The study of film has a long and rich tradition at Michigan State University, and has produced a number of prestigious alumni: for example, we are proud to count visionary producer Bill Mechanic as one of our alumni, as well as screenwriter and USC Professor Jack Epps, Jr., and when Sam Raimi attended MSU, he worked closely with Professor William Vincent in the Department of English. Beginning in the 1980s, the Department of English began developing its faculty and curriculum in Film Studies. Between 1991 and 2009, the Department was the lead unit supporting the Specialization in Film Studies in the College of Arts and Letters, and between 2002 and 2014, the Department housed the Concentration in Film Studies as part of its Bachelors of Arts in English (originally an Option in Film Studies until 2008).
The English Department recently converted the Concentration into a Bachelors of Art in Film Studies, which began in Spring 2015. In addition, the Department has offered a Minor in Film Studies since 2008, and Minors in Fiction Filmmaking and Documentary Production since 2009 in partnership with Media and Information in the College of Communication Arts and Sciences. (These filmmaking Minors were originally Specializations.)
Throughout this history, the Department of English’s consistent vision has been to develop an innovative program in Film Studies that integrates the study of filmmaking with a firm grounding in history, theory, and criticism. This is a fundamentally humanistic vision that challenges false distinctions between making and thinking, practice and theory, technology and aesthetics, and thus is in keeping with Michigan State University’s world-grant mission.
The Film Studies Program has cultivated a core faculty of internationally recognized scholars and filmmakers in Film Studies. Film Studies faculty maintain a rigorous publishing record, and in addition, the program also has recognized strengths in film production, with faculty actively teaching screenwriting and production courses, while producing highly successful, award-winning works of their own that have screened at a variety of film festivals. Across our faculty’s research interests, publications, and productions, the Film Studies Program has clear and recognized strengths in independent, minor, avant-garde, and experimental cinemas. Our faculty also have strong commitments to studying film in its global and transnational configurations, with particular emphases on films made in the Global South, third and fourth world filmmaking, and diasporic and accented cinema. Methodologically, media archaeology is a defining strength of the program, in that our faculty’s research looks at the sedimented ways in which historical modes of knowledge and ideology interweave through modern and modernist forms of media production, from nineteenth-century practices through silent and classical cinema and into our globalized digital culture.