What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate: A Postmodern Analysis of Representations of Higher Education in Cinema

Carlos Enrique Gonzalez, Florida International University


The primary purpose of this study was to explore representations of higher education in film. In order to achieve that objective this study consisted of a narrative analysis of the themes that emerged in films regarding higher education. This study focused on films from the 1950s to the present. The narratives that emerged from the analysis of the films were compared and contrasted to the scholarly literature regarding higher education. The analysis of the films also included juxtaposing the film narratives to the work of postmodern theorists such as Michel Foucault in order to inform the claims made by the researcher. This study focused on seven main themes regarding higher education in the cinema. The higher education themes that were examined in this study were Students, Student Services, Admissions, Race, Finance, Faculty, and Gender. Overall, this study found that higher education in the cinema is not represented as a unified monolithic system. Instead, the findings indicate that the representations of higher education and its different parts were quite varied among the films. In spite of all the differences there was one overall theme that remained constant. This study found that the cinema privileged the traditional, selective, four-year residential university as the model for a higher education institution. An analysis of the representations of students in the films found that the depictions of students in the cinema also varied greatly over time. However, this study revealed that a major discursive student theme that was constant throughout the films was a focus on the sex lives of students. The analysis of the representations of faculty members also proved to be quite varied. This study revealed that the one major discursive theme that was constant in regards to faculty was that all of the faculty members remained employed as academics regardless of the difficulties they may have faced. This dissertation also includes a discussion of the implications of the study's findings and provides suggestions for future research.

Subject Area

Modern literature|Higher education|Film studies

Recommended Citation

Gonzalez, Carlos Enrique, "What We've Got Here is a Failure to Communicate: A Postmodern Analysis of Representations of Higher Education in Cinema" (2015). ProQuest ETD Collection for FIU. AAI10002863.