We construe "aesthetics" broadly: as a study in sensory perception, value, and the close analysis of artistic objects. "Medium," too, is understood along a spectrum of meanings that range from the materials of art (words, sound, paint, stone, film, air, light) to various technical apparatuses and communications systems (print, photography, film, radio, television, and digital media).
Our central questions include: What is the relation between media and various kinds of art? Can artistic uses of media be distinguished from non-artistic uses? What is the relation between media and human sensations and perceptions? How do media produce pity, fear, or pleasure? Do we learn new ways of seeing and hearing through the devices involved in painting, photography, music, and cinema? What happens when we adapt or translate objects into other media: painting into photography, writing into film, or music into video?
This not a course in “media studies” in any narrow sense. It is rooted in a broad range of criticism and philosophy by such writers as Plato, Aristotle, Nietzsche, Freud, Benjamin, Bazin, Derrida, Mulvey, Baudrillard, and Barthes. It ranges across historical eras to consider aesthetic objects of many kinds: films, paintings, photographs, novels, plays, stories, poems, songs, and albums. Occasionally, we ask questions about how the aesthetic object is situated in cultural history. More often, though, we will be fostering sensitivity to, and analysis of, the sensory, cognitive, and emotional shaping of the aesthetic experience as framed by the medium in which it occurs.
Sample syllabus from a previous year