Literature minor introduces new film track

Track consists of three required subjects and three restricted electives

As of Fall 2019, MIT students interested in studying film can now follow the film track of the literature minor. Approved in Fall 2018 by the Committee on Curricula, the film track consists of three required subjects and three restricted electives.

Shankar Raman ’86, head of the literature department, wrote in an email to The Tech, “The idea behind [the film minor] was to serve better those students at MIT who had evinced a desire for a structured minor more explicitly focused on close analysis of films, and emphasizing the interconnections between film analysis and literary study.”

Students hoping to minor in film must take three required subjects in the literature curriculum, which span its introductory, intermediate, and seminar tiers.

Classes include 21L.011 (The Film Experience), 21L.433 (Film Styles and Genres), and 21L.706 (Studies in Film). 21L.706 “hones in on a particular topic in film study” and “functions as a capstone for [the] proposed minor track,” according to an email to The Tech from Eugenie Brinkema, minor advisor and literature professor.

Additionally, the film track includes three restricted electives. At least one of these classes must be a complementary subject from the literature curriculum “that does not focus primarily on film but that ties into the student’s interest with regards to film,” Brinkema wrote. At most two of the classes, still with film analysis as the primary focus, can be taken in a section outside of literature.

These non-literature classes can comprise, but are not limited to, film-related courses in comparative media studies, anthropology, global studies and language, and women’s and gender studies.

In a phone interview with The Tech, Brinkema said, “There are a lot of places for film at MIT. … We think that it’s only a good thing for students to have a variety of disciplinary perspectives even though the foundation of it is still the film classes that literature offers in form and style and history.” 

Brinkema said that the new film track of the literature minor is an instance of MIT’s widely-spanning media studies culture, which has grown through other departments, such as the School of Architecture and Planning’s Transmedia Storytelling Initiative and the MIT Open Documentary Lab.

Brinkema also said that MIT’s film track and its commitment to interdisciplinary education differs from other educational institutions’ film programs in that it is “a lot broader and more flexible.”

Brinkema credits student interest for the minor’s creation. She said, “It’s a very unusual thing, changing minors and adding new sections and new courses of study, … but I think the fact that MIT is particularly based on student enthusiasm is what keeps the humanities education relevant: the fact that it can adapt and organically change.”