Film and Media Studies program to hire tenure-track professor on way to becoming a department

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

The Film and Media Studies program is currently in the midst of the hiring process for a new full-time tenure-track position within the program. According to Program Director and English Professor Patricia White, the program “was designated in the most recent Swarthmore capital campaign as a curricular area in need of growth.”

White was hired in 1994 to develop the program, which was officially established in 1999. According to her, “last year we had nearly ten students who were minors and special majors… we generally have between four and six each year.” Many of the special majors, especially in the Honors Program, are currently in graduate school in the field or working in different media industry jobs.

According to German Professor Sunka Simon, who is affiliated with the Film and Media Studies Program, “we advertised for someone with research and teaching interest in Film History, New Media, or Transnational Cinema.” Three of the candidates currently on the short-list have strong credentials in New Media. Why the particular interest in this field? Simon wrote in an e-mail, “this is an area of expertise that is rapidly advancing both industrially and theoretically and is changing the very make-up of film, cinema, TV as we have known it, hence the talk about ‘convergence culture.'”

Hiring one of these candidates would also strengthen the “media” side of Swarthmore’s program, which is currently very film-centric. White explained that “we have a lot of participation from Modern Languages… we have good work on cinema from different national and linguistic areas and while we really feel that we would like to fill out the contours of a traditional film studies program, with courses on genres, periods, and directors, we’re also really clear that at this juncture it doesn’t make sense to talk about film studies alone.” The other two candidates have backgrounds in Transnational Cinema and Media History and Aesthetics, also both specializations that will broaden Swarthmore’s current program.

Where will the new position be placed? “We’ve been asking for a position in Film and Media Studies for a while,” said White, “and that request reflects our recognition of it as a discipline, albeit one that draws on interdisciplinary focuses.” That said, at Swarthmore “there’s not really a precedent for appointing people in a program that’s an interdisciplinary site.” Every member of the Film and Media Studies program is currently lodged in a department–English, several of the modern languages, Sociology and Anthropology, and History. White said, “we’ve had interesting discussions about where to put the line and when the search reaches its conclusion that will be decided.”

Current Film and Media Studies majors are excited about the new hire. Jaeyoon Kim ’07 wrote in an e-mail, “They are essentially doubling their program. More courses will be offered and the program would definitely get more attention from the student body.” Willa Kramer ’07 explained that “The candidates we have had so far lectured about everything from Star Wars to Bollywood to Lost and the Matrix–they offer ways of analyzing the media everyone interacts with everyday. My hope as a graduating senior is that incoming freshmen will already be thinking of Film and Media as a possible major.”

Kim was especially excited about the possibility of broadening the “media” part of his major. “The most exciting part of being a film and media studies major is that we study anything that’s mediated and everything essentially is mediated. This new person would bring interesting discussions of… media in any form to campus. Justin Hall [’98, widely acknowledged as “the father of blogging”] would regret that he didn’t go to Swarthmore at this point of its history.”

According to Simon, “We’re hoping to work together with the new hire and the committee to update the Film and Media Studies curriculum with the eventual founding of a major and department. With two full-time faculty plus 2 out of 5 courses from myself, in addition to all of our affiliated faculty, we should be at the beginning of a great new era in Film and Media Studies.”

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