Fun in Film Studies

Filed in Memories

Imagine spending Wednesday afternoons in the main lecture theatre, watching American film classics as part of the course work, and jotting down notes in the dark to refer to later.

The first time I did that, I found I’d written all over the page and could hardly make out what I’d written. After looking at various lighting possibilities, I eventually settled for a mini flip torch that switched on when the lid was, er, flipped up. This meant I didn’t have to keep the light on throughout a film screening (which would’ve disturbed my coursemates’ concentration) but only when I needed to jot down some notes. So, instead of a constant mini light source where I was seated (I seriously didn’t need that kind of attention), there was an intermittent on/off light whenever I attended a film screening. *grin* Looking back, I really enjoyed this – both the film watching and the note taking.

That was basically what the Film Studies Department was all about – watching movies, learning what made up a good movie, why Hollywood was so hugely successful, and the difference between “cinema”, “film” and “movie”.

Hollywood.

Yes, right in the heart of an English university, we were studying Hollywood film history. Not British film history, not American film history, but specifically Hollywood. The reason behind this may be gleaned from the name of the School that the Film Studies Department was a part of.

School of English & American Studies.

Not 100% English Studies, but what may be seen as half-and-half English and American Studies.

In fact, the School had a very strong American Studies Department with English scholars specialising in American history and American literature. Every year, the Department would also welcome exchange students from the States while sending English students over for a year in an American college or university.

(I’d actually wanted to do my second year in the States, it would be a dream come true for me to study both in England and the States, but was dissuaded from it on the grounds that I was paying for my own studies while English students had their education paid for by their own Local Education Authorities. Thus, spending a year in the States would add another year and extra costs. It was a very persuasive argument so I dropped this plan, and instead started thinking of how I could actually go to study in the States. But that’s material for another post and meanwhile, I am digressing here.)

(to be cont’d … )

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 … )

It was right under my nose

Filed in General

Or rather, it was right there in front of my face.

As I continue to tweak the layout of my Chatter site, one of the things I wanted was to have only the most recent day’s posts appear on the front page. Having just learned CSS and PHP, I was expecting the answer to be in either of those file types.

I posted a question at the WordPress forums and received one reply, which pointed to a PHP file related to reading. Prior to that, while reading the WP forums, I’d come across suggestions to look at Options: Reading. I remember asking myself where is Options: Reading? I was going to post a question to ask, and good thing I didn’t. The answer finally came to me early this morning when I was in the shower.

Options: Reading is not a PHP file but an easy-to-use feature on my WP login page, the place where I do all admin and tech stuff for my Chatter site.

True enough, when I went to check the page later, I found it. And changed the “Show the most recent” option in the Front Page section to 1 day. Which is what the front page of my Chatter site now shows.

I’m feeling really *duh* at the moment. But it’s all part of the learning process.

Next task – put in Previous | Main | Next links at the bottom of each page.