Previous Graduate Courses

CIN1005H: Special Studies in Cinema

Sections of this course offered in 2017-18

L0101: Postcoloniality and the Moving Image

This course will examine moving image practices in tandem with key concepts in postcolonial theory such as colonial discourse, allegory, difference, nation/nationalism, subaltern, Third World, and universality. We will consider these concepts alongside a range of films and film movements, from Latin America's Third Cinema, to ethnographic documentary and contemporary transnational cinema. The course will question how, if at all, postcolonial theory has been elaborated in a distinctly cinematic (as opposed to literary) locus. Thus the course will also examine the relation of postcoloniality to film studies from a disciplinary perspective.Readings will include germinal texts of anti-colonial and postcolonial thought by figures such as Aimé Césaire, Frantz Fanon, C.L.R. James, Homi Bhabha, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Edward Said, alongside theories of cinema put forward by figures such as Béla Balázs, Fernando Solanas and Octavio Getino, Tomás Gutiérrez Alea, Fredric Jameson, Teshome Gabriel, and Julianne Burton-Carvajal.

Sections of this course offered in 2016-17

L0101: Expanded Cinema: Installation of the Real: Difference, Temporality and Space


This seminar explores moving images in museum and art gallery spaces as an aesthetic practice. The object of our inquiry is to theorize cinema beyond single-screen projection, and to interrogate the Janus-faced potential of the image archive to reanimate geo-political histories of difference that resonate, unresolved, in the present. We will consider how the temporal and affective affordances—to include sensory haptic encounters within the unique temporality of gallery space— contemporize historical memory, re-charge the real, and incite viewers to perceive otherwise. We will examine the image archive’s uncanny after-life, its capacity to provoke interpretive possibilities and associations within the constructed space of the gallery. Beyond information, idealization, or spectacle—thinking about installation’s unique charge of the real affords a means to rethink moving images’ aesthetic and political potential.



Sections of this course offered in 2015-16

L0103: Cinematic Cities


Cinematic Cities

The screen practices we associate with film in its theatrical mode of presentation interacted closely and from the beginning with the culture of emerging urban modernity even before a workable cinematic apparatus was developed.  Exchanges between city and cinema then continued and intensified well into the end of the following century. This course explores selected moments in those exchanges between cities and cinemas. The “cinematic cities” idea implies taking film as a distinctly urban medium, and the modern city correspondingly as a cinematic phenomenon. The medium's technical features, especially montage and spatial manipulation, and film’s diverse roles as an entertainment, poetic, political and information vehicle, as well as cinematic representations of particular cities will be examined. Cinematic Cities will first focus on two topics:  (1) the theorization of modern urban visuality in film, with special consideration of proto- and early cinema related to Paris in the writings of Baudelaire as interpreted by Walter Benjamin and radically reconfigured in Bretonian Surrealism and the films that derive from it; (2) 1920s Berlin, and the writing of Simmel, Kracauer and Benjamin, focused on films like Joe May’s Asphalt, Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, Phil Zutzi’s 1931 Berlin Alexanderplatz, Fritz Lang’s films M. The course will then shift to a topic chosen or elected for development by the class. Possible topics include: Film Noir and the post-war erasure of American cities; Hong Kong cinema and the ‘overexposed’ postmodern city; Rome and the post-war Italian urban film poetics.   

L0205: The Image of Equality: Jacques Ranciere's Film Philosophy

Cinematic Cities

We will be concerned in this seminar to examine the role that film plays in the philosophy of Jacques Rancière, especially insofar as it bears an important relation to his understanding of the experience of equality. To what extent can we understand aesthetic equality as the ground of social equality? And how does cinema contribute uniquely, or at least more forcefully, to the imagination and subsequent establishment of equality in the social, especially given Rancière’s concern to de-emphasize medium specificity in his account of film and the related arts?  In asking these questions, we will consider Rancière’s break with Althusser (has it really ever been so?), and his resistance to Althusser’s conception of ideology, which was so important to apparatus theory and cultural studies. In revisiting the impact of Althusser on both Rancière and film theory, we will have occasion to consider the extent to which the difference between film theory and film philosophy itself might be marked, inescapably, by the very term “politics.”

