Sense, Sensation & Cinema

By Anne Moore, studying MA English Literary Studies/Film Studies Pathway – Part Time 2 years

Film Studies Overview

If you are looking to study film theory, then the University of Exeter provides access to a wide range of research materials, world-class expert tutors teaching from within specialized fields, use of a vast library and online resources, The Bill Douglas Cinema Museum, and many opportunities to take advantage of listening to visiting speakers in lectures and seminars. There are also special screenings and a regular film talk session, which is an informal discussion between staff and students about a particular film.

University of Exeter Pop-Up Cinema event for students on the MA in International Film Business (MAIFB) course in the Bill Douglas Centre, Streatham Campus.

This semester is well underway, and I must say it has been incredibly stimulating – some debate can even get quite lively at times! Every module is taught slightly differently, which also gives variety. Dr Joe Kember, the course convener for this module, likes to open the floor to general debate and encourages student participation as we thrash out the finer points of the week’s readings. Generally, there are about 4-5 texts to read along with two films to watch. The films are analysed in parallel to the text topics. It is great to see how each of us have unique interpretations according to our own experiences. In theory, of course, ideas are continually evolving, and I personally have gained some surprising insights into my own film-making practice which I hadn’t considered before embarking on a deeper research into film theory.

I get a lot of very incredulous ‘raised eyebrow’ looks when I explain to people that my course centres on analysing film. The general response is along the lines of, ‘oh, so do you get to sit around watching films all day?’ – Not quite! It’s a strangely incongruous practice; you have to watch the film as ‘naturally’ as possible in order to understand the affect of the film from a theory perspective, but at the same time you have to step outside of the enjoyment factor and look for minutiae, often stopping the film scene-by-scene in order to thoroughly comprehend the detailed information present. I admit I was closed minded at first about the genre or era of films that I wanted to watch, the ones I thought I enjoyed the most. But after one and a half semesters, I have found to my utter surprise that I have enjoyed films that you could not have paid me to watch before!

The reading is highly academic as you would expect; there is a lot to take in for the first few weeks, but this is essential in order to ‘get on top’ of current and historical theories in order to be prepare for the first assessment: The Literature Review. At 2500 words, this doesn’t seem to be a lot, but you do need to have read a wide range of theorists in order to compile a decent amount of research.

For me, this is my first ‘University’ experience, where the course is arranged over modules which act independently of one another but are weighted equally. I came from an Art College background, where the writing was supportive of practical assessments, hence the written work was around 50% of the overall award. I realised pretty quickly that I needed to read more…a lot more! I have learned to become more focused and keep to timetables in organizing my coursework. At Master’s level it is understood that you can be self-sufficient and organize your time well. Of course, there is plenty of help at the university by way of one-to-one tutorials, the Study Zone and wellbeing services, to name a few.

If you have got this far (stay with me!) I thought it might be useful to write a typical week breakdown, and the insights that I have gained in deepening my academic practice.

This week, (week 4), we have been analysing the kinesthetic affect of performance on audience spectatorship. The films to watch were: City Lights by Charlie Chaplin (1931), and A Man Escaped by Robert Bresson (1956). There were four texts to read, all dealing with the topic of kinesthesia from cognitive and phenomenological theory and philosophy. As audience/spectator in the cinema, we talk of ‘being moved’ by a film, but how so? And in what manner? Are we moved emotionally, as in ‘does the film make us laugh/cry’, etc.? Are we moved physically – do we jump in a startled response? Do we find our feet tapping to a dance number, or cover our eyes in horror, or, (like me watching The Aeronauts’), do we fall out of our seats? These seem like obvious and simple questions to answer, but as they say, the devil is in the detail, and there is great wealth to be uncovered in dissecting these responses using ourselves as subjects as well as reading the available texts.

Regarding the two films, I surprised myself by quite enjoying Chaplin in this role, and even found the film did in fact ‘move’ me, which I didn’t think possible, due to an unremitting antipathy for the actor. Likewise, I didn’t know what to expect from A Man Escaped. Although I enjoy the ascetic approach to filmmaking with its minimalism and strange emptiness, I found the film far more emotive on a tension level that, again, was surprising. These films are chosen by the tutors, and they are chosen I think because of this very likely presumption on behalf of most students – i.e. they won’t like them. It would be easy to put-up well-known blockbusters for perusal, but in using these more obscure films, then, we must cast aside all presumption and preference in order to reveal the meanings offered by the textual interpretations and apply theory accordingly.

I will post further insights of my own experiences of my course soon!

