Critical StudiesThe Division of Critical Studies of the School of Cinematic Arts offers programs leading to the Bachelor of Arts, Master of Arts and Doctor of Philosophy degrees. This comprehensive curriculum includes courses that analyze the power and responsibility of American and international film and television and new media technologies from formal/aesthetic, historical, economic and ideological perspectives.
The division is committed to understanding film and television texts in relation to the world they represent; it studies not only the meanings of these texts but also the processes by which these meanings are constructed.
Applicants for the B.A. or M.A. or Ph.D. degrees must submit the supplemental application and materials to the Critical Studies Program. For specific instructions, contact the Cinematic Arts Office of Admission, University Park, Los Angeles, CA 90089-2211, (213) 740-2911, or online at cinema.usc.edu.
Bachelor of Arts
Bachelor of Arts, Cinematic Arts, Critical StudiesThe Bachelor of Arts degree in Cinematic Arts, Critical Studies is granted by the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in conjunction with the School of Cinematic Arts. Undergraduate students take their pre-professional courses in the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences, including the general education requirements. Major courses are selected from the curriculum of the School of Cinematic Arts. The degree requires 128 units, including 26 lower division and 24 upper division units in cinematic arts. A maximum of 40 School of Cinematic Arts upper division units will apply to the B.A. degree. Before graduating, critical studies majors are encouraged to take at least one small non-lecture class that emphasizes student critical writing or research papers. This category may include (but is not limited to): CTCS 402, CTCS 411, CTCS 412, CTCS 414, sections of CTCS 464 or CTCS 469 that require a D clearance, CTCS 494, and CTCS 495.
General Education RequirementsThe university’s general education program provides a coherent, integrated introduction to the breadth of knowledge you will need to consider yourself (and to be considered by other people) a generally well-educated person. This program requires six courses in different categories, plus writing, foreign language and diversity requirements, which together comprise the USC Core. See here and here for more information.
Required Production CoursesUndergraduates admitted to the Critical Studies Program are required to take CTPR 241 Fundamentals of Cinema Technique and CTPR 290 Cinematic Communication. These introductory production courses are taken concurrently during the junior year (see description below).
CTPR 241 is an experiential course dealing with the technical and aesthetic principles of producing, directing, cinematography, editing, sound and the development of ideas through a cinematic vocabulary.
In CTPR 290 each student makes four digital video movies, executing all the creative roles personally, and takes a crew position on a group project. Exploration of personal expression and diverse genres is encouraged, with emphasis on visual and sound patterns, with limited dialogue. Approximately $1,000 should be budgeted for miscellaneous expenses, lab and insurance fees.
|CTCS 190||Introduction to Cinema||4|
|CTCS 191||Introduction to Television and Video||4|
|CTCS 192||Race, Class and Gender in American Film||4|
|CTCS 200||History of the International Cinema I||4|
|CTCS 201||History of the International Cinema II||4|
|CTCS 473||Film Theories||4|
|CTPR 241||Fundamentals of Cinema Technique (taken concurrently with CTPR 290)||2|
|CTPR 290||Cinematic Communication (taken concurrently with CTPR 241)||4|
|One course from the following:|
|CTCS 392||History of the American Film, 1925-1950||4|
|CTCS 393||History of the American Film, 1946-1975||4|
|CTCS 394||History of the American Film, 1977-present||4|
|Four courses from the following:|
|CTCS 367||Global Television and Media||4|
|CTCS 400||Non-Fiction Film and Television||4|
|CTCS 402||Practicum in Film/Television Criticism||4|
|CTCS 403||Studies in National and Regional Media||4|
|CTCS 404||Television Criticism and Theory||4|
|CTCS 406||History of American Television||4|
|CTCS 407||African-American Cinema||4|
|CTCS 409||Censorship in Cinema||4|
|CTCS 411||Film, Television and Cultural Studies||4|
|CTCS 412||Gender, Sexuality and Media||4|
|CTCS 414||Chicana/o Cinema||4|
|CTCS 464||Film and/or Television Genres||4|
|CTCS 469||Film and/or Television Style Analysis||4|
|CTCS 478||Culture, Technology and Communications||4|
|CTCS 482||Transmedia Entertainment||4|
|CTCS 494||Advanced Critical Studies Seminar||4|
|CTCS 495*||Honors Seminar||4|
Grade Point Average RequirementsA minimum grade of C (2.0) must be earned in all required and prerequisite courses. A grade of C- (1.7) or lower will not satisfy a major requirement.
