January Term at Saint Mary's College enables students to intensively study new subjects and offers professors the opportunity to teach their passions.
For Professor Michael Russo, his passion is film and particularly the work of director Martin Scorsese.
In Russo's January 2008 "Scorsese on Film" class, 27 students are exploring the Academy Award-winning filmmaker's body of work while learning how to critically analyze the art form.
"Jan Term is the creative counterpoint to the Collegiate Seminar Program," Russo said of the two hallmarks of Saint Mary's liberal arts curriculum.
Senior Tyler Stambaugh, who also took Russo's "New York on Film" course last Jan Term, said both courses have given him insight into an entirely different culture from the one he grew up with in a small Northern California town. The business major added that, "It's cool that Jan Term lets you do something totally outside of your major."
In addition to viewing and discussing a variety of films by Scorsese and others, Russo's students will also keep a film journal of their insights into how they each reflect society or draw upon an American myth, and on the cinematic techniques used by the director to create illusion.
Following a recent screening of Scorsese's "Taxi Driver," the class discussed Robert De Niro's portrayal of the main character-a disturbed Vietnam veteran- as well as the political resonance of the film and New York City's experience with security and vigilantism.
Russo traces his own appreciation of film as art to his days as a student. He recalls that watching Fellini's "La Dolce Vita" in high school made him eagerly want to know more about life. A decade later, as a graduate student at New York University, Russo took a film course taught by former Wall Street Journal film critic Joy Gould Boyum that really sparked his interest in studying film and the media.
Russo, who now specializes in media studies in Saint Mary's Department of Communication, told his students that he shares several things in common with Scorsese, including their Italian heritage and religious background - Scorsese considered becoming a priest and Russo was ordained a priest in 1971.
"We both have a belief that religion is a primary human metaphor and can deeply influence the story of our lives - and the very stuff of movies," Russo wrote in the course description.
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