The Penn Cinema Studies major and minor are traditional humanities programs involving the critical study of film and media history, theory and aesthetics. Reflecting the hybrid nature of the field of Cinema Studies, our faculty members are housed in departments across SAS and the university, and we cross-list courses with various departments and schools, including Africana Studies, Anthropology, Communications, East Asian Language and Civilizations, English, Fine Arts, German, History, History of Art, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Romance Languages, Slavic Languages and Literatures, and Women’s Studies. This truly interdisciplinary program will introduce students to the wide range of methodologies used to study film and media, and this intersection with other disciplines makes Cinema Studies an ideal component of a double major.
Our curriculum is built upon three foundational courses that aim to introduce students to some of the most significant film movements, technological developments, genres, and methodologies: World Film History to 1945, World Film History 1945 to the Present, and Introduction to Film Theory. Students will be required to complete 10 other courses for the major (or 4 for the minor), of which 3 (or 2 for the minor) may be production courses. To encourage the international perspective that we believe is essential for any good film and media scholar, 3 of the remaining 10 courses for the major (or 1 of the remaining 4 courses for the minor) must focus on cinemas outside of the U.S. context.
Our majors and minors graduate with the ability to think critically and express complex ideas well, both orally and in writing; contextualize historically contemporary media practices; and make informed judgments on the aesthetic value of a particular work. Although majors and minors will have the opportunity to do some screenwriting and production work, they will primarily engage in the critical study of national cinemas, international film movements, major and minor filmmakers in various traditions, the economic, legal and political forces governing film industry practice, film and media theory, and the relationship between film and the other arts. Cinema Studies students will gain a broad and detailed familiarity with film and media in the context of larger cultural histories. They will develop skills for analyzing the audio-visual and narrative components of a film, for thinking about a film’s ideological force or marketing strategy, and for researching and writing critically about film. Cinema Studies students also learn how the history of production, social history and film theory are interrelated.
Our video production courses, offered through Fine Arts, focus on the acquisition of basic media language skills and insist upon evidence of a growing facility of comprehension and application. These courses also expose students to the range of possibilities of a medium’s application, from nonfiction documentary to performance art. In our screenwriting courses, students learn how to analyze and work within the structure of mainstream narrative films, write their own screenplays, and workshop them in collaboration with other writers.
Seniors have the option to complete an honors thesis if they have a minimum GPA of 3.5 in the major.
As a program, we are strongly committed to undergraduate education, and students can be assured that Cinema Studies will provide many opportunities to work closely with a number of faculty members. Penn Cinema Studies graduates go on to do many different things, e.g. they work in the film and media industry (advertising, agents, and production); pursue PhDs in Cinema and Media studies; write professionally (screenplays and journalism); and pursue careers in management, law and finance.