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Ohio University > Fine Arts > Film > Academics > Programs > MA in Film Studies

MA in Film Studies


Program Description:

The M.A. in Film Studies prepares students for further study at the doctoral level and/or careers in film criticism, art administration, or archive and preservation work. Completion of the M.A. in Film Studies requires fifty hours of coursework, a successful first-year review and either an approved and defended written thesis or passing of a comprehensive exam. The Film Division encourages M.A. candidates to become actively involved in their field by making public, scholarly presentations and contributing to professional publications.

MA Curriculum:

M.A. COURSE DISTRIBUTION REQUIREMENTS • A minimum of 26 credit hours in core courses and a minimum of 15 credit hours in elective courses must be taken. • The combined minimum credit hours for core courses, elective courses, and thesis hours are 50 hours. • The Director of the M.A. program must approve each student’s planned course registration each term. It is the responsibility of the student to schedule a semestral meeting with the Director of the M.A. program to finalize a plan for course registration. • Students are required to take a minimum of five Film Topics electives. • When taken in Spring Semester, Film Festival Practicum and Media Arts Management can be counted as one of the five required Special Topics electives. This assumes the student will be fully engaged in the Athens International Film and Video Festival pre-screening process. • A student who is teaching a stand-alone class is eligible to register for Teaching Practicum. This does not count as one of the five required Special Topics electives. • A maximum of three courses is allowed from outside the Film Division.


Film Studies I Film Theory I Film Theory II Film History I Film History II Film Thesis Seminar (two semesters) – thesis track students Film Thesis Seminar (one semester)/Individual Readings (one semester) – exam track students



Film Aesthetics Experimental Film Issues in Documentary Film Topics Seminars Film Festival Practicum Media Arts Management



Near the end of the Spring Semester, a Faculty Committee evaluates all first-year M.A candidates. The Committee assesses the candidate’s goals for future study as well as what they have accomplished in the program. The Committee’s evaluation functions as the most important feedback a student receives during their first year, giving the candidate an objective sense of their progress and determining their course work for the following year. In certain circumstances a candidate could be advised not to continue with the program.



• A schedule for submission of review materials to the Committee will be posted during the Spring Semester. Students will be required to submit: • A sample of revised scholarly written work. The written work should be a minimum of 5000 words long and formatted according to MLA standards. • A statement (approximately 500 words) describing the progress made in the first year of study, as well as indicating likely areas of research for the second year. • Candidates will meet with the Committee and give an oral presentation on the materials submitted. At that meeting, the Committee will present the candidate with an evaluation of their progress and plans.



The M.A. thesis is an original scholarly monograph of at least 50 pages in length. The thesis must be written under the direction of a member of the film studies faculty. In order to insure that the thesis is of current interest to the discipline of film studies, a Thesis Committee selected by the M.A. candidate as well as the Director of the M.A. Program must approve it. Thesis Committees must include the Thesis Advisor, a second faculty member from the School of Film, and a third faculty member from a discipline outside the School of Film.

The variable-credit Written Thesis course hours (usually a minimum of ten) are generally concentrated in the second year of the candidate’s program of study. The School of Film recommends that candidates planning to apply to doctoral programs after receiving their degrees should complete the thesis in Spring Semester of their second year or by the following summer.



• The candidate chooses a Thesis Advisor to chair the Thesis Committee. The Thesis Advisor must indicate in writing his or her willingness to serve in this capacity. In consultation with the Thesis Advisor, the candidate chooses a prospective Thesis Committee and contacts prospective members to confirm their willingness to serve.

• In consultation with the Thesis Advisor, the candidate develops a formal Thesis Prospectus, and submits it to the members of the Thesis Committee. The Thesis Committee has the option to approve, to reject, or to request modifications to the Thesis Prospectus. Once the Thesis Prospectus meets the Thesis Committee’s approval, each Committee member, as well as the Director of the Division sign a Thesis Prospectus approval form. The form is then placed on file with the School, accompanied by a copy of the Thesis Prospectus. The candidate must complete the proposed thesis in compliance with the Thesis Prospectus as approved by the Thesis Committee and Director.

• The Thesis Advisor determines when the thesis is ready to be presented to the remainder of the Thesis Committee for defense.

