Fall 2019

The Documentary Impulse

Listed in: English, as ENGL-377  |  Film and Media Studies, as FAMS-383


Pooja G. Rangan (Section 01)


(Offered as ENGL 377 and FAMS 383) Documentary is one of the fastest-growing areas of media production today, enjoying unprecedented commercial success in theaters, on television, and online streaming services. What drives the urgent desire to represent reality? Where did this impulse originate, and how do documentarians continue to channel it today? This course focuses on the innovative forms and ethical dilemmas that have resulted from the pursuit of reality. We look at different approaches to documentary (ethnographic, personal, observational, interactive, essayistic, activist) and emerging forms such as fake news, true crime podcasts, mockumentaries, web-docs, and documentary art. Our discussions consider the shifting boundaries of the documentary genre, the unique ethical and political considerations involved in making documentaries, and the impact of technological and socio-cultural changes on historical trends in documentary.

Open to students with no prior film classes. Not open to first-year students. Limited to 35 students. Fall semester. Professor Rangan.

If Overenrolled: When 300 level courses have limited enrollment, faculty members try to ensure that students bring a diverse range of ideas and expertise to the class–majors and non-majors, upper and lower classes, and so forth.


Attention to Issues of Class, Attention to Issues of Race, Attention to Speaking, Attention to Writing


2022-23: Not offered
Other years: Offered in Fall 2015, Spring 2017, Fall 2018, Fall 2019