I love tournaments.
The jousting at Medieval Times, The World Series of Pop Culture (may it rest in peace), Who Won 2014 (and 2015, etc), and, yes, even the round-robin hours-long days of field hockey I used to have.
Now that the Olympics are over (but actually, how hype is everyone for Tokyo?!), I need a little competition in my life. But nothing too high stakes or legitimate; that’s just, like, unnecessarily stressful.
I’ve concocted a bracket of my ten favorite classes during my time at Hopkins (so far; we’ll see if it changes post-senior year).
Introducing our competitors…
Baltimore & The Wire This class is no longer taught (may it also rest in peace), but when it was, boy oh boy. It belongs to the Public Health department, making it one of 2 distribution requirements (S) to qualify for the tournament. Taught by Dr. Peter Beilenson, Baltimore’s former health commissioner, it examined urban issues through the lens of The Wire. Things that made this class utterly cool: pretty easy assignments, frequent guest speakers (including actors on the show), the opportunity to participate in a police ride-along, and Dr. Beilenson’s knowledge of my high school’s mascot.
Intro to Cinema (Part I, 1892-1941) This was baby’s first film class, and it made me totally fall in love with the world of film. From the early, dreamy, crackling works of the Lumiere brothers to Charlie Chaplin’s legendary silent films to Soviet montage theory and Battleship Potemkin, this class gave me a whirlwind, Film School 101, which has come in handy in my upper-levels and at Trivia Night. Seriously, Metropolis is referenced in, like, everything.
Visual Rhetoric The name is pretty vague, so let’s break it down: this is a graphic design course. I learned the history of design and how to use Illustrator. This class has been invaluable. My post-grad game plan right now is to go into design or art direction, and I cannot thank this class enough for equipping me with graphic design skills. It’s funny that a class I signed up for as an “elective” has been the biggest springboard, professionally, for me.
French New Wave Uh… This is a class about the French New Wave in film. It’s significant in film history and theory because the filmmakers in this movement developed a ton of terms and ideas that are prevalent today (auteur theory is great cocktail party chat!). The French New Wave influences and intersects with so many different parts of film, and so this was a great class to gain some more background on ideas briefly mentioned in other classes. Also, if Breathless is on the watch list, I’m sold.
Theorizing Popular Culture If you’ve followed along with my blog, you know that this class is going in as a top draft pick. I’ve written about it before, but to summarize: this class changed my life. I could feel myself learning, growing, changing with each unit. I felt like I was being let in on the secrets of society and culture. I’m such a pop culture nut, and this class allowed me to approach our everyday media with a critically thinking mind.
Film Theory I get asked a lot what it is exactly film majors do. Well, some make films, I’ll say, and the rest… theorize? It’s legit, I swear. And Film Theory is the class I use to explain what it is exactly I/non-filmmaking film people do. We watch films, analyze them through different lenses, ascribe them to different movements and theories. Are Lynch’s films a good example of Surrealism? How does Gilda depict the male gaze as defined by Mulvey? Is the director the sole auteur (!!) of a film? This class is a tour of different main schools of thought, and I wouldn’t be the film student I am today without it.
The Films of Alfred Hitchcock I love Hitchcock. He’s mentioned in every film class ever, and I truly believe he’s the best director of all time (Scorsese fans, get at me). When I saw this on the course listings, I jumped at the chance to take it. Each week, we studied a different film, along with its theories, history, and production. Hitchcock is just so, so rich and fascinating to me, and spending a whole semester on his work was amazing! I’m TAing a one credit Hitchcock class this fall (taught by the same professor, Department Chair Linda DeLibero), and I’m so excited, so I’m lumping in that excitement here.
Introduction Sociology Our second and final distribution (S) requirement to make the tournament, this class is mostly one of my favorites because of how much it tied into theories we discussed in Theorizing Pop Culture. I was hungry for more sociology, and this class satisfied that. Professor Nelson had a way of teaching that was fun and informative. He didn’t shy away from difficult topics, and injected lighter lessons with humor. And, not gonna lie, this class is a GPA boost.
Lost & Found Film Though I’ve taken a few classes that have required some light production, Lost & Found Film was my first heavy-duty production course. Centering on editing, we were tasked each week with taking archival or lost film and creating something new with it. I’ve never felt so creative, and I discovered that I have a real knack for editing. This class was also just plain fun; John Mann is also an amazing professor and our class had such a great, friendly dynamic.
Holocaust Literature and Film This class isn’t my favorite because of the texts we studied; in fact, it was emotionally taxing to be constantly reading about such horrific tragedy. But, this class taught me to think and feel in totally new ways. Professor Spinner challenged me to think, write, speak better. We sought to dissect huge philosophical questions surrounding the Holocaust; how could humanity do this? What does survival look like? At the end of the course, I found myself with more questions than I started with, but a new worldview and toolbox for answering questions.
Classes are sort-of seeded by year, sort-of alphabetically. I tried, you guys.
Let the games begin.
French New Wave, Baltimore and the Wire, Intro to Cinema, Film Theory, Holocaust Literature and Film, and Introduction Sociology all lost out early on. While all amazing classes in their own right (they still ranked in the Top 10 of the 30+ classes I’ve taken!), they couldn’t stand up to juggernauts Theorizing Popular Culture, The Films of Alfred Hitchcock, Visual Rhetoric, and Lost & Found Film.
These four classes stand as, I guess, the pillars of my time at Hopkins. They all represent something about my experience here: the fact that I could study my one true love, pop culture, academically; the fact that I discovered and intensely studied my favorite director, Hitchcock; the fact that I gained amazing skills in graphic design that have opened up a whole world to me; the fact that I’m able to take production classes that are inspiring and make sense for me.
Lost & Found Film and The Films of Alfred Hitchock put in a good fight, but they were no match for early favorites Visual Rhetoric and Theorizing Popular Culture, who both benefitted from being about stuff I just really, really like: design and pop culture.
And despite Visual Rhetoric’s invaluable contributions to my skillset, Theorizing Popular Culture won out, for every reason I’ve outlined in the blog I wrote about it. It’s everyday meets academic, fun meets mind-boggling, lecture meets discussion. It’s remained that class that I get excited just thinking about, and that I leap at every chance to tell people about. It’s just the best… and this bracket proves it.