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Syracuse University, College of Arts and Sciences

English Department adds film, creative writing tracks

New tracks reflect growing student interest in film studies and creative writing

Sept. 20, 2011, by Cyndi Moritz

Roger Hallas
Roger Hallas
Starting this semester, the Department of English in The College of Arts and Sciences is adding two new tracks that students can pursue within the English and textual studies (ETS) major: film and screen studies and creative writing. The tracks are intended to respond to the growing number of students drawn to the ETS major primarily because of their interest in either film and screen studies or creative writing.

The department’s commitment to these areas of study has been strengthened in recent years through new hires and new course offerings. The proposed tracks are intended to serve as roadmaps to guide interested students in a coherent way through these particular areas of focus within the existing curriculum. The department expects the tracks to help with recruiting new ETS majors from among students interested in these fields, and expects them to serve the interests of these students as they go on to apply for graduate programs in film studies or creative writing, or as they enter the professional world in these fields.

Students will still be able to major in English and textual studies without limiting themselves to one of the two new tracks.

The film and screen studies track is designed for ETS majors with a particular interest in the critical study of film, video, television, gaming and other forms of screen-based media. In an increasingly mediated world, the ability to analyze screen-based texts critically has become a valuable skill for many professions and fields of study. The department’s courses in film and screen studies examine the historical, social and political contexts of these media forms and texts, as well as a range of critical and theoretical approaches to their study.

“With the increasing demand from undergraduates for courses in film studies and new media, along with our department’s recent hiring of Assistant Professor Chris Hanson, an expert in new media studies, we felt the time was right to introduce a new track within the English and textual studies major for students who want to focus their coursework around the critical study of screen-based media,” says Roger Hallas, associate professor and director of undergraduate studies in the English Department. “With film studies long established as one of the English Department’s research strengths, we offer an exciting and diverse range of lower- and upper-division courses in film and screen studies for ETS majors and minors, as well as students from many other programs.”

ETS offers three lower-division courses designed to develop foundational skills in film and screen studies: ETS 154 “Interpretation of Film;” ETS 145 “Reading Popular Culture;” and ETS 146 “Reading Screen Culture.” At the upper-division level, courses range from the study of specific genres and traditions, such as classical Hollywood, documentary film and digital games, to the exploration of important concepts in screen culture, such as nation, globalization, gender, sexuality, time and witnessing.

The creative writing track is designed for students who have an intense interest in developing their skills as writers and readers of fiction and/or poetry. The department’s assumption is that students who want to write will need to read widely and critically and will be well served by a study of contemporary writing practices and the influences, precedents and roots of literature. Students will be expected to read contemporary and historical works from a range of aesthetic traditions that will provide a context to their development as artists. They will begin to think as writers do, understanding the aesthetic and moral choices writers confront as they write. In addition, students will have ample opportunity for frequent and extensive writing and rewriting as they read, critique and support each other’s work under the guidance of the faculty of the M.F.A. in creative writing, a nationally ranked program.

“The new creative writing track within the existing English and textual studies major will allow students to focus on creative writing coursework while earning the ETS degree–a best-of-both-worlds scenario for those who would like to pursue writing poetry and fiction but perhaps not exclusively,” says Christopher Kennedy, director of creative writing in the English department. “The flexibility of the new track is one of its great strengths, and there will now be more creative writing classes available to accommodate those who have an interest.”

ETS offers two lower division “gateway”courses that will develop the foundational grammar for the study of fiction and poetry: ETS151 “Interpretation of Poetry,” and ETS 153 “Interpretation of Fiction.” At the upper-division level, the department offers the “hybrid” critical-creative courses ETS 301 “Reading and Writing Prose;” ETS 303 “Reading and Writing Fiction;” or ETS 304 “Reading and Writing Poetry.” These classes focus intensely on craft and the imitative aspects of writing, requiring both an analytical paper and creative imitation of prose, fiction, or poetry. The department also offers introductory and advanced workshops in poetry and fiction (ETS 215, 217, 401 and 403). These courses offer extensive practice in writing within these genres in a workshop setting.