section.
  • CA 358: History of Documentary Film
    • A historical study of documentary filmmaking. It is particularly relevant to students in history and in journalism and mass communication.
  • CA 454: Critical Film Analysis
    • Studies theories and methods of film analysis. It is particularly appropriate for graduate students in art history and literary studies.
  • CA 455: French Cinema and Comm Arts 456: Russian and Soviet Film
    • Study the histories of these two important national cinemas. These courses would be useful for students in European area studies.
  • CA 463: Avant-Garde Film
    • Covers the history and aesthetics of experimental cinema. It is particularly appropriate for students studying art history, visual or performance arts.
  • CA 556: The American Film Industry in the Era of the Studio System
  • CA 557: Contemporary Media Industries
    • Historical examinations of the conduct and performance of studio filmmaking before and after 1948. These courses are appropriate for students interested in American history and economic history.
  • CA 664: Classical Film Theory
  • CA 665: Contemporary Film Theory
    • Survey the central issues in film theory through a study of several writers' work. The first course considers film theory before the mid-1960s, concentrating on Arnheim, Bazin, the Soviet thinkers, and others. The second course examines structuralism, semiotics, psychoanalytic theory, feminism, and other recent theories of film. These courses are appropriate for students working in literary and art theory and in women's studies.

In addition to the above, special topics courses (under Comm Arts 613) and 900-level graduate seminars are regularly offered in a variety of advanced and specialized areas. A faculty member in the department can assist graduate students in selecting among these.

Billy Budd Vermillion (2011)

"Art Cinema in Eastern Europe, 1956-1981"

 

 

Pearl Bea Eugenie Latteier (2010)

"The Hollywood Social Problem Film, 1946-1959"

 

 

 

David Jordan Resha (2010)

"The Cinema of Errol Morris"

 

 

Bradley James Schauer (2010)

"Science Fiction and the Exploitation Tradition in Hollywood, 1950-1986"

 

 

 

Charlie Michael (2009)

"French Blockbusters: Globalization, National Cinema and the Discourses of 'Cultural Diversity'"

University of Miami

 

Rebecca Ann Swender (2008)

"Sound Stages: Acting, Technology and the Transition to Sound in America, 1928–1931"

     

Vince Bohlinger (2008)

"Compromising Kino: The Development of Socialist Realist Film Style in the Soviet Union, 1928–1935"

Rhode Island College

 

Katherine Spring

"Say it with Songs: Popular Music in Hollywood Cinema During the Transition to Sound, 1927–1931"

Wilfrid Laurier University

     

Kevin Hagopian (2006)

"Hollywood Restoration: The American Film Industry and the Culture of American Affirmation, 1936–1945"

Penn State University

 

Jonathan Frome (2006)

"Why films Make us Cry But Videogames Don't: Emotions in Traditional and Interactive Media"

University of Central Florida

School of Film and Digital Media

     

Ethan Robert DeSeife (2005)

"Cheerful Nihilism: The Films of Frank Tashlin"

Hofstra University

 

Michael Zvi Newman (2005)

"Characterization in American Independent Cinema"

University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee

     

Jonathan Christopher Walley (2005)

"Paracinema: Challenging Medium-Specificity and Re-Defining Cinema in Avant-Garde Film"

Denison University

 

Hideaki Fujiki (2004)

"Localism in American Media, 1920–1934"

Nagoya University

     

James Leo Kreul (2004)

"Up From Underground: American Independent Film Distribution and Exhibition 1950–1970"

University of North Carolina-Wilmington

 

Patrick Keating (2004)

"The Rhetoric of Light: Discourse and Practice in Hollywood Cinematography, 1931–1940"

Trinity University

     

Christopher Sieving (2004)

"Soul Searching: African American Culture Before Blaxploitation, 1963–1970"

University of Georgia

 

Jinhee Choi (2004)

"Corporate Affluence, Cultural Exuberance: A Korean Film Renaissance and the 386 Generation Directors"

Carleton University

     

Timothy Palmer (2004)

"Tales of the Underworld: Jean-Pierre Melville and 1950s French Cinema"

University of North Carolina-Wilmington

 

Jane Greene (2003)

"The Road to Reno: Censorship, Screwball and Comedies of Remarriage, 1930–1942"

Sourthern Methodist University

     

James Udden (2003)

"Hou Hsaio-hsien and the Aesthetics of Historical Experience"

Gettysberg College

 

Paul Ramaeker (2002)

"A New Kind of Movie: Style and Form in Hollywood Cinema 1965–1988"

Sweet Briar College

     

Panayiota Mini (2002)

"Pudovkin's Cinema of the 1920s"

Institute of Mediterranean Studies (Greece)

 

Lisa Dombrowski (2002)

"'If You Die, I'll Kill You!' Samuel Fuller In and Out of the Studio System"

Wesleyan University

     

Christine Becker (2001)

"An Industrial History of Established Hollywood Film Actors on Fifties Prime Time Television"

University of Notre Dame

 

Jennifer Fay (2001)

"The Business of Cultural Diplomacy: American Film Policy in Occupied Germany, 1945–1949"

Michigan State University

     

Sara Ross (2000)

"The Hollywood Flapper, 1920–1930"

Southern Methodist University

 

Scott Higgins (2000)

"Harnessing the Rainbow: Technicolor Aesthetics in the 1930s"

Wesleyan University