L0305: Space, Place, and the Moving Image

Cinematic Cities

Moving image media technologies play a complex but increasingly prominent role in our experience of space and place: every mobile phone comes with “Location Services” and GPS features that tell us and sometimes others where we are, where friends are, where to shop, and how to reach any number of destinations; films, TV shows and digital videos carry images from increasingly remote places and cultures into our own, and connect audiences from around the world at a greater scale, and with a greater sense of intimacy and immediacy, than ever before; every photo shared on Instagram or Flickr comes complete with a geo-tag and a list of targeted ad’s. This course will attempt to make sense of how we arrived at this point, and how to engage critically with the politics of space and place in media culture more generally.

To this end, the course will stage an encounter between theories and philosophies of space and place in the continental tradition—with some emphasis on the work of Martin Heidegger and his interlocutors past and present—and the history of aesthetic and technological entanglements between film, television, digital media and the experience of space and place at various social scales and settings. We will consider the subtle role these media play in shaping the history of these theoretical and philosophical works in the modern era, but also how the stylistic dimension of the images helps to shape understandings of imperial power, national and global identity, and tele-commuted presence from this era to the present, and how the very same ideas of space and place that emerged from these understandings in the past can inform a critical engagement with the future of spatial mediation.

Sections of this course offered in 2014-15:

L0104: A Century of Montage / Montage of a Century

Cinematic Cities

“A lovely word. It has everything it needs to be popular.” —Sergei M. Eisenstein on montage

This seminar takes up montage as an aesthetic practice, an object of aesthetic theory, and an analytic method for thinking historically. We will consider the development of montage practice and theory in the contexts of Hollywood and the Soviet Union, giving particular attention to the cinematic and theoretical work of Sergei Eisenstein, Lev Kuleshov, Vsevelod Pudovkin, Esfir Shub, and Dziga Vertov. We will then turn attention to key practitioners of montage of the second half of the twentieth century who have taken up the question and challenge of historical representation as their key project, including montage work by Nicole Védrès, Alain Resnais, Guy Debord, Chris Marker, and Jean-Luc Godard + Jean-Pierre Gorin + Ann-Marie Miéville. While the focus of this seminar will be tightly trained upon a particular set of texts and contexts, the aim will be to produce a generative foundation from which to engage in a wide-ranging examination of montage that will enrich students’ own research in media and history. 

Screenings: Shorts by Griffith and Vorkapíc, The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks (Kuleshov, 1924), Strike(Eisenstein, 1925), Battleship Potemkin (Eisenstein, 1926), The General Line/The New and the Old (Eisenstein, 1929), Man with Movie Camera (Vertov, 1929), Fall of the Romanov Dynasty (Shub, 1927), Chess Fever (Pudovkin, 1925), Mechanics of the Brain (Podovkin, 1926), Experimental Reanimation of Organisms (Brukhonenko and Tchetchuline, 1940), Critique de la séparation (Debord, 1961), L’Air de fond est rouge (Marker, 1977), Nuit et Brouillard (Resnais, 1955), l’Histoire(s) du Cinéma (Godard, 1988-1999), Paris 1900 (Védrès, 1947).

Readings: seminal texts by Vsevolod Pudovkin, Lev Kuleshov, Dziga Vertov, Sergei M. Eisenstein, as well as critical and philosophical texts by Friedrich Hegel, Friedrich Engels, Alexandre Kojève, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Jacques Aumont, Ann Nesbit, André Bazin, and Georges Didi-Huberman.