Honors ProgramCritical Studies offers an honors track for advanced students. Admission to the honors track is made at the end of the junior year and requires a 3.5 overall GPA. Completion of the honors track is dependent upon successful completion of a designated honors section of CTCS 495 during the senior year. In this course, students will work with faculty in a seminar environment and produce an advanced term paper based on original research and analysis.
Limitations on EnrollmentNo more than 40 upper division units can be taken within the major without prior approval of the Dean, USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences.
Registration in graduate level courses (numbered 500) for undergraduate credit requires prior approval from the School of Cinematic Arts.
Curriculum ReviewCinematic arts majors are expected to meet with an academic advisor every semester to review their progress. Contact the Cinematic Arts Student Services Office, SCB 105, (213) 740-8358, for an appointment.
Master of ArtsThe Master of Arts degree in Cinematic Arts with an emphasis in Critical Studies is administered through the Graduate School. Candidates for the degree are subject to the general requirements of the Graduate School. Thirty-six units are required at the 400 level or higher, including a comprehensive examination. At least two-thirds of these units must be at the 500 level or higher.
Graduate Preparation Production CoursesEach graduate student must pass CTPR 507 (4 units) with a grade of credit (CR). This course provides a basic primer in production considered necessary for graduate studies in critical studies.
CTPR 507 Production I (4 units) introduces the fundamental principles of motion picture production, emphasizing visual and auditory communication. Each student makes several non-dialogue personal projects, serving as a writer, producer, cinematographer, director, sound designer and editor and takes a crew role on a collaborative project. Projects are shot on digital cameras and edited on non-linear systems. Approximately $1,200 should be budgeted for miscellaneous expenses, lab and insurance fees.
|CTCS 500||Seminar in Film Theory||4|
|CTCS 506||Critical Studies Colloquium/Professional Seminar||2|
|CTCS 587||Seminar in Television Theory||4|
|CTPR 507||Production I||4|
|Three of the following:|
|CTCS 501||History of Global Cinema Before World War II||2|
|CTCS 502||History of Global Cinema After World War II||2|
|CTCS 503||Survey History of the United States Sound Film||2|
|CTCS 504||Survey of Television History||2|
|CTCS 505||Survey of Interactive Media||2|
|Two of the following:|
|CTCS 510||Case Studies in National Media and/or Regional Media||4, max 12|
|CTCS 511||Seminar: Non-Fiction Film/Video||4|
|CTCS 517||Introductory Concepts in Cultural Studies||4|
|CTCS 518||Seminar: Avant-Garde Film/Video||4|
|In addition, 8 units of cinematic arts electives are required.|
Comprehensive ExaminationAs the final requirement for the M.A. degree, the comprehensive examination will be taken in the final spring semester of course work. There is no thesis option. The examination will consist of written responses to three questions selected from a list of fields, the appropriate fields chosen with the guidance of a faculty advisor.
If the student has completed all course work and is only taking the comprehensive examination, he or she must register in GRSC 810 Studies for Master’s Examination.
Grade Point Average RequirementsA grade point average of 3.0 must be maintained in all graduate level course work. Courses in which a grade of C- (1.7) or lower is earned will not apply toward a graduate degree.
Time LimitAlthough students are normally expected to complete the degree in two years, the degree must be completed within five years of the beginning of graduate work at USC.
Curriculum ReviewAt the beginning of their matriculation, and each semester thereafter, each M.A. candidate will confer with a designated faculty advisor who will monitor the student’s progress.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy in Cinematic Arts (Critical Studies)The degree of Doctor of Philosophy with an emphasis in Critical Studies is administered through the Graduate School. The Ph.D. program is tailored to the individual student’s particular needs and interests. The overall course of study will be designed by the student, the student’s designated advisor and, following the screening procedure, the student’s guidance committee chair (see Screening Procedure under Graduate Preparation Production Courses).
AdmissionA bachelor’s or master’s degree in cinematic arts, or a closely related field, is required for admission to the Ph.D. program. Applicants with only a bachelor’s degree must successfully fulfill all of the USC Critical Studies M.A. degree requirements as part of the degree program (see Screening Procedure).