Disclaimer: I am a mature student on the course mentioned in the title, and all views and opinions on this blog are purely my own thoughts about my experience of it. All information given is correct to my knowledge regarding activities and services. Please feel free to contact me at any time for any corrections, advice or for anything else that I may be able to help with.

Musings of a mature student: Coping with the holidays and getting that essay done!

By Anne Moore, MA English Literary Studies with Film Studies Pathway

It’s a New Year, it’s a new day, it’s a new term, and I’m feelin’……meh. Has anyone NOT had the hacking cough virus?? It’s been a struggle, and that’s why I’m so glad I stuck to my early Festive rota of writing as much of my essay as I could before Xmas, leaving wiggle room for editing, refining and (just in case) illness!

So, there are several ways to approach writing an essay; in fact, the LSE have some great tips on their website.

My approach is to get as much done upfront as possible: as a mature student, I can’t pull all-nighters close to deadline, which seems to be a popular choice amongst some of the younger students, aided by heart-attack amounts of red bull and coffee! (Seriously, how do you do it?) …

Instead, I aim at around four hours a day steady writing, occasionally re-checking my research notes and making sure in-text citations have the correct page number. Then I just slog at it. I usually write my introduction at around 10-20% of the word count, then I write bullets points of what I hope to discover. This helps me stick to my point in the main body of the essay. It doesn’t matter about spelling and grammar at this stage – no point in correcting stuff which may well end up being deleted in the final draft! So, basically, I cobble it together then refine afterwards.  And referencing as I go. Also remember to do that turnitin check!

At least, in this way I have something to submit early on, in case of catastrophe, which happened to me in this case. I was bedridden four days up to deadline, so no, I didn’t write the stellar essay I hoped for, but I did have a finished essay to hand in, proof-read and formatted, checked and refined to a degree.

I have days that I’m sure you can all relate to…you know, where the sentence ‘the cat sat on the mat’ is the brain’s intellectual offering of the day and your head is full of clouds. You feel you cannot read ONE MORE thing and your eyes do that funny flicky from side-to-side thing. I either take a break and close my eyes for 10 mins, go and do something physical, or stop and set a later time in the day (that I have to stick to!) to carry on.

I used to ‘wait for inspiration’ in my undergrad days…that was great when I had 7 months to write 5000 words, (I kid you not), but I found it a shock to have to do the same in 3 weeks….so something had to change. I got far more disciplined, and when I wrote out my timetable for the Xmas break, it actually looked not only do-able, but easily so.

Other things I do to stay organised:

Cooking: I plan a week’s worth of food, make out a menu, and spend a day making meals so that I don’t have to waste time wondering each day what I’m going to eat and then have to do needless shopping trips. As it’s a 40 min round trip walking to the shops where I live, this saves me A LOT of time.

Work: Yes, I have to work to support myself, so I make sure that my reading/writing schedule is lighter on those evenings, and make sure I get early starts on the days I’m not at work. It’s so easy to procrastinate at home, and to get side-tracked. It’s not so bad for me as I have no dependents, but I still have to stay disciplined and not decide that hoovering the lounge is suddenly the most fascinating thing ever!

Delegate: I don’t like to ask anyone to do stuff for me, but since asking my sister (with whom I live) to take up the slack from some household/laundry/shopping chores, I find that I have more time. I have discovered that non-University family members can sometimes find it hard to believe that when you’re staring into space, you are actually working! I have also had to be firm about Do Not Disturb – it’s easy for someone to distract you and lose your train of thought. I shut my office door and have a sign on the handle. Family members can’t be expected to remember that you’re still working on the same thing two hours later!

Socialise: I make time to meet up with a friend, have a night out, and not spend the time worrying or feeling guilty, because I have scheduled it into my calendar. A good night out and having some fun does wonders for creativity!

Different approaches work for different people, but as I’m sure some of you have kids and families, and I’m betting that you were either sick or looking after someone who was during the break, which puts a tremendous strain on coursework, not to mention trying to be festive, not to mention all that cooking and cleaning!

So, the sun is shining on a winter wonderland today, I’m still coughing a bit, but I’m going to enjoy a well-earned rest, no coursework to write, so maybe some light reading up on this new semester work snuggling under a duvet!

I hope you enjoyed the holidays and are raring to go! Onwards and upwards to Easter!

Musings of a mature student – first blog

By Anne Moore, MA English Literary Studies with Film Studies Pathway

So this is my first post for the University of Exeter! It’s my hope to connect with some students, who, perhaps like me are older than the average student age group, or for other reasons find it a little daunting integrating into Uni life. Over forty (but not over the hill) – suddenly life seems very short, but the crazy idea to go back into study was the best idea I had heading towards fifty! Also, I think as you mellow into your mature years you realise your options are not something that you have masses of time to mull over, and you really value this chance.
My life is quite full, aside from study I have volunteer work in film, plus part-time work and I try to keep up with promoting myself as a freelance photographer and film maker (why are we never great at promoting ourselves I wonder? I guess that’s why there are agencies…hmm).

