The Graduate Program in Film and Media Studies

Inaugurated in 2002, Yale’s doctoral Program in Film and Media Studies quickly achieved the international stature it enjoys today. Building on a core faculty that had long overseen an impressive undergraduate major, the graduate program attracted incoming faculty who were eager to help shape it. The quality of the students who have applied has been superior, and the large majority of those selected have chosen to study here. Fifty students have completed, or are in the midst of, their degrees. Our alumni hold positions at a range of institutions, including universities with major graduate programs, and several have already seen their revised dissertations published as books by important presses. 

Graduate students have been able to produce such significant research thanks not least to Yale’s unparalleled resources.  Specialized librarians and curators keep our students in mind as they collect and make available the massive amounts of material held by the Sterling Memorial Library, the Haas library in the History of Art, and especially the Beinecke rare book library that houses the archives of hundreds of filmmakers, writers, and artists.  Two of America’s great art museums, The Yale University Art Gallery and the British Art Center (with buildings designed by Louis Kahn), retain a continuing relation with our graduate students.  As for primary material in our field, our neighbor in the Whitney Humanities Center, the Film Study Center, holds well over 20,000 films on video, and is now a member of FIAF (the International Federation of Film Archives) thanks to the arrival of a fulltime archivist for its growing celluloid collection. A dedicated, expert projectionist oversees hundreds of screenings each year, mainly in two spaces (the auditorium of 250 in our building and a projection room holding 40 on York Street) that are equipped for 35mm, 16mm, and virtually all video formats. 4K and 2K projections are common.

Graduate students absorb and generate the energy and enthusiasm so important to dynamic film scholarship thanks to the bustling intellectual climate at the Whitney Humanities Center, where faculty and students meet continually—almost daily it seems—around screenings, lectures, conferences and workshops, some initiated by the graduate students themselves. 

By design the doctorate in Film and Media Studies at Yale is always undertaken in combination with one of ten other disciplines in the Humanities (African-American Studies, American Studies, Comparative Literature, East Asian Languages and Literatures, English, French, German, History of Art, Italian, Slavic Languages and Literatures).   It was thought, and has proven true, that upon completing their degrees, students who are prepared for positions in both Film and Media and in another discipline would hold a particular advantage, and not merely because of the wider range of openings available to them in the job market, but because the calculated interdisciplinarity of their research makes them stand out. Thoroughly grounded in Film and Media Studies, they become expert in certain of its issues by offering authoritative perspectives and methods that derive from systematic work with the outstanding faculty and graduate students in another Yale department or program. Our students are welcomed throughout the Humanities on campus as they enliven traditional disciplines with the images, sounds, and ideas they bring from Film and Media Studies.

The faculty and its curriculum represent a full range of topics that have been at the center of Film Studies from its outset: theory, criticism, and history, plus cultural approaches to American, European, Latin American and Japanese national cinemas.  Naturally, as the field and its discipline evolve, so too do we, though always keeping ourselves based in this tradition. Transnational and global approaches bring the national cinemas, and their specialists, into productive contact. Overarching concerns involving technological, aesthetic, social and cultural issues (especially race and gender), have developed to the point that in 2015 the Program added “Media” to its name and mission. FMS, as our Program is now called for short, officially embraces images and sounds from an array of sources and channels, especially as these coexist and intertwine with cinema, something that has occurred throughout its long history.  We study that history as well as the challenge and possibilities of “new media,” which we know to be on the minds of graduate students. This keeps Yale’s Program vigilant as it looks to the past for cues about ways to best approach the future. The faculty recognizes that graduate students must be in the lead of an evolving discipline, and so encourages them to take up the most current developments and debates. The goal of the Program’s pedagogy is to provide its current students with a steady anchor in what the discipline has been, so that they can confidently and creatively participate at the highest level in its discourse and institutions, leading it forward while passing continuing its legacy.