L0204: Cinema and Moral Perfectionism: On Stanley Cavell's Film Theory

Media, Attention, and Crowds

The question that will occupy us here concerns the relation between cinema and moral perfectionism. The concept of “moral perfectionism,” as articulated by Stanley Cavell, does not imply a religious, ideological, or essential relation to codes of conduct that are external to the singularity of human experience, and that come to us as a series of prescriptions about what is right and what is wrong. Rather, in Cavell’s formulation, moral perfectionism refers to the effort we make daily to clarify ourselves to ourselves and also to others in a way that both acknowledges difference and is sustained by that difference. It is not by accident that Cavell’s philosophy of moral perfectionism was developed in relation to the cinema—as an experience of cinephilia—especially as cinema thrives on, and regularly enacts, a relation between repetition and difference: what repeats, repeats as same for the sake of what else we might see, what else we learn about the film and also about ourselves. Moral perfectionism is, in this way, a question about what it means to live a good life. Thus, we will be asking, along with Cavell, how cinema contributes to our own sense of moral perfection and an experience of the good life, which must include more than just ourselves, and must do so without reference to codes of conduct that are utterly external to ourselves. We will ask, in particular, how cinema—as a medium and social practice—uniquely provides us with an occasion to reflect on the possibility of reciprocity and social continuity, and works against more pernicious conceptions of morality that have been rightly identified and criticized by filmmakers like Von Trier, Haneke, Sirk, Scorsese, Fassbinder, Breillat, Jacobs, Bresson, Ferrara, to name only a few. Central to our consideration, then, will be questions about film as a form of the eternal return, sameness and difference, film and the automation of worlds, indexicality and the temptation of truth, genre and its relation to social norms, as well as the experience of humiliation and humbling that Cavell sees repeatedly enacted in classical Hollywood genre films and that he regards, in turn, as occasions for self-knowledge.

L0304: Of Monsters and Media

Media, Attention, and Crowds

This course will explore the concept and embodiment of "the monstrous," and the pivotal place monsters occupy in the history of moving image media, by gleaning the philosophical, theoretical, and historical insights provided by a wide range of films, TV shows, and multi-media works. In other words, we will be reading both "high" and "low" representations of monstrosity in visual media culture as philosophical meditations on the subject in their own right, each one articulated through a specific set of historical, theoretical, aesthetic, and sociopolitical terms and discourses. The central preoccupation of the course will thus be theoretical in scope, but engaged with historically specific discourses by necessity: what can the history of mass-media, and the seemingly fundamental obsession with monsters that unfolds there, teach us about the ontological relationship between the category of monstrosity, the simultaneously aesthetic and technological act of monstration (or showing), and the social anxieties about media, technology, and being that circulate around them in modern culture and thought? How might the figure of the monster help us rethink the relationship between the multiple different technologies, aesthetics, and cultures of mediation that "converge" throughout the modern history of monster media texts, but also in the more recent technical phenomenon of "media convergence" itself? And finally, how might a different view of these relationships help us make sense of the role that "monster media" have played in the articulation of sociopolitical categories such as "the normal," the human," and "the abject" over time? In order to engage with these kinds of problematics, screenings will be complemented by a rigorous course of readings in philosophy and theory (including film theory, media theory, and critical and cultural theory more broadly), but will place especial emphasis on the work of Jacques Derrida, deconstruction, and related traditions of post-structuralist thought. The point of this emphasis is not only to give students a sustained introduction to a complex but important tradition in contemporary thought--which, not coincidentally, plays a defining role in the way that scholars understand the "problem" of the monster in the modern imagination more generally--but to do so by providing them with a focused opportunity to explore the conceptual nuances of these ideas through the sensuous material features of the film, TV, new media, and sometimes even literary texts with which they entwine. By the same token, however, the textual features of the visual and literary works we look at will take on equal philosophical importance to their more properly academic counterparts, so that attending to the distinctly "monstrous" aesthetic and technological features of James Whale's Frankenstein, George Romero's multi-film zombie serial, and Claire Denis' Trouble Every Day--to say nothing of more "popular spectacles" like Zombieland, Godzilla, and the sitcom The Addams Family--can be understood as part of a multi-media discourse of "monstrosity" that supersedes any and all such categories and distinctions.

Sections of this course offered in 2013-14:

