Student Perceptions of the Study of Film in English Courses Hila Shachar English and Cultural Studies The University of Western Australia Introduction With the inclusion of film in many English courses and, more specifically, the study of film in a relationship with literature, the rationale of a unit changes introducing new concerns like adaptation, the learning of new skills of visual analysis and the “politics” which surrounds film as an area of study. Furthermore, students’ perceptions also change with regard to the approach to literary texts, the process of critical analysis and the unit or discipline as a whole. Using a small but telling survey as a case study, this paper discusses such student perceptions regarding the study of film and its relationship with literature. The questionnaire (see Appendix A) was distributed to sixty-two students enrolled in the English unit “Australian Literature: Fiction into Film” and it comprises of six questions which interrogate students’ attitudes to film and the study of film and literature in tandem. This paper focuses on the results to question 1 of the survey as these responses cover most of the issues raised separately in the other five questions. Furthermore, the particular responses to question 1 raise some important issues that warrant full discussion, and by analysing these responses, I seek to examine the pedagogical issues which surround film in English units and indeed, in other academic courses. Context for the Survey “Australian Literature: Fiction into Film” is a second and third year unit in the department of English and Cultural Studies. The unit studies recent Australian novels and their film adaptations and as well as exploring the various implications of adaptation, the unit also examines contemporary issues in Australian society and culture as they are manifest in these works, such as the significance of landscape; gender and race relations; sex, money and work; and the beach, city and suburbs. Thus, the unit does not simply focus on the aesthetic or formal aspects of the study of adaptation, but also situates this study within a cultural and ideological context that is pertinent to the understanding of some of the students’ responses in the survey and which raises some important issues regarding the pedagogical function of film. Being a second and third year unit, most of the students had some knowledge of and experience with critical analysis of literary texts, but for some, the critical analysis of film and visual media may have been a new area. This aspect is also taken into consideration in the analysis of the survey responses. The survey was anonymous and thus students were free to record their responses as honestly as possible. 1 Results for Question 1: “Is the inclusion of film in this unit’s course material a major factor in your decision to take the unit? Yes/No If yes, explain why” The following pie chart represents students’ “yes” or “no” responses to the question: Figure 1. Question 1 Figure 1 shows that the majority of students felt the inclusion of film in the unit was a high incentive in their choice to take the unit. Many of the students’ reasons for this were strikingly similar. The most popular reason given was that the student is interested in film and visual media as a distinct area of study and the issue of adaptation, and is particularly drawn to a unit that offers both film and literature as primary texts rather than simply literature. One representative response was that the student enjoys studying both film and literature and finding a course that allowed a focus on both as equal forms of expression and communication was a high incentive in taking the unit as the student feels that English departments “downplay” the importance of film as a “legitimate” art form and means of communication. Other popular responses included that films are more enjoyable and interesting than written texts and novels; film is more popular and accessible; film is easier to understand, less time-consuming and decreases what is an already high workload for many students; films are more relevant to contemporary society and culture; and that film helps to make literature more accessible, understandable and often reveals things about novels which would not have otherwise been revealed. As the above representative answer demonstrates, many of the “yes” responses also included criticism about the department’s approach to media other than literature wit

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