• The formal oral defense of the thesis before the Thesis Committee must be scheduled no later than the eighth week of the final semester of study. It is the candidate’s responsibility to provide each member of the Thesis Committee with a paper copy of the thesis at least a week in advance of the defense. At the defense, the candidate will be asked to provide an opening statement describing the thesis project, and will be required to respond to questions and comments from members of the Thesis Committee. The Thesis Committee will then meet to determine the outcome of the defense, and will immediately inform the candidate whether the thesis is approved as submitted, conditionally approved, or not approved.

• The candidate completes any requested revisions under supervision of the Thesis Advisor. Once these revisions are approved by the Thesis Committee, the final version of the thesis is submitted electronically to the Head of the Film Division and the Office of the College of Fine Arts (COFA Dean's office, Jennings House) in accordance with their graduation deadlines.

• The thesis must be properly formatted in accordance with current MLA Handbook. Candidates can access a .pdf document with the Graduate College guidelines for thesis format, as well as College deadlines in the submission process, at the Graduate College’s Thesis and Dissertation Services website:

• Students are required to submit their thesis electronically. Students are encouraged to take advantage of the Electronic Thesis and Dissertation (ETD) process. Theses submitted electronically are processed through the Graduate College and are made available to the public through OhioLink. For further information and training seminars, go to or contact the Graduate College’s Thesis and Dissertation Services office.



Students not planning to go on to a doctoral program immediately after completion of the MA may meet formal degree requirements with course work and a written examination on two areas, which the student selects from one list focusing on film theory and another list focusing on film history. The examination will be administered as a take-home. Students will have from Monday morning at 9am to Friday afternoon at 3pm to complete the examination and are permitted to consult research materials. Students taking the exam must compile a bibliography of ten books or twenty articles as well as a fifteen-movie filmography for each area before their final semester of classwork. In addition, in their final semester, they must register for five hours of Independent Study with their advisor during which they will prepare for the examination. Exams are offered in the last semester of the student’s coursework.

For the MA exam, students choose one area from each list:

Film Theory • Film Theory, origins to 1965 • Film Theory, 1965 to 1990 • Film Theory, 1990 to the present • Feminist Film Theory • Race and Ethnicity • Film Theory and Postcolonial Studies • Film, Technology, and New Media • Genre Theory • Marxist Film Theory • Narrative Theory • Psychoanalytic Film Theory • Queer Film Theory

Film History • U.S. Cinema, origins to 1960 • U.S. Cinema, 1960 to present • European Cinema, origins to 1960 • European Cinema, 1960 to present • Animation • Documentary Cinema • Asian Cinemas • Latin American Cinemas • African Cinema


Course descriptions

Film Studies I: An in-depth examination of the various formal dimensions of the film text for both Ma and MFA students, which also introduces selected key junctures and movements in film history and selected texts in classical film theory. The primary aim is to provide students with a descriptive vocabulary and analytical tools which can facilitate future work in film production, film criticism and/or film-historical research; a secondary aim is to develop a general awareness of the kinds of critical, historical and theoretical issues addressed in the film studies field. The primary text is Bordwell nad Thompson's Film Art.

Theory and Criticism I: Readings of key primary texts in classical and contemporary film theory, utilizing Braudy and Cohen’s Film Theory and Criticism anthology. Course combines both historical and conceptual organizational schemes, starting with earlier writings on the nature of the medium, its relationship to reality, its relationship to other media, and the nature of film language; going through auteurist approaches, genre criticism, semiotics, and narratology; and continuing, on to feminist theory, psychoanalytic criticism, issues of race/gender/sexuality, and apparatus theory.

Theory and Criticism II: In-depth readings of primary texts in a selected area of film theory. Topics vary; may be repeated for elective credit. Not offered every year.

Film History I: International film history (including documentary) from 1890s through the coming of sound (covering through chapter 9 of Thompson & Bordwell’s Film History, 2nd ed.)

Film History II: International film history (including documentary) from after the coming of sound until the late 1960s (Thompson & Bordwell ch. 10-21)

Film History III: International film history (including documentary) from the late 1960s to the present (Thompson & Bordwell ch. 22-28)