Courses in Documentary Studies
A DOC 224 (= A HIS 224) Nonfiction Media Storytelling (3)
This course explores the use of narrative in books, films, and other works intended to present factual content to the general public. Students will watch, read about, write about, and discuss a range of work, developing tools for analyzing and evaluating nonfiction media in terms of both content and craft. Only one version may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): restricted to Documentary Studies Program and History Department majors and minors. Others may be admitted space permitting, and with permission from the instructor. This class is recommended for students planning to take A DOC 412.
A DOC 225 (= A JRL 225) Media Law and Ethics (3)
This course examines strategies for making good ethical decisions in newsgathering and writing as well as the laws that pertain to daily journalism and public relations. The course covers the major ethical theories and philosophies and the major legal cases that journalists must know. Emphasis will be on actual cases and hypothetical situations encountered in daily journalism. The course pays special attention to some of the most common dilemmas - libel, free press/fair trial conflicts, anonymous sources, and publishing content that can harm people. Only one version of A DOC 225 may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): restricted to Journalism, Documentary Studies, and History majors and minors. Others may be admitted space permitting, and with permission from the instructor.
A DOC 227 (= A HIS 227) Civil Rights: A Documentary Approach (3)
This course looks at the intersection of history and media as it pertains to the American civil rights movement. Focusing on the landmark archival television series Eyes on the Prize and a range of primary and secondary sources (documents, films, music, and more), we will study not only the historical events depicted on screen but also the ways in which these events were documented, archived, and later shaped into public media. Only one version of A DOC 227 may be taken for credit.
A DOC 251/251Z (= A HIS 251/251Z) Introduction to Documentary Studies (3)
This course is divided into 3 major sections. First, we will ask “What is a documentary?” One of the most widely quoted definitions is that of John Grierson who suggests that documentary is the “the creative treatment of actuality.” We will explore that definition, and others, as we lay the groundwork to examine the social, cultural, legal, and ethical considerations inherent in all documentary production. We will then look at specific documentary forms, their history, best examples, notable characteristics, and key practitioners. Finally we will look at some of the major themes in documentary work across forms and genres — in print, photography, film/video, audio, and hypermedia/multimedia. We will also consider how technological innovation has shaped the work of the documentarian over time. As the gateway course for the Documentary Studies major and minor, this course is not only about understanding what others have done in both the recent and distant past, but developing a foundation for future work in the major and minor. Those enrolled in A HIS 251 are expected to bring an historical perspective to their work in the course.
A DOC 294Y (= A HIS 294Y) Field Research in Oral and Visual History: The Hudson River Region (3)
Utilizing the Hudson River region as our laboratory, from the river's source in the Adirondacks to Manhattan Island in the south, this course is intended to be both a theoretical and practical introduction to the use of oral and video history in documentary and historical field research. As a course, it covers a wide territory -- from the gathering of oral/video interviews to explorations of how to utilize them in theatrical plays, radio programs, films, and television documentaries. From in-class discussions of memory, historical distortion, and interview theory, to technical instruction on the use of audio, video, and transcribing equipment, the course is designed to teach students critical and practical skills and to demonstrate the potential of this important research and presentation methodology - and to do it utilizing the communities and vast resources of the Hudson River corridor. A major component of the course will be student-initiated and led interviews with individuals from a variety of walks of life who live along the shores, or work on, the Hudson River. [Please note that in future years, the "Field Research in Oral and Visual History" course will vary in its regional focus]. Only one version of A DOC 294Y may be taken for credit.
A DOC 308Z (= A JRL 308Z) Narrative Journalism (3)
Students will explore a variety of journalistic styles, with emphasis on compelling narrative and description, combined with the skillful use of quotes and dialogue. The class features intensive critiques of students' work. A variety of formats will be studied: newspapers, magazines, non-fiction books, and online publications. Readings for the course include works by Janet Malcolm, Barbara Ehrenreich, Ellen Ullman, Mary Karr, Edward Abbey, Edmund Wilson, Michael Herr, and James Baldwin. Students submit weekly writing assignments and a final portfolio of edited work. Only one version of A DOC 308Z may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): A JRL 200Z, or permission of instructor.
A DOC 323 (= A HIS 334) Foundations of Documentary Filmmaking (3)
This course will introduce students to the fundamentals of researching, planning, shooting and editing digital video documentaries. When A DOC 323 is taught cross-listed with A HIS 334, the content focus will be history. Restricted to History and Documentary Studies majors and minors; all others by permission of instructor. Recommended for students planning to take A HIS or A DOC 406.
A DOC 324 (= A JRL 324) Introduction to Documentary Photography (3)
From Mathew Brady’s Civil War photographs, to the work of photographers of the U.S. Farm Security Administration in the 1930s, and through the stunning and emotive images of contemporary social, ethnographic, scientific, and war photographers, documentary photography has experienced a long and vigorous development. In this basic introductory hands-on workshop, students will examine the long heritage of documentary photography as well as the practical lessons to be learned from renowned practitioners. The course explores the use of still photographs to record various aspects of social, political, and cultural life and events. Students will develop their visual storytelling skills through a series of research and fieldwork hands-on projects involving the documentation of various aspects of contemporary life. Students should be familiar with the basics of digital camera operation. Only one version of A DOC 324 may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): restricted to Documentary Studies Program and Journalism majors and minors. Others may be admitted space permitting, and with permission from the instructor.
