Foundations of the Field: Required Texts and Films

Purpose: From the outset, Yale’s doctoral program has required all students to become conversant with a bibliography and filmography that samples the foundations of the field our program has grown out of.  These works have been selected not because they conform to the tastes of the faculty, but because they received serious attention as Cinema Studies consolidated itself after 1970.   They are still worthy of attention.  Once familiar with these basic works, students can confidently launch and pursue whatever reading, viewing, and writing projects their individual research agenda leads them to.  More important, these common texts and films may serve as currency in seminars, in conversations at screenings and lectures, and in advising sessions.  Whatever limitations such a list inevitably has, it helps unite students and faculty in a program that otherwise encourages diversity and innovation.

Description: Meant to do justice to the foundation of film and media studies, the bibliography consists of prominent essays that quickly became notable.  The few items on the list that were published after 1990 have been included because they are the first prominent discussions of a new area of concern.  The bibliography has a theoretical bent in that it addresses all scholars in film and media studies.  Landmarks in film history or criticism (i.e., classic studies of auteurs or of national cinemas) do not appear on the list.  The filmography combines consensus “masterpieces of cinema” with titles that represent important types of films frequently discussed in the literature of the discipline.  Any such list neglects underrepresented directors, nations, genres, and trends.  It thus becomes a site for welcome debate over values in filmmaking and in the academy.   This list of films terminates around 1976 when, according to a certain periodization, the continuity of “early” to “classic” to “modern” cinema gives way to a discontinuous proliferation thanks to the beginnings of video dissemination, the launch of numerous International film festivals, and the solidification of the cinema studies discipline in the Anglophone world.  Starting in the late 1970s, the first sizeable generation of scholars trained in Cinema Studies began to expand the types of films taken up in dissertations and courses, a tendency that would grow exponentially in the following decades of cultural studies, identity studies, as well as in available videotapes, then dvds.  Hence, the film list includes a mere appendix to indicate the importance that “new voices” have always played in a proliferating field.

Fulfillment (by October 1 of the third year of study): Each candidate will have taken the two required seminars (FILM 601 and FILM 603) where a great many items on the bibliography are studied along with some of the films.  Those films and texts that are not covered in these seminars must be engaged by each student alone, or in group sessions that every cohort is encouraged to set up.  An electronic notebook is submitted to the DGS by Labor Day of the third year. A page or less on each work should include basic bibliographic and filmographic information, and provide a paragraph indicating its presumed importance (the reason it might be included in such a list) followed by at least a paragraph of personal responses to the work.  Candidates are permitted and encouraged to personalize the filmography, by substituting up to five films of their choosing for any five films on the list they take to be less essential.  A page of notes would justify the inclusion of each of these five films they deem foundational.  

After perusing the notebook, the DGS will meet with each candidate to discuss his or her values and tastes, as well as attitudes toward the history of films and their academic study. A notice will be placed in the candidate’s file that this requirement has been met.