Courses in Documentary Studies

A DOC 224 Documentary Media Storytelling (3)
Through the lens of documentary media, this course introduces students to the principles and practice of narrative nonfiction --using the tools of the storyteller to convey academic content to the general public. Over the course of the semester, students will watch (outside of class), read about, write about, and discuss a range of works. This course is for anyone seeking to enhance their overall media literacy and their ability to analyze and create stronger nonfiction media. The specific documentary focus (history, science, social issue, etc.) may vary depending on the interests and expertise of the instructor. This class is recommended for students planning to take A DOC 412Z.

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 323 Foundations of Documentary Filmmaking (3)
This course will ground students in the fundamentals of researching, planning, shooting and editing digital video.  Students will work individually and in teams on exercises assigned by the instructor. The course offers a comprehensive introduction to the basics of documentary film production, and as such provides a foundation for all students interested in documentary media, including those who go on to work in historical and non-historical content areas such as social issue, ethnographic, scientific, or political documentary. Students will develop a solid hands-on understanding of the basic tools of media storytelling and choices involved, thus enhancing their overall media literacy. Note: emphasis on specific documentary genres will vary depending on the instructor's area of expertise and interest. Prerequisite(s): restricted to Documentary Studies majors and minors; all others only with permission of the instructor. Recommended for students planning to take 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 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 a variety of non-fiction topics. This course will cover the basic skills needed to produce Web/hypermedia documentaries, including project design, research, content selection (and evaluation), and digital authoring. Students will master fundamentals of Web site and digital multimedia composition through assigned short projects on nonfiction topics, with the specific focus area(s) — such as social issues, science, history — to be determined by the instructor's area of expertise and interest. Prerequisite(s): restricted to Documentary Studies majors and minors; all others with permission of instructor.

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 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 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 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 412Z 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 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.