Posts filed under Memories

Film Studies Department

Filed in Memories

I’d stumbled into the School of English & American Studies’ Film Studies Department by accident.

Towards the end of the second Prelim term, we were told to select a Minor subject to go with our Major. I didn’t really fancy either History or Philosophy, and said no thanks, I’ll just focus on my Major. But no, I was told, I had to declare a Minor.

Besides History and Philosophy, there was a third possibility to do a Minor in. Film Studies. UEA’s School of English & American Studies actually had a Film Studies Department. I had no idea what it entailed and went to check up on the department’s course offerings, and learned that these included studying film history and other stuff related to the cinema.

I can do this, I found myself thinking. After all, I’d spent Saturday nights in the cinema during my childhood – not with friends, but with my family, my parents having taken us to see movies as a refuge from the communal home shared with my father’s brothers and families – so that should qualify me to declare Film Studies as my Minor.

But I wasn’t automatically accepted into the Film Studies Department. Since I was a latecomer to it, not having indicated Film Studies on my application form, I was asked to submit a film review of any movie. That evening after receiving the assignment, I went down to Lecture Theatre 1 (turned campus cinema on Wednesday evenings and during weekends) and watched The Jewel of the Nile to write the film review on. Shortly after submitting the assignment, I was told I’d been accepted to do a Minor in Film Studies.

I had no idea what I was getting myself into, but it was going to be one of the best and most enjoyable times of my three years at UEA.

(to be cont’d … )

Creative Writing School

Filed in Memories

It turned out the Creative Writing School has, over the years, nurtured some of the best-known published writers that include Ian McEwan and Kazuo Ishiguro. What do you expect of a school that was led by the late Malcolm Bradbury, and later by poet laureate Andrew Motion?

I have a favourite story about the Creative Writing School. It’s the one about the book prize, the teacher and his student.

In 1986, both Malcolm Bradbury and Kazuo Ishiguro had been shortlisted for the Whitbread Book of the Year Award. Ishiguro had been Bradbury’s student at UEA’s Creative Writing School. In the end, student pipped teacher to win the award. The novel? An Artist of the Floating World. Ishiguro went on to write The Remains of the Day which was made into a movie starring Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson.

I never bumped into Ishiguro on campus during my three years there but I did see the late Angela Carter giving an open-air tutorial to a small group of students one summer. They were all seated on the grass under a tree on campus.

I also almost rubbed shoulders with Doris Lessing the evening she came to give a talk. It was full house in Lecture Theatre 1 where she was booked to appear and a quick decision had been made to broadcast the talk via television in Lecture Theatre 2 but at the same price as seeing her “live” in LT1. Being the poor student I was then, I decided not to pay to see Lessing on television, but just hung around the LT area. Later, we were in the bookstore when she came in after her talk and I walked close enough to almost rub shoulders with her, and to tell friends about it later.

During my final term at UEA, Toni Morrison, 1993 Nobel Laureate in Literature, came on campus to give a reading of her then latest novel Beloved. Unlike the Doris Lessing lecture, it was free. Having read her book The Bluest Eye as part of one of the Women’s Writing courses, I wouldn’t have missed her reading for anything in the world. It remains one of the most memorable events from my time at UEA.

Note – There are lots of links in this post, which I realise may be the equivalent of name-dropping on my part. I don’t actually know any of the people mentioned here, so this isn’t really name-dropping …

(to be cont’d … )

My alma mater is no more … NOT!

Filed in Memories

As of 1 August 2004, my alma mater, the School of English & American Studies (EAS) at the University of East Anglia (UEA) in Norwich, England, is no more. No, it hasn’t closed down. It’s just (just! she says … *roll eyes*) been renamed Faculty of Humanities, with three separate Schools of study that were departments in the previous set-up – School of American Studies, School of Film and Television Studies, and School of Literature and Creative Writing.

Now that I think about it, UEA is probably one of the very few English universities that didn’t have a Humanities whatever (insert word of choice: School, Department, Faculty … ) in the 80s. Then again, it is also one of the newer English universities, having been set up only in 1963, which maybe gave it creative licence to have more new-fangled sounding names for its departments.

What made me decide on UEA? For one thing, it was one of two universities to make me an unconditional offer (the other was the University of Warwick). For another, EAS’s degree award system fitted in with my needs at that point in my life.

Why UEA and not Warwick? While both are not in London (so that I’d be safe from its various distractions), Norwich is only 2 hours away and close enough for a day trip when I needed to be distracted.

As for the degree award system, 50% was determined by course work throughout the three years and the other 50% from exams held only at the end of the third year. This was a god-send to me because I’d been out of school for seven years and not having to worry about exams at the end of each term or each year made a big difference. The first two terms were also preliminary terms that gave students the opportunity to try out the different departments’ offerings before deciding on their majors and minors. Prelims, in particular, gave me the time needed to ease back in to student life, adapting to attending classes instead of meetings.

It turned out I made the right decision in accepting UEA’s unconditional offer and spending three formative years in EAS. There were three particular aspects about EAS that made UEA stand out from the other English universities – its Creative Writing School, Film Studies Department and Women’s Writing section.

(to be cont’d … )