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Western University Film Studies Five-Minute Film Festival

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Program Details

The MA program in Film Studies includes four primary required elements: the completion of 6 half-course graduate seminars, the programming and presentation of a research-related film festival, participation in the department’s MA symposia, and the writing and defense of an 80-100 page research thesis. While the first three academic terms of the program are focused on seminar coursework, the Winter term of year two is dedicated to the writing of the MA thesis. Film festival programming activity takes place during the first summer term, and the MA thesis submission and defense are scheduled for the summer term of year two. MA students are also encouraged to attend and participate in departmental and university talks and events.

Students must maintain a B average in course work to proceed to the thesis.

MA coursework

Students in the MA program must complete six half courses (two half-courses, each worth 0.5 credits, per term). During the Fall term of the first year, students take the required Theories of National Cinema course as well as another Special Topics half-course offered by the department. In the Winter term of year one, students take two required courses: Film Theories, Histories, and Criticism and the Research Methods course. In the second year of the program, students take their final two Special Topics half-courses during the Fall term. The Winter term is devoted to thesis writing and completion.

Core Course Descriptions

Theories of National Cinema (Film 9373A)
Throughout this course, students will become familiar with questions concerning ideas of nation, the national and the transnational, associated to film and the complex relationships between the medium, its history within different national contexts, the development of national and/or regional film industries, different modes of production (industrial, cultural, “third cinema”) and various schemes of financing. By thinking about theories of nation in terms of the debates around them, readings of the ‘national’ as an organic, homogeneous and unitary entity will be troubled. Equally, the idea of a national identity, and its representation, will be challenged and complemented by understandings of class, gender, race and sexuality. Films from different contexts of production will be analyzed as case studies and examined in the light of key essays written on those matters by leading scholars in the field. 

Film Theories, Histories, and Criticism (Film 9200B)
This course provides an overview of some of the major methods of analyzing film, focusing especially on some of the mid-to-late-twentieth century theoretical ideas that have shaped film studies as a discipline. We will examine the distinct but sometimes intersecting approaches of film theory, criticism and history, concentrating in particular on some of the key concepts of film theory: cinema as a system of meaning-production; theories of realism and ideology; theories of the cinematic apparatus and the construction of vision; semiotics, psychoanalytic, and feminist film theories; theories of spectatorship and cinematic address; the historical turn; theories of globalization and post-coloniality. Thus, the course shapes a meta-theoretical analysis of some of the key methods and ideas informing the history of film studies.  

Research Methods (Film 9100B)
This seminar provides a practical introduction to the research methods involved in the study of film, its political and historical contexts, its reception in various countries, and its theoretical interpretations. During the first six weeks of the course, the instructor will share research methods, research content, writing and editing experience with the students. The instructor will also reiterate major analytical and historical methodologies in film studies in the context of his/her own research. In the second part of the course, students will begin to develop their own research projects directly related to the thesis. Each student will be responsible for programming films and readings based on their thesis project and leading a seminar on these materials. Students will also be responsible for drafting a short segment of the thesis as a seminar paper that they will later develop into a thesis prospectus. The work on the latter will involve developing a bibliography and mapping out the thesis prospectus’ major ideas and research methods, that is, producing a  “cognitive map” of the entire thesis. 

The following courses have been taught as special topics courses in the programme so far:

Blaxploitation, Brecht in World Cinema,European Migrations, Magic Lantern, New Hollywood Cinema, Pregnancy Film, Silent Cinema and The Face, the mask and the Thing.

The MA Thesis Project

The thesis project is the crowning achievement of the MA degree in Film Studies. It represents the most extensive, demanding, and rewarding work done by students in the program, and it provides an excellent indicator of future success in academia. Working under the supervision of a faculty member, MA students complete the 80-100 page thesis in various stages (detailed below), and they must successfully defend the thesis in an oral examination before receiving their degree. The MA thesis builds upon the research, writing, and critical thinking skills developed by students in graduate seminars and allows them to present a thoroughly researched and clearly argued work of scholarship that makes an original contribution to the field of Film Studies.

MA Thesis Proposal

The thesis project begins to take shape during the Research Methods course in which students both gather and organize the primary and secondary research that will guide their writing over the following year. Students will also workshop thesis ideas and arguments throughout the Research Methods course in order to formulate a viable and innovative thesis proposal. The MA thesis proposal will then be presented to the Film Studies faculty in early April for feedback and final approval.

The MA thesis proposal is a roughly 1500 word overview of the MA project that explains its goals, methodology, and organization (including a tentative chapter breakdown). In addition to noting the film/media texts to be examined, the proposal should also clarify how the film engages with existing work in the area. In other words, what’s original about this approach and how do you see it contributing to the field? The thesis proposal must also include a relatively complete, properly cited bibliography of the research sources that you intend to use in the project.

For the April MA symposium, first year students will provide a 20 minute presentation (including film clips) to the faculty. After receiving feedback from the group, students will have one week to revise the thesis proposal for final submission. The MA committee will then either officially approve the thesis proposal or suggest further revisions.

Choosing a Supervisor

Supervisor selection takes place in tandem with the submission of the MA thesis proposal. Both your Research Methods instructor and the MA committee will typically assist you with this process. You may want to choose a faculty member with whom you have worked successfully in the past, but it often helps to choose a supervisor whose research interests complement your thesis project in some manner. The MA committee will also help you locate an appropriate supervisor if there are problems with availability or if your thesis would be best served by a supervisor external to the department.


Department of Film Studies - Western University
University College Building, Room 79
London, Ontario, Canada, N6A 3K7
Tel: 519.661.3307

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