A DOC 330 (= A HIS 330) Foundations of Documentary Web/Hypermedia Production (3)
Web-based or digital multimedia documentaries utilize a variety of hypermedia digital elements to construct compelling, interactive, linear and nonlinear "stories" on nonfiction topics. This course will cover the fundamentals of web site and digital multimedia composition through assigned short projects. When A DOC 330 is taught cross-listed with A HIS 330, the content focus will be history. Prerequisite(s) restricted to Documentary Studies and History majors and minors; all others with permission of instructor. Recommended for students planning to take A DOC/A HIS 407.
A DOC 335 (= A HIS 335; formerly A DOC/A HIS 405) History and Theory of the Documentary Film (3)
This course will introduce students to the history, theory, and aesthetics of documentary filmmaking. Beginning with a review and analysis of the general history of the documentary film genre and the varieties of approaches adopted by non-fiction filmmakers, we will begin to systematically unravel the various elements that contribute to the creation of informative, moving, and powerful documentary films – with special emphasis on historically-focused films. We’ll look at the various modes or styles that have evolved in the course of the genre’s development and the various techniques documentarians have utilized to effectively communicate historical ideas in cinematic form. Only one version of A DOC 335 may be taken for credit.
A DOC 363 (= A JRL 363) Visual Culture (3)
The course explores the increasing predominance of visual media in contemporary life. It examines how traditional narrative forms of storytelling are being replaced by visual forms of storytelling in journalism, photojournalism, film, television, the internet, video games, anime, graphic novels, and advertising. Particular emphasis will be paid to the global flow of visual culture and the technologies that facilitate these cultural exchanges. Readings range from Marshall McLuhan and Laura Mulvey to contemporary writers on visual culture. Only one version of A DOC 363 may be taken for credit. May not be taken by students with credit for A JRL/T JRL 220.
A DOC 376/376Z (= A HIS 376/376Z) A Cultural History of American Photography (3-4)
This course is a survey of the history of photography from 1839 until the present, presenting photographs as representative intellectual statements defining and illustrating major movements in American thought and culture. By looking at photographs, reading photographic and aesthetic theory, and drawing parallels from American painting, literature, architecture, and other informational and expressive media, the class will demonstrate the ideas and issues underlying American Romanticism, Realism, Modernism, and Post-Modernism. Because photographs are tangible, accessible, and have been upheld as an archetypal medium by each of these intellectual movements, the history of photography offers an ideal introduction to abstract ideas and broad intellectual themes. The course will provide students with extensive experience analyzing cultural documents and help them begin to explore underlying theoretical issues in photography. Only one version of A DOC 376 may be taken for credit.
A DOC 380 (= A JRL 380) Photojournalism (3)
Students develop the critical skills for evaluating and the technical skills for producing, editing, and publishing digital photographs in a variety of formats, including traditional newspapers, satellite transmissions from the field, and internet web sites. While developing their aesthetic and technical skills, students will critique each others photos in a workshop format. Only one version of A DOC 380 may be taken for credit.
A DOC 390 Topics in Documentary Studies (3)
Various topics in documentary studies - including film/video, audio, web/hypermedia, non-fiction narrative writing, and documentary photography - will be examined in this course. Specific topics and instructors will vary and will be announced during advance registration periods. This course may be repeated for credit when content varies.
A DOC 394 (= A HIS 394) Workshop in Oral History (3)
This course offers a broad introduction to the history, theory, and practice of oral history, including the use of oral history in historical research, documentary production, and public history projects. Only one version of A HIS 394 may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): junior or senior standing or permission of instructor.
A DOC 400 Honors Tutorial in Documentary Studies (1)
Documentary Studies Honors students enrolled in 300 level courses or above in their concentrations may enroll in A DOC 400 for additional credit of honors work. The Honors Tutorial affords students an opportunity to work one-on-one with their instructors and will include extra reading, writing, and project assignments. May be repeated for credit.
A DOC 404 (= A HIS 404) Readings and Practicum in Aural History and Audio Documentary Production (4)
This course introduces students to (1) the historical study of sound, soundscapes, and sound recordings, (2) aural history composition techniques (especially radio documentaries and features, but also aural essays and museum audio installations), and (3) audio delivery technologies to communicate historical ideas to broad audiences. It includes coverage of textual and archival audio source research, 20th and 21st century historical radio documentary work, analysis of audio documentary forms and nonfiction storytelling techniques, scriptwriting, technical instruction in the art of audio recording and post-production editing and mixing, discussion of audio preservation and restoration techniques, and an introduction to traditional and modern technologies for the transmission and dissemination of documentary and related audio work. Only one version of A DOC 404 may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): permission of instructor.