L0103: Cinematic Cities

Cinematic Cities

The screen practices we associate with film in its theatrical mode of presentation interacted closely and from the beginning with the culture of emerging urban modernity even before a workable cinematic apparatus was developed.  Exchanges between city and cinema then continued and intensified well into the end of the following century. This course explores selected moments in those exchanges between cities and cinemas. The “cinematic cities” idea implies taking film as a distinctly urban medium, and the modern city correspondingly as a cinematic phenomenon. The medium's technical features, especially montage and spatial manipulation, and film’s diverse roles as an entertainment, poetic, political and information vehicle, as well as cinematic representations of particular cities will be examined. Cinematic Cities will first focus on two topics:  (1) the theorization of modern urban visuality in film, with special consideration of proto- and early cinema related to Paris in the writings of Baudelaire as interpreted by Walter Benjamin and radically reconfigured in Bretonian Surrealism and the films that derive from it; (2) 1920s Berlin, and the writing of Simmel, Kracauer and Benjamin, focused on films like Joe May’s Asphalt, Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City, Phil Zutzi’s 1931 Berlin Alexanderplatz, Fritz Lang’s films M. The course will then shift to a topic chosen or elected for development by the class. Possible topics include: Film Noir and the post-war erasure of American cities; Hong Kong cinema and the ‘overexposed’ postmodern city; Rome and the post-war Italian urban film poetics.  

L0303: The Reality of Electronic Media 

Media, Attention, and Crowds

The course will explore the representation of reality in television and new media programming with a special emphasis on the phenomenon of "reality" programming in the era of convergence. Drawing from a range of different approaches--including close formal analysis, critical theory and philosophy, and industrial history, among others--it will introduce students to the field of scholarship on reality TV while also providing the resources to push it further by engaging with a longer history of debates about the nature of the relationship between reality and mediation; media technologies and sociological analysis; and the aesthetic paradigms of realism and naturalism that most heavily inform TV and new media representations of reality today. The goal will be to make sense of the sweeping, multi-faceted phenomenon of "reality entertainment" that has come to dominate the landscape of television and new media programming at precisely the same moment that the use of electronic media technologies has come to dominate the practical experience of reality in everyday life. 

Sections of this course offered in 2012-13:

L0202: The Thought of Film: Cinema and Mind

The Thought of Film

In 1948, the French film theorist and filmmaker Alexandre Astruc imagined an important relation between film and thought when he wrote that: “A Descartes of today would already have shut himself up in his bedroom with a 16mm camera and some film, and would be writing his philosophies on film: for his Discours de la Méthode would today be of such a kind that only the cinema could express it satisfactorily.” For Astruc, and many others in the history of film theory, film has an especial affinity for thought—for the depiction of consciousness itself—since what appears in the image are relations between objects and people in space unmediated by language. For this reason, film theorists have been attracted to cinema as an extension of the mind, as a machine that records and assembles the world just as we ourselves do in moments of reflection. This course will survey the history of film theory in light of this preoccupation, beginning with early classical film theorists like Hugo Munsterberg, Rudolf Arnheim, V.I. Pudovkin, Jean Epstein, and Sergei Eisenstein, moving outward to consider the relation between epistemology and ontology in the writings of Annette Michelson and Stanley Cavell, and toward a reflection on the status of film/mind analogies in contemporary film theory—including forays into cognitive and analytical film theory, the cinema books of Gilles Deleuze and his commentators (especially D.N. Rodowick), the Wittgensteinian language games of Edward Branigan, and the reflections on aesthetic seriousness as a mode of thinking that one finds in the film writings of the philosopher Alexander García Düttmann, among others. In this course, we will ask what it means for film to be a form of philosophy, especially as film theory and film philosophy appear, in our time, to be converging. We will also—given our insistence on the film/mind relation—be inquiring about the privileged status of epistemology in the history of film theory, concerned as we will be to learn what a this preoccupation with epistemology in film theory truly begets.

L0302: The Society of the Spectacle Today

Society of the Spectacle

In The Society of the Spectacle, Guy Debord describes spectacle as “a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.” Given the increasingly pivotal role that both images and moving image media technologies play in the formation of social and political relations today, it is easy to understand why Debord’s landmark treatise has generated so much interest among media theorists and philosophers in recent years. And yet, the historical relevance of Debord’s work seems to rise only as the relevance of its theoretical and philosophical insights—which have been heavily critiqued from a number of quarters—seems to decline. What does it mean, then, to read The Society of the Spectacle today? The course will provide students with a critical introduction to Debords writings and films about spectacle, as well as the large body of literature these pivotal works have produced in cinema and media studies. At the same time, though, it will incorporate contemporary interpretations and critiques of spectacle from both continental philosophy and media studies, as well as screenings from a broader array of cinema, TV, and new media spectacles, in order to promote new ways of engaging with the both the timeliness and the untimeliness of Debord’s idea today.

