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A Student Perspective on Joint Honours: English and Film Studies

 
Film Studies students attending a screening in the Byre Studio

A screening in the Byre Studio

In 2012, when I applied to St Andrews, there was not the option of taking a single honours degree in Film Studies. I was perfectly happy about this, as it had always been my intention to pursue a joint degree in both English and Film Studies. Cinema and literature were my passions in equal measure, and at that time not studying both would have felt like splitting up the Coen brothers.

At the end of my second year, those of us progressing into honours with Film Studies attended a meeting in which the lecturers outlined the range of module choices available. They also unveiled a surprise revelation: students could now pursue a single honours degree in Film Studies.

For me, it wasn’t a difficult choice to make. I knew I wanted to continue with both English and Film Studies. Both departments were offering a proverbial sweetshop of amazing-sounding honours modules, and I wanted to sample from both lists. What’s more I felt that the combination of subjects worked very well together and, at the risk of paraphrasing an EU referendum campaign poster, the subjects had more in common than I had perhaps initially realised. Film and literature are both art forms that communicate through narrative, that can educate as well as entertain, and that serve political and ideological agendas. In short, I would argue that more than any other art forms, they hold a looking-glass up to the world we live in and help us understand, challenge and question all around us.

Film (and media in general) is, I strongly believe, a marvellous subject to study in combination with other subjects, especially in St Andrews, as the course embraces a range of approaches and subjects, whether looking to history, philosophy, global studies, politics, anthropology or art history. For my part, my work in Film Studies has both enhanced and challenged my studies in English. For example, in semester one of my third year, I chose a film module entitled ‘Film and Sexual Identities’ and combined it with an English module called ‘Literary Theory’. Both modules encouraged me to apply various theories to my analysis of film and literature, and at one point the theorists I was studying directly overlapped. It was at this point I fully comprehended the interdisciplinary nature of my work, bringing in readings and concepts from both subjects to enrich my essays and ideas. More recently, I took an English module that revolved around Victorian literature, an era I naively thought largely removed from my work in film. I was pleasantly surprised then, when the issue of visual culture came up – the technology produced in this period being the very bones of the moving image. To put it succinctly, studying two very different but, at the core, similar subjects, gave me a new appreciation for each of them, and strengthened my abilities to approach research from an interdisciplinary perspective.

My personal story at the University does not end with graduation. In a twist worthy of early noughties M. Night Shyamalan (by which I mean slightly underwhelming), I decided during my final year that I wanted to continue with Film Studies. It became increasingly apparent that I was enjoying, and thriving in, Film Studies and while I still adore reading and literature as much as I did before, I know that film is my true calling. I do not for a second regret pursuing a joint honours degree. By doing this, my learning has involved a spectrum of methodologies, approaches and topics, and I have had the opportunity to develop my critical thinking and analysis across different media and works. Taking both subjects has also helped me realise just how much I love studying film, which is why I will be continuing my film studies journey on the MLitt programme next year. My experiences are my own though, and I don’t aim to coerce anyone into making the same decisions as I did. The only universal piece of advice I can give is to trust your own instincts in this matter, because it was doing this that led me to have such a fulfilling undergraduate experience.

 

Eva Wewiorski (June 2016)