Program in Media Studies
Overview Media Studies is an interdisciplinary
program focused on the forms and effects of media (radio, film,
television, photography, print, digital, and electronic media),
including the study of aesthetics and form, individual perception,
and the history of media (primarily mass-circulation prints, journals,
and newspapers, recorded media, communications and broadcast media,
and electronic modes). Also of concern is the ethics and effects
of media in the arena of policy studies, the social impact of media
on public opinion, and the relations between media and the law with
regard to free speech issues, as well as the commerce and regulation
of media in the public sphere. The program is critically engaged
with creative analysis, production, and research into traditional
and emerging forms of media. It emphasizes digital media through
approaches to its history, theory, and technology, and their impact
upon contemporary life.
Media studies considers the transformation of the public sphere
and individual imagination through the effects of media upon social
practices. It also takes, as a prime topic, the concept of mediation,
or the production of social relations, cultural values, and political
forces. In doing so, the program provides intellectual tools for
understanding the rhetoric and influence of media in their construction
of illusion and reality. It draws on methodologies across the humanistic
disciplines of sociology, history, critical theory, philosophy,
art history and visual studies, the creative arts (video, photography,
music, print, film, and digital media), anthropology, technology,
political science, computer science, commerce, and law.
Internships and courses in media production provide opportunities
for first hand experience in journalism, video, digital arts, business,
and other areas. Media studies is a single, synthetic major constituted
by the substantive examination of media in their aesthetic, historical,
and cultural dimensions. The program is not a vocational, pre-professional
training course in journalism, broadcast, or communications. Rather,
the major has a strong commitment to emphasizing the fundamental
values and skills of critical thinking, research, writing, and intellectual
inquiry essential to a liberal arts education.
Faculty There is currently one faculty member
(the director) with a joint appointment in Media Studies and English
(Drucker); in addition there are numerous faculty from other disciplines
(Korte, Horne, Voris, Balogh, Freedman, Sapir, Wicke, McGann, VanderMeulen,
Belanger, Carlson, Jost, Seneviratne, Drame, Herskowitz, Pfaffenberger,
Kinney, Unsworth) whose courses are cross-listed with media studies;
these represent a range of scholarly and teaching interests that
explore the forms and effects of media from various disciplinary
and interdisciplinary perspectives.
Students from across the University are encouraged to explore the
offerings in Media Studies as part of their undergraduate experience.
Those wishing to focus on production or creative arts, law, commerce,
policy, research at an advanced level, or in development and research
applications of digital technology, should use media studies as
the first step toward a master's or doctorate degree in their fields.
Graduates can expect to find work in publishing, radio, television,
digital media, and the business environments of traditional and
Special Resources The University of Virginia
has a number of special resources that enrich the Media Studies
Program. The newly constructed Robertson Media Center in Clemons
Library is equipped with viewing stations, study rooms for group
viewing and discussion, and classrooms with film, video, and computer
equipment. The Digital Media lab in Clemons Library provides drop-in
work stations for image capture and editing, and video cameras are
available for student use upon certification. A widely distributed
system of labs, workstations, and digital classrooms are also available
for student use. The electronic centers of the University Library
(the E-text center, Special Collections, and the Geospatial and
Statistical Data Center) offer considerable resources in digital
formats. Moreover, the University has been a leader in digital technology
and the humanities at the Institute for Advanced Technology in the
Humanities and the Virginia Center for Digital History. Both engage
students in their activities on a project by project basis. The
Bayly Museum of Art, the Virginia Foundation for Humanities, the
Women's Center, the various on-Grounds publications, and other institutions
affiliated with the University or part of the Charlottesville community
offer possibilities for internships and work experience in media
Requirements for the Major
Prerequisites Before being accepted into the major, students
must take MDST 110 and 201 (exceptions are made only at the discretion
of the Media Studies director). In addition, during the first or
second year of study, students should take introductory courses
in the fields relevant to their broader interests in media (e.g.,
government, sociology, history of film, anthropology). Students
are accepted into the major only upon review of their applications.
This is a competitive process that takes into account the applicant's
GPA and application essay, as well as other factors.
Application Information Applications should be
completed in the spring semester (normally that which coincides
with the student's fourth semester). Deadlines will be posted in
the Media Studies program office and on the Website (www.virginia.edu/mediastudies);
the deadline will be on or about March 31. In exceptional cases,
students who have not taken MDST 110 and 201 may apply for the major
by petition to the program director. If admitted, they are required
to take MDST 110 and 201. With the director's approval, third-year
students who have not yet taken MDST110 and 201 may transfer into
the major on a space available basis. However, the requirements
for completion of the major may preclude this approval except in
very special cases. Students are expected to have a GPA of 3.4 at
the time of application.
The application consists of a description of courses taken, with
grades; a one-paragraph statement of purpose delineating career
plans and goals; and a plan of study briefly describing the student's
objectives for the major. This should not be a list of courses to
be taken, but an outline of intellectual goals to be achieved through
course work in the field of media studies. A statement such as "I
like to watch films" is insufficient; however the following formulations,
accompanied by a description of the means to achieve these goals,
would be sufficient: "I'm interested in the evolution of the studio
system," or "I want to trace the relationship between notions of
intellectual property and Internet law."
Requirements include a total of 9 courses (approximately
27 credits) comprised of three upper-level core courses (MDST 301,
350, and 401). In addition, five courses must be taken to fulfill
breadth requirements. Of these five, at least three must be from
the group of primary electives and at least three taken at the 300
level or above (exceptions may be made with the advisor's approval).
