The bigger picture

May 25, 2007

Your overview on the status of film studies ("Good or bad taste - it's in the can", May 11) was interesting, yet it failed to cover some important aspects of the bigger picture.

The current difficulties in film studies are not about potential splits between academics concerning visions of the discipline's future. They are much more about the failure of research bodies to acknowledge and respond to the changing disciplinary environment in the humanities.

Film studies is a thriving field: at least 70 per cent of UK universities now have programmes, and about 20 chairs have been set up in the past two years alone.

Yet the emancipation of the subject and its growth have barely registered in the structural framework and policies of organisations that develop or monitor research. The Arts and Humanities Research Council's subject areas listing, for example, includes general categories for dance studies, linguistics and music. But there is no category for film - the entire field is reduced to two subcategories.

Similarly, within the research assessment exercise subject classification there are sub-panels for music, drama, and art and design, but not one for film. Film studies specialists are scattered among the RAE's sub-panels on media, drama and art history while film studies departments are left wondering to which they should send their RAE submission.

It is this deficiency of disciplinary acknowledgment that creates the real difficulties. If The Times Higher has started covering film, it would be great to see it address the issues in more detail.

Dina Iordanova
St Andrews University

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