Sections of this course offered in 2011-12:

L0101: Textuality of the Cinematic Body

In this course we will examine the various ways in which the body is constructed, circulated, and read as text in cinema, where the superficial bears the burden of signification.  More specifically, we will consider the role of the body in a variety of cinematic genres, including musicals, pornography, horror, and melodrama, in order to explore a wide array of inscriptive practices that serve to map the body as a whole or privilege certain constituent parts, as well as the hermeneutical acts such practices encourage.  While our primary object of study will be a set of filmic texts and film-related scholarship (be it theoretical, historical, and/or critical in nature), we will also be reading material from philosophy, psychology, and literary studies on a wide array of topics, from the histrionics of hysteria to the spectacle of race, from the kinetics of dance to the paroxysms of pain.  As a result, we will gain insight into not only the relationship between corporeality and cinema, but also, more generally, the ways that concepts such as surface and depth, materiality and meaning, appearance and essence, affect and intellect are defined both against and through each other within visual culture at large.  

L0201: Colour and the Moving Image

Jean-Luc Godard once noted that Coca-Cola and Communism share an affinity for the same saturated red—wondering, thereby, how it could be that this beacon of capitalism could share a mode of identification with a system to which it is entirely opposed. The paradoxical character of red—and the polyvalence of colour more generally—has led, until very recently, film theorists and film historians to ignore it, and for a number of reasons. For one, colour poses serious problems for interpretation. If one colour can mean many things, how will we understand any given instance? To make matters worse, we all perceive colour slightly differently and colour has been known to fade in time. If that is so, I may be inclined to wonder if the blue motif that I am analyzing will appear to others in the same way? How am I to know if what appears now has appeared before? Colour, then, is primarily a problem of interpretation and perception, especially if we believe that interpretations can be right or wrong. Our task in this course, however, is not to enlarge the skepticism about colour and interpretation. Rather, in considering philosophical, scientific, and historical discourses about colour, we will arrive at a variety of ways of analyzing colour style in film and video art. Likewise, as we begin to come to terms with the perceptual instability as a positive phenomenon, we will consider how and why dominant histories of film style have been written, especially as the taming of colour has been central to an ongoing categorical distinction between narrative cinema and the avant-garde, morality and hedonism.

L0301: Media/Participation

In the age of TiVo, YouTube, and voter-based reality shows such as the global Idols and Got Talent franchises, it is easy to think of the “new” in new media as a short-hand for the revolutionary promise of consumer participation in the construction of both global and national popular culture. However, the phenomenon of participatory media is hardly as “new” as new media technology, nor is it the self-evident bearer of democratic values that many proponents of "social media" technology would like to suggest. In order to make sense of the complex social and political issues that surround contemporary discourses of participatory media—as well as their mobilization by activists and consumers alike—this course will provide a historical survey of “old” media technologies and aesthetics of participation, running from 19th century popular theater to 20th century radio, film, television, and activist video art, but with an extended concentration on the participation-driven television shows of the fifties that set the generic precedent for contemporary television and internet programming. At the same time, it will provide a theoretical and philosophical inquiry into the very notion of participation as it intersects with theories of democratic politics and activism. In short, the course will provide an intensive opportunity to think about the politics of participation and the sociopolitical challenges they present in contemporary media culture.

L0101: Technologies of Governance: Media, Reality, Liberalism

This course will explore the entanglements between two different but related stories of technology: on the one hand, the technologies of broadcast and digital communication that structure the contemporary cultural phenomenon of Reality-TV, and on the other, the “technologies” of social, economic and political representation that structure the political philosophy of modern liberalism and the theories of governance it advances. Part of this undertaking will involve an engagement with existing scholarship on the history and theory of reality television; part of it will involve a genealogical inquiry into the aesthetic, economic, institutional, and yes, technological conditions that have shaped the phenomenon; and part of it will involve an intensive introduction to the thought of Michel Foucault and his successors—whose writings on the genealogy of modern liberalism and neoliberalism, and on the genealogical method of discourse analysis, occupy a pivotal place in the scholarship on reality television—as well as the theories of modern liberalism and governance they discuss. However, the chief concerns and questions of the course will go beyond any one of these three basic strands of its construction to ask: What can this examination of the relation between reality TV, liberalism and neoliberalism teach us about the relation between modern media culture, modern techniques of liberal and neoliberal governance and power, and modern conceptions of political economy and representation more broadly? And how might answers to this question reframe the way we think about the aesthetic, institutional, economic and political underpinnings of the “technologies” they share in common? Accordingly, students can expect to spend as much of the course looking at major texts from the history of reality TV as they do looking at the theatrical, televisual and cinematic genealogies that inform them, and as much time reading television studies scholarship as they do the works of philosophy, political economy and critical theory that take up the history and theory of liberalism and neoliberalism.