Graduation 2019 – a very proud moment

I don’t spend a lot of time on campus, as a part-timer, but I really love to be sociable when I’m there – I joined three societies in the first week, – The Mature Student Society, The Post-Graduate Society and Lightbox, and I attended the postgraduate welcome dinner, from which I have found a firm friend. As yet I haven’t made it to many socials, but I’m glad that I did on the ones I did go to. I like to go to the Ram for a Friday early evening beer and ‘decompress’ with my friend Ricky, before catching my train back to Totnes.
I love to mix with all age groups, and nationalities; age is not a barrier to me, although I think other people wonder when will I grow up??
I spent a lot of my life travelling, I lived in Spain and Argentina, never married or had children, so now is the ideal time for me to study without any ties – also it’s never too late! (I know, there is the cat, but that’s another story!)

The cheeky little monkey

I would love to hear from other students, mature or otherwise, who maybe live outside Exeter and for one reason or another don’t spend much time on campus. I think it’s essential to be able to offer support, to be a friendly face or even just to say ‘hi’ and have a five minute catch up. Seriously, days can go by without talking to anyone when studying from home – I do talk incessantly to my cat – she knows a lot of stuff about film now… !
I wrote a blog at my last Uni called ‘Musings of a Mature Student’ – maybe I’ll keep that title? So in short, my posts will be about my course (that’s why I’m here after all) – and how I juggle my studies with everyday life, but I will also share my experiences of my hobbies and interests which enrich my life, and by default also my studies. It’s going to be fun to write about the things I’m passionate about, and also to hear from like-minded souls or find new ideas!
So I hope my journey inspires other mature students out there, if i can do it, anyone can!
Topics To come:
> What – I get to watch Movies as part of my Master’s?

> Why I eat Primal – it’s Good for the Brain as well as the Body

> Tango Passion in the Heart of Devon

Languages in International Professional Training

By Dr Natália Pinazza, 
Lecturer in Portuguese Studies

In the first week of May, I visited the University of Texas, Austin (UT), a world-class partner of the University of Exeter, to observe closely how their recently implemented Portuguese Flagship Programme works.

One of the most striking aspects of the Programme is its interdisciplinary scope and its ability to disseminate the Portuguese language. The Programme, which is funded by the Department of Defense, aims to develop a pool of professionals in various fields and eliminate language deficiency in the federal government.

For this reason, the Flagship approach to language learning does not limit language proficiency to the Humanities or specific fields such as translation and teaching. Instead, the Programme highlights the relevance of languages to the national workforce as a whole, strengthening the connections between the Department of Spanish and Portuguese with other Departments at UT. For instance, during my visit Professor Orlando Kelm, the director of the Flagship Programme, gave workshops for students at the School of Engineering, who were willing to have an international work experience in Brazil. The workshop consisted in providing an overview of Brazil’s region and culture and a language taster, which was followed by questions and an informal discussion where students could introduce themselves. UT also identifies international students from Brazil, who are willing to talk to their students and offering, in this way, the possibility to talk about the language and culture with a peer.

During the flagship, students have two experiences abroad – an intensive Portuguese Summer Programme in Bahia and a Capstone Year in São João del Rei, Minas Gerais, followed by 6 month internship. Nonetheless, only students who successfully completes the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Interview (OPI) are eligible for the Capstone Year, during which students can also take discipline-based courses.

The flagship is, however, only one of the many initiatives of UT to offer language courses as part of an international training. UT has a number of other programmes, which draws students from other disciplines to the Department of Spanish and Portuguese, including for instance the Global Flag and Latin American Language FLAS (The Foreign Language and Area Studies), which is a Fellowship funded by the US Department of Education.

Therefore, there are two crucial forces behind the promotion of the Portuguese language at UT, and more generally, languages Higher Education in the US. Firstly, there is the political will – governmental funding and provisions stem from the Government’s understanding that language proficiency is key for a professional working in an increasingly international context. Secondly, there is an institutional organization that enables inter-disciplinary communication and collaboration.

In this way, the Department of Spanish and Portuguese in UT is in constant dialogue with other departments to enhance the international profile of their courses and students. In the case of the Portuguese provision, UT also capitalizes on interdisciplinarity by putting Brazil in constant dialogue with other Latin American countries, thereby encouraging students to learn about the country and its language.