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July 2003, Week 3


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Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 16 Jul 2003 11:02:31 -0400
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fred asks a crucial question:

>In the formation of a film department's curriculum, where does one draw a
>line between what the Professor's (who are better informed) think is
important Vs
>what the students (who after all are the financial basis of the
>want to learn?
>I hope that's clear. I have no answer myself, and as a Ph.D. candidate
>allegiances are to both sides, so I'm just curious to see what

and there is no simple answer . . . i think perhaps the sticking
point comes in fred's assumption that the professors "are better
informed" . . . no doubt they ARE [at least in most cases] significantly
more informed [and more thoughtful and more experienced and
one hopes even wiser] than either their students or than the
administrators [to say nothing of the trustees] who ultimately
control the curriculum . . .

but what they are -- quite by design -- more informed about are
the specific questions and issues that constitute their field of
endeavor and inquiry . . . to that extent they may be less well
informed about the contexts within which those endeavors fit
--and here figuring out who has the clearest vision becomes
especially tricky . . . and the problem becomes particularly
acute when the issue is one of the craft of filmmaking . . . while,
to take a stupidly obvious example, i certainly value the work
of constance penley more than i value the work of robert luketic
[director of LEGALLY BLONDE} i'm not sure i'd want her rather than
him teaching film production in my department

it's one of the many ironies besetting this conversation that it
surely ought to be among the primary goals of a socially
conscientious and progressive film theory precisely to be
aware of the "real" [as opposed to purely theoretical] value
of its own enterprise . . . at the same time we can hardly expect
a scholar working on, say, the syntax of the films by john ford to
always be looking out for how this scholarship might be useful
. . . that's not what scholars do

that's why having this conversation is itself so important -- and
i hope it continues . . . at the same time i have to repeat my
earlier caveat that if we [the community of film scholars] simply
takes it for granted that what we do is self-justifying and of such
obvious value and significance that any thoughtful person could
see it, then we are fools or charlatans, or maybe both


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