CIN3002H: Cinema and Nation

Sections of this course offered in 2016-17:

L0101: Cinema and Nation: Realism, Revolt, and Iranian Cinema

This course will consider the relationship between realism and the political dimensions of cinematic form in Iranian cinema.  We will take a long view of Iranian cinema, from turn-of-the-century travelogues to the dissident Iranian New Wave to contemporary transnational art cinema. We will pay particular attention to the ways in which practices of film analysis, the geopolitics of spectatorship, and realism taken for value have shaped scholarly debates on Iranian cinema and non-Western cinemas more broadly. Readings include texts by Fredric Jameson, André Bazin, Siegfried Kracauer, Negar Mottahedeh, Jonathan Rosenbaum, Hamid Naficy, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Hamid Dabashi, and Joan Copjec, among others.

CIN3006H: Media and Philosophy

Sections of this course offered in 2017-18:

L0101: On Cronenberg & Villeneuve

The figure of the auteur plays a vexing role in the burgeoning subfield of Film Philosophy. While philosophical accounts of film tend to revolve around the works of prominent European and American directors—in other words, works that fit comfortably into the categories of industrial, national and aesthetic identification that defined auteur theory at its inception—they also tend to revolve around bodies of critical and continental thought that put these same categories of identification and interpretation into question. In an effort to take the methodological and conceptual paradoxes of this scenario seriously while also working to address them in new ways, this course will stage a philosophical engagement the films of David Cronenberg and Denis Villeneuve—two filmmakers who are widely recognized among the most important auteurs of contemporary art film, but who achieved this distinction by working across, beyond and between the industrial and geopolitical contexts of America and Europe, and perhaps not mistakenly, by making films that question the concepts of identity, agency, knowledge and social belonging most essential to the designation of a national film auteur
Apart from providing students with an immersive introduction to these two major figures of Canadian cinema and the philosophical debates their films engage, the course will work through the uses and contradictions of the auteur designation, exploring how the often graphic and disturbing nature of the films themselves might help us rethink a whole range of themes in the history of philosophy that encompass and extend beyond this designation—including the meaning of artistic originality, the relation between media and reality, the nature of moral law and its violation, and the entanglements of mind, technology, and body. The primary goals of the course will be three-fold: to introduce students to some of the key methodologies in the study of film philosophy, especially as they depend on skills of close formal analysis that cut across the reading of written philosophical texts from philosophy and of moving image media; to reexamine some of the points of contact between the history of film theory, the history of critical and continental philosophy and the emergent subfield of Film Philosophy; and to lay the groundwork for a more expansive mode of Media Philosophy that might push beyond all three of these sub-disciplinary formations. In this sense, students should expect a course that both straddles and disrupts the disciplinary categories of Media and Philosophy

Sections of this course offered in 2016-17:

L0101: Film and Contemporary Political Philosophy

In the field of film philosophy, a great deal attention has been paid—and rightly so—to the work of continental philosophers and their reflections on film and media, whether as art, as related sound-image concepts about time, presence, and intermediality, or else as forms of social control. In this seminar, we will turn our attention instead to the recent work of a range of North American political philosophers who have begun to write seriously about film and not merely as a mode of illustration but as a medium vital to our experience and understanding of questions about the will, the force of law, community, and freedom, as well as a host of important ethical questions about what a good life consists in and how cinema—and images more broadly—contribute to that experience and understanding. Through close readings of films and key philosophical texts, we will consider a range of ideas about all of these issues, especially with respect to how these ideas might broaden the scope, or be put into conversation with, film and media theory. In addition to considering a number of questions about these issues, the focus on largely North American philosophers writing on, or with, film will give us an occasion to consider the role that place and culture, and North American film and philosophical traditions (or absence of traditions, as the case may at some points be) more specifically come to play in the elaboration of their concepts. Likewise, many of these philosophers are informed by the continental tradition, but work in ways that are often intentionally difficult to indicate in absolute terms. In this sense, we might also begin to ask what a North American philosophical sensibility might be, especially insofar as the antagonisms one otherwise feels between continental and analytical sensibilities are not so insistently displayed here. Among others, we will read recent work by Drucilla Cornell, Bonnie Honig, Frederic Jameson, Davide Panagia, Robert Pippin, and Jean Paul Ricco.