Course RequirementsEach Ph.D. candidate must complete 68 units beyond the bachelor’s degree, 43 of which must be at the 500 level or higher. (Up to 30 units may be transferred from graduate work completed at other institutions.) Dissertation units are not counted toward the 68‑unit total. The required units will include 7 to 12 courses in cinematic arts and 8 to 16 units in the minor area. The minor will be chosen by the student in close consultation with the advisor and will be in an academic field which supports the student’s dissertation topic. Each student must complete the following course work toward the 68 unit total:
(1) CTCS 500, CTCS 506, CTCS 510, CTCS 587, CTPR 507. These courses should be taken before the screening procedure.
(2) Two of the following: CTCS 673, CTCS 677, CTCS 678, CTCS 679, CTCS 688. These courses should be taken before the qualifying examination.
Graduate Preparation Production CourseEach candidate for the Ph.D. must complete CTPR 507 (4 units) with a grade of credit (CR). If the student enters the program with a master’s degree in cinematic arts and possesses production experience, the student may request a waiver of this requirement. The waiver requires passing a written examination and submission of films/videos to the production faculty for review.
CTPR 507 Production I (4 units) is designed to introduce the fundamental principles of motion picture production. The course also introduces students to visual and auditory communication and individual filmmaking. Each student makes several non-dialogue personal projects, serving as writer, producer, director, cinematographer, sound designer and editor and takes a crew role on a collaborative project. Projects are shot on digital cameras and edited on non-linear systems. Approximately $1,200 should be budgeted for miscellaneous expenses, lab and insurance fees. This course should be taken before the beginning of the screening procedure.
Screening ProcedureThe Graduate School requires that programs administer an examination or other procedure at a predetermined point in the student’s studies as a prerequisite to continuation in the doctoral program. This procedure is designed to review the student’s suitability for continuing in the chosen Ph.D. program. The School of Cinematic Arts has determined that this procedure will occur no later than the end of the student’s third semester of graduate course work at USC beyond the master’s degree. The screening procedure process will include the following steps:
(1) If the faculty has determined during the admissions process that a comprehensive examination will be required as part of the screening procedure, an examination will be administered as appropriate. If the examination is passed to the faculty’s satisfaction, the student may proceed to the next step in the screening procedure process. If the student fails to pass the examination, the faculty will determine if the student will be allowed to retake the examination the following semester before proceeding to the next step in the screening procedure process.
(2) The student will be interviewed and his or her progress in the program will be reviewed by the faculty to determine if the student will be approved for additional course work. If approved to continue, a guidance committee chair will be selected by the student, with the approval of the faculty, who will serve as the student’s advisor. It is strongly recommended that full-time study be pursued following the successful completion of the screening procedure.
Guidance CommitteeFollowing a successful screening procedure, the student, in consultation with the guidance committee chair and the Critical Studies faculty, will formally establish a five-member guidance committee. The composition of the guidance committee will be as specified by the Graduate School (see here). For the Ph.D. in Cinematic Arts (Critical Studies), the committee is ordinarily composed of four Critical Studies faculty members and an outside member from the candidate’s minor area.
Foreign Language RequirementThe Critical Studies faculty will advise each student as to whether or not a foreign language is required. This requirement is determined by the student’s dissertation topic. The requirement must be met at least 60 days before the qualifying examination.
Dissertation Proposal PresentationWorking closely with the guidance committee chair, the student will prepare to present his or her dissertation proposal to the full faculty. This will be a formal written proposal which will include a statement of the proposed topic, four fields for examination derived from the general dissertation topic area (including a field from the minor area), a detailed bibliography, and an appropriate and comprehensive screening list of film/ television titles. Formal presentation of the dissertation proposal will occur no later than the end of the semester prior to taking the qualifying examinations. The guidance committee must approve the dissertation topic. Once the dissertation topic has been approved, the student will complete the Request to Take the Ph.D. Qualifying Examination form available from the program coordinator.
Qualifying ExaminationsWritten and oral examinations for the Ph.D. are given twice a year, in November and April. Questions for the written portion of the examination will be drafted by members of the guidance committee who will also grade the examination. The qualifying examination comprises four examinations administered one each day for four days during a five-day period.
The oral examination will be scheduled within 30 days after the written examination. All guidance committee members must be present for the oral portion of the qualifying examination.