Department of English

Donna Kornhaber Selected to Design and Teach Inaugural "Crucible Course" in Plan II Honors Program

Wed, August 8, 2018
Donna Kornhaber Selected to Design and Teach Inaugural
Donna Kornhaber

Congratulations to English Department Associate Professor Donna Kornhaber who has been named a Fellow of the Eleanor Butt Crook Professorship in Plan II Honors and selected as the first professor in their new "Crucible Course" initiative.  The Crucible Course program is designed to select and fund specially-designed courses that allow Plan II students to actively engage in an academic field.  Donna Kornhaber was one of a handful of professors from across the College of Liberal Arts invited to apply to the program, and her course Best Pictures was selected as the inaugural offering.  

Best Pictures is designed to be a unique film studies experience where students study cinema in the present tense.  Instead of reaching back into film history, Best Pictures will take as its core material the most acclaimed movies of the previous year only: the Academy Award nominees for Best Picture, the winner of the Palme d’Or at Cannes, the Grand Jury Prize Winner at Sundance, the Golden Bear awardee at the Berlinale, and other similarly feted pictures.  The coursewill thrust students into the midst of the film world of today, with visits from professional filmmakers and accomplished film scholars speaking about their own personal “best pictures” of the previous year, full-access passes to the myriad events of the Austin Film Festival, and, for three select Best Pictures Fellows, fully-funded trips in the spring term to the Sundance Film Festival as well as the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin.  Students will collaborate on the creation of a website called The Best Pictures Project which will feature their reports from the festivals they attend and highlight the films that they feel are most worthy of attention from those festivals.  Connecting today’s award-winning films to the cinema classics that form their genealogy will be a central part of the classroom experience.  At the same time, the course aims to recognize and celebrate the new and diverse voices emerging in today’s cinematic landscape.

The goal of the course is to introduce students to the study of film as a living medium.  Students will gain the same in-depth understanding of the language and methodologies of film studies as the students in any traditional film studies course, but they will do so in the context of experiencing the creative energy of filmmaking today.  The course is offered through special arrangement with the Harry Ransom Center, with class sessions held using the screening facilities in the HRC Prothro Theatre. Best Pictures will be offered in Fall 2018, Fall 2019, and Fall 2020, with extensions for the Best Pictures Fellows in the spring of each year.  The Plan II Crucible Course initiative was made possible by generous donations from outside funders.  Plan II intends to introduce further Crucible Course offerings in future years, and Dr. Kornhaber will assist in helping these courses take shape.

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