CIN3008H: Topics in Film and Media History

Sections of this course offered in 2017-18:

L0101: Issues in Silent Cinema

This course will investigate recent thought about silent cinema, concentrating on pertinent methodological frameworks and cultural practices specific to cinema before sound.  The course will cover both the early cinema period and the years that follow, and take up issues both historiographical (e.g., periodization, institutionalization) and topical (e.g., gender and silent cinema, intermediality).  The course will also consider how practices that occurred during the period (including those related to exhibition, presentation, and reception) and those pertinent to the present day (such as restoration and preservation) affect our understanding of cinema’s earliest years.”

CIN3010H: Topics in Film and Media THeory

Sections of this course offered in 2017-18:

FALL L0101: Adorno and Media Theory

This course will look at Theodor Adorno’s influential writing on media and mass culture in light of recent technological developments in image production and dissemination. We will tend, as well, to more recent efforts in media theory to either reinforce in new ways, or else deny, Adorno’s insights about the relation between aesthetics and technology and the possibility of autonomy. The course will be divided in two halves. In the first half, we will read Adorno’s largely skeptical accounts of mass culture as a form of mass deception. In the second, we will turn to his writings on aesthetic autonomy in order to ask what autonomy could mean for cinema with respect to both industrial modes of production and avant-garde practices. Readings will include The Dialectic of EnlightenmentThe Culture Industry: Selected Essays on Mass CultureAesthetic TheoryComposing for the Films (with Eisler), and Philosophy of New Music, among other works. We will look at a diverse range of films, television shows and forms of new media.

WINTER L0101: Ordinary Media

This seminar is addressed to a single question: how do we attend to the ways in which technological media articulate our ordinary? Computation and computational devices are now everywhere in the overdeveloped West: ubiquitous, atmospheric, ambient. Ordinary. Beyond the substance of the problem (already significant in itself), the ordinariness of new media technologies calls for new methods of study. Critical reflection honed on aesthetic objects correlated with human experience and organized by sustained and concentrated attention (e.g., cinema) seems ill-suited to address problems at this scale (which is either too small or too large) and this level of intensity (which is too diffuse).

How we address ourselves to this question will be largely driven by student interest. The first third of the term will programmed by Professor Richmond, framed as an introduction to the problem. To give shape to the problem of the ordinariness of our media, we will read both in recent digital media theory (e.g., Tung-hui Hu, Seb Franklin, Benjamin Bratton, John Durham Peters) as well as in theories and philosophies of the ordinary (e.g. Stanley Cavell, Lauren Berlant, Nigel Thrift, Kathleen Stewart). The form and content of the second third of the term will be devised by students (and guided by Scott), as a development and elaboration of the question through case studies. The final third of the term will be structured around students’ final projects, which will typically take the form of a substantial research paper, but could also include any number of alternative forms of research practice.

Sections of this course offered in 2016-17:

L0101: Making Faces: Identity, Performance, and the Face on Film (exclusion: ENG6070H)

In this course, we will explore the meaning of the face on screen. Much has been said about the face in cinema, with much of that discourse focusing on the close-up. This course will explore this work while also examining the historical context and material specificity of the face on screen. Beginning in the early silent era, when the close-up was becoming an accepted part of cinematic language, we will examine the numerous ways the face has created meaning on screen, as well as the numerous ways the screen image has shaped our understanding of the face. We will study films and performers that have been central to theories of the screen face, and we will read criticism and theory that takes up the aesthetic, political, and ethical meaning of the face.