The Documentary Impulse

Subject Name: 
Film & Media Studies
Course Number: 
Amherst College

(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.

Instructor Permission: 
Permission is required for interchange registration during the add/drop period only.
Crosslisted Section ID: 
Schedule #: 

Course Sections

The Documentary Impulse
Sect # Credits Instructor(s) Instructor Email Meeting Times Location
01 4.0 Pooja Rangan TTH 01:00PM-02:20PM; M 07:00PM-10:00PM