The balance of courses may be fulfilled with either primary or adjunct
electives. A list of these electives (which change each semester)
is available through the Media Studies Program office and is meant
as a guide only. Finally, students must either take one course in
the practice of media (from offerings suggested below) or a 3-credit
internship, which may be completed in the summer by arrangement
with the program director. Only in rare instances, and at the discretion
of the Director of Media Studies, will more than one course in the
practice of media count toward the major.
Core courses include MDST110 (Information Technology and Digital
Media); MDST 201 (Introduction to Media Studies); MDST 301 (Theory
and Criticism of Media); MDST 350 (History of Media); and MDST 401
Media Studies students are strongly urged to choose electives according
to an individual plan of study. Students should consider the broad
range of topics relevant to a full understanding of media studies:
media aesthetics (rhetoric and the shape of argument in media, formal
analysis, media criticism, and theory of a specific medium); the
history of media (film, photography, television, digital and print
media); the individual experience of media (psychology and sociology);
the social experience and effects of media (political science and
government, law, or public policy, anthropology, and sociology);
and the economics and business of media.
Students may also choose to create a more specialized focus (e.g.,
the history and theory of film, the study of media as a force in
public opinion and policy, or any other focused topic). Specific
courses cross-listed with media studies may not always be available
on a regular basis. The plan of study should be founded on intellectual
goals and be flexible with respect to fulfilling them through course
requirements. In all cases, students must develop their program
of study in consultation with a faculty advisor. Media Studies'
majors should not plan to be absent for study abroad unless such
study is relevant to the major and has been approved in advance
by an advisor.
There is no minor in Media Studies.
MDST 110 - (4) (S)
Information Technology and Digital Media
The history, theory, practice, and understanding of digital media.
Provides a foundation for interrogating the relation of digital
media to contemporary culture and understanding the function, design,
and use of computers. Introduces students to the fundamentals of
quantitative analysis and qualitative use of computing in the humanities,
information search, retrieval, and design.
MDST 201 - (3) (S)
Introduction to Media Studies
Introduces students to the topics, themes, and areas of study that
are central to an understanding of media in contemporary society.
Focuses on the forms, institutions, functions, and impact of media
on local, national, and global communities.
MDST 301 - (3) (Y)
Theory and Criticism of Media
Prerequisite: MDST 201 and MDST 110.
This course introduces students at the beginning of the major to
theoretical and critical literature in the field. Topics range from
the psychological and sociological experience of media, interpretation
and analysis of media forms and aesthetics, theories of audience
and reception, anthropological approaches to media as a cultural
force, and contemporary theories of media from humanities and social
sciences perspectives. The goal of the course is to provide a foundation
for thinking critically about media and to give them a sense of
media studies as a critical and theoretical field.
MDST 350 - (3) (Y)
History of Media
Prerequisite: MDST 201 and MDST 110 or permission of instructor.
This is a survey, lecture-format, course on the history of media
forms, institutions, and technology from the origins of writing,
invention of print technology, through the development of digital
media. Attention to the specific characteristics of individual media,
the changing role of media as a force in culture, and the continually
transforming institutions and business of media will all be touched
on. The role of media forms in the creation of pubic discourse and
the social controls on media through censorship, legal constraints,
and economic policies will also be examined, largely from within
the context of the United States. Students will create a case study
of a media work or artifact from a historical perspective.
MDST 401 - (3) (Y)
Fourth-year seminar in Media Studies
Prerequisite: MDST 301, MDST 201 and MDST 110.
This course serves as a capstone experience for students in the
fourth year, final semester, of the major. The course requires synthetic,
collaborative work and will draw on the students' acquired experience
in the electives and core courses they have completed for the major.
Students will read some classic works in media theory and history
as well as recent publications in the field of media studies from
a variety of perspectives (academic and scholarly press, popular
work, and mainstream journalism among others). They will be involved
in covering an ongoing event and looking critically at its coverage
in the media during the semester of the class. Assignments will
have a production component and each student will play a crucial
role in the creation of team-based work as well as completing individual
assignments in writing and editing some form of media.
MDST 361 - (3) (Y)
Film and Television in the 1960s
Prerequisite: MDST 201 or permission of instructor.
This is a course on film and television in the United States in
the 1960s meant to introduce students to the specific problems attached
to understanding media as force for social change within a particular
decade of American life. The course has a strong emphasis on cultural
history and theory as well as on the close reading of media artifacts
in film and television from the 1960s. The course requires considerable
commitment to viewing time as well as readings, writing, and research.
MDST 381 - (3) (IR)
Guided Independent Study in Media Studies
This course is designed to allow students to pursue guided independent
study of a topic that is not contained within the course offerings
of Media Studies. Students wishing to pursue a guided study must
prepare a syllabus and reading list in consultation with a faculty
member or the Director of the program. They should be very explicit
about the milestones for assessment during the semester's work.
The reading list and assignments should be comparable to those in
any other 300-level course for Media Studies and terms for midterm
and final grade evaluation on the basis of papers and final projects
should be formalized at the time the student begins the course.
Intermediate and advanced students have found this a particularly
useful way to study an area in depth that cannot be accommodated
in the course offerings of the program. In general, the more focused
the proposal, the greater the likelihood of approval. Students may
not use this course to substitute for core courses in the major,
though in some cases this may count as a primary elective for credit
towards the major requirements, on approval of the Director of the
MDST 496 - (3) (IR)
Advanced Independent Projects in Media Studies
This rubric is intended to provide an opportunity for students to
get credit for advanced, independent projects and field work, including
extra-mural sponsored projects and internships, in the area of media
studies. Students must put a proposal together for the project with
a faculty sponsor (or the Director of Media Studies) and the project
must be approved before the end of the add/drop period for the semester
in which the credit is taken. Application forms and guidelines for
MDST 496 may be obtained in the Media Studies office.