A DOC 406 (= A HIS 406) Practicum in Historical Documentary Filmmaking (4)
This course is a hands-on workshop in historical documentary filmmaking. It will introduce students to the all aspects of historical documentary production—from pre-production planning, research, and writing, to production (filming/videotaping interviews, recording voiceover narration, lighting, filming reenactments), and finally, post-production (editing and mixing actualities, music, narration, interviews, still photographs). The course, in short, is designed to teach students practical, technical skills and is a perfect follow-up to A DOC 335, which examines the history and theory of documentary filmmaking. Only one version of A DOC 406 may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): permission of instructor.
A DOC 407 (= A HIS 407) Readings and Practicum in Digital History and Hypermedia (4)
This course introduces students to the practice of history in the digital age. The emergence of the World Wide Web has opened up new avenues for researching, analyzing, and presenting the past–but has also raised new questions about producing quality historical scholarship in this open environment. This course will work on two fronts, looking first at the current state of the field of “digital history,” from issues of narrative and hypertext theory to some of the best (and worst) practices of current historical websites. At the same time, as a central component of the course, students will work in collaboration to build their own well-researched and historically sound web projects. Previous experience with building websites is welcomed but not required. Only one version of A DOC 407 may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): permission of instructor.
A DOC 412 Readings & Practicum in Nonfiction Media Storytelling (3)
This is an advanced course that helps students use the tools of good writing to understand, evaluate, and create historical media intended for use in museums, on the Web, and on television, with an emphasis on story and story structure. This is not a production course; works will be researched and written only. Prerequisite(s): permission of instructor. Completion of A DOC 224 is recommended.
A DOC 442 (= A WSS 442 & A JRL 442) Transmedia Storytelling (3)
Students in this workshop learn how to use a variety of new media tools, including—but not restricted to—digital videos, interactive web pages, and animation software, to create a set of linked stories about a singular historical or newsworthy event. Additionally, students learn to search for, collect, and analyze primary sources—e.g. news stories, first-person accounts, government records, cultural artifacts, ephemera, found footage, etc.—stored in archives, libraries, museums, and online databases. Through the processes of research and reflection, students learn to understand the intersections and consequences of class, gender, race, and nationality. The workshop format enables students to participate fully as active learners and peer teachers. Only one version of A DOC 442 may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): junior or senior standing or permission of instructor.
A DOC 450 Documentary Studies Seminar and Fieldwork Practicum (4)
The Documentary Studies Seminar and Fieldwork Practicum is the capstone course for majors and minors in documentary studies. Students are expected to complete a substantial project in any one of five documentary concentrations (radio/audio, video/film, hypermedia/multimedia, photography, and print). Students will work with individual concentration advisers as well as the course instructor; they will receive feedback, as well, from fellow students enrolled in the course. Discussion of selected readings, production techniques, research strategies, and legal and ethical issues, as well as viewings of documentary films/photographs and airings of audio documentaries, will inform and complement in-depth examinations of individual projects. The course will be offered once a year, generally in the spring semester. Prerequisite(s): permission of instructor.
A DOC 451 Honors Section for Documentary Studies Seminar and Fieldwork Practicum (1)
The course, for Honors students taking A DOC 450, offers students an opportunity to complete a major project in their area of documentary concentration: radio/audio, video/film, hypermedia/multimedia, photography, and print journalism. This 1 credit Honors course allows Honors students to take on a more ambitious project than normally expected of majors. It culminates in a public presentation of their projects.
A DOC 468 (= A JRL 468) Literary Journalism (3)
This course invites students to read and analyze literary journalism, with attention to its historical context. Readings include works by Daniel Defoe, Charles Dickens, Samuel Clemens, Stephen Cane, Janet Flanner, Lillian Ross, Rebecca West, John Hersey, James Agee, Dorothy Day, Meridel LeSueur, Truman Capote, Joan Didion, Tracy Kidder, and others. While reflecting on the relations between journalism and literary fiction and nonfiction, students will complete bi-weekly assignments. Only one version of A DOC 468 may be taken for credit. Prerequisite(s): A JRL 201Z.
A DOC 499 Special Projects and Internships in Documentary Studies (1-4)
This is a course designed for students interested in engaging in documentary fieldwork and production projects through internships with on-campus and off-campus organizations, or on their own with close faculty supervision. Students should already have the specific production skills (e.g. filmmaking, photography, audio recording/editing, hypermedia authoring) necessary for the project or internship they wish to undertake. Typical projects or internships might involve mounting documentary photography exhibits, participating in documentary editing projects (including online, nonfiction journals), designing virtual museums and pod-casting/video-casting websites, or working as production members on film/video or radio projects. Credit load will depend on the level of engagement and time obligations associated with the specific project undertaken by the student. May be repeated for a total of 6 credits. Prerequisite(s): junior or senior standing, a minimum GPA of 2.50, and permission of the instructor. S/U graded.