Introduction to Media provides a foundation in media history and theory. It also explores how students can use aspects of traditional humanistic approaches (e.g., close reading and visual literacy) to critically engage with texts of all kinds. Students consider how material conditions shape discourse and assess their own positions as consumers and producers of media.
History of Experiment considers major figures and experimental approaches, such as poetics, the philosophical thought experiment, and the scientific method, and challenges students to reconsider existing categories of and approaches to knowledge formation.
Other EH courses cover topics including the idea of the viral in theater, how to (de-)code drones, the role of images in Human Rights discourse, the science of creativity, media “framing” of US elections, the history of the book, and machine-made music. Many EH courses work with alternative modes of scholarship (such as digital archiving and exhibition-making with Omeka), or are “production” courses that teach skills from computing for digital humanities to cybergraphics to 3D filmmaking.
Courses for the Spring 2017 Semester include the EH core course “The History of Experiment.”
ANTH 356: Culture, Mediation, Media (Laura Kunreuther)
As people around the world engage on a daily (and even hourly) basis with a variety of different media and technology, anthropologists have turned their attention to way new and old media shape people’s perception of time, space, social and personal identity. Just as culture is being reshaped by everyday media practices, media itself has reshaped our idea of culture and humanity. Looking broadly at the concept of ‘mediation,’ this course will discuss contemporary theories and ethnographies of media and technology. We will look at examples such as: the use of cellphones to organize political protest, the use of photography to link national with personal identity, the use of gramophones and sound recording to record voices of the dead, the use of radio to produce national and intimate subjects, social networking sites that produce new forms of public intimacy. We will do a collective ethnography on one internet site, and students will be required to do their own ethnographic project of one media or technological form.
ARTH 315: Interior Worlds: Turn-of-the-Century American Decorative Arts and Material Culture (Julia Rosenbaum)
It is only shallow people who do not judge by appearances. The true mystery of the world is the visible, not the invisible…
—Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray, chapter 2
How does the world of interior spaces, their furnishings and decorative objects, tell us stories, assert values, project identities? Through an engaged-learning experience with three early twentieth-century National Park sites in the Hudson Valley—the Vanderbilt Mansion, the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Eleanor Roosevelt’s Home at Val-Kill—this seminar explores both the relationship between objects and identities and issues of consumption and appearance. The course will focus on American decorative arts from the late nineteenth into the twentieth century addressing theories about the purpose, meaning, and value of design and decoration as well as key movements, designers, and artists. Visiting the sites and collections regularly, we will combine the scholarly study of aesthetic ideals and social practices with hands-on examination of specific objects in the Vanderbilt and Roosevelt museum collections. Final projects will involve individual or group curated digital exhibitions.
CMSC 143: Object-Oriented Programming with Robots (Khondaker Salehin)
This course introduces students to object-oriented design and programming through the design and implementation of mobile robot programs. The programs will enable the robot to move around the world, reacting to sensors such as obstacle detectors and a color camera. Students will learn how to move from an informal problem statement, through increasingly precise problem specifications, to design and implementation of a solution. Good programming habits will be emphasized.
FILM 203: Performance & Video (Ben Coonley)
This course explores intersections of video and performance art. Course participants develop ways of using video’s most fundamental property: its ability to reproduce a stream of real-time synchronized images and sounds. How does video technology mediate between on-screen performer and audience? How can artists interested in creating critical and self-reflexive media respond to video’s immediacy and “liveness”? How can performance artists use video playback devices, displays, projectors, and interactive elements to shape and enhance live art? Course participants will work on individual projects using cameras, monitors, switchers, surveillance systems, projectors, and software-based video mixers. The first half of the course concentrates on the creation of performance “tapes” (or tape-less video documents) and the history of experimental video focused on framing staged live activities. The second half of the course concentrates on the use of video as a central component within live art events, plus a continued discussion about the larger cultural and psychological impact of live video production. Readings on and viewings of work by Nam Jun Paik, Andy Warhol, Joan Jonas, Martha Rosler, Laurie Anderson, Richard Serra, Chris Burden, John Baldessari, Bruce Nauman, Gilbert & George, George Kuchar, William Wegman, Michael Smith, Walid Raad, Wynne Greenwood, Shana Moulton, Eileen Maxson, Ryan Trecartin, Xander Marro, Miranda July, Sadie Benning, Jeremy Bailey, Paper Rad, Harry Dodge and Stanya Kahn.
THTR 317: 20th Century Avant Garde Performance (Miriam Felton-Dansky)
“Set fire to the library shelves!” wrote the Italian Futurists in their first manifesto of 1909. With their revolutionary politics, audience provocations, and enthusiastic embrace of the new, the Futurists inaugurated a century of avant-garde performance. This course will investigate that century, tracing the European and American theatrical avant-gardes from 1909 to 1995, including movements and artists such as Expressionism, Surrealism and Dada; John Cage, Allan Kaprow, and Happenings; utopian collectives of the 1960s; Peter Handke, Heiner Müller, the Wooster Group and Reza Abdoh. We will explore questions including: the implications of assuming the mantle of the “avant-garde”; the contested status of the dramatic text in avant-garde performance; the relationship between performance and emerging media forms; and avant-garde artists’ efforts to create radical fusions of art and life. This course will require a research paper, reading responses, and a presentation.
HIST 144: The History of Experiment (Gregory Moynahan)
The scientific method and the modern form of the scientific experiment are arguably the most powerful innovations of the modern period. Although dating back in its modern form to only the sixteenth century, the concept of the experiment as an attempt to find underlying continuities in experience has numerous origins stretching back to earliest recorded history. In this course, we will examine how different experiments and artisanal practices have been used to interpret the natural world, and how those interpretations are reflective of the time periods and cultural contexts in which they were made. We will conduct our own experiments in replicability, discuss performance and the public culture of science, and explore the visual and material cultures of science.
HR 318: Persons & Things (Ann Seaton)
The course will explore the question of personhood in law, aesthetics, and culture, focusing on the relations between persons and things. The fragility of the boundary between persons and things is a recurring structure in the history of human rights. How do persons become things, and vice versa? How can things have rights, and how do they claim and exercise them? Topics include the legal definition of “person,” gender and personhood, “illegal”/undocumented aliens, structures of personification, slavery, reification, poetry and sculpture, personhood as property, social media and new forms of subjectivity, and the Pygmalion complex. Texts by Ovid, Locke, Dennis Cooper, Hawthorne, Heidegger, Lacan, Baudelaire, Plath, Harriet Jacobs, and Barbara Johnson, as well as films, videos, and websites. Final projects may use various forms of media (music, animation, performance, sculpture, photography, personal narrative) to respond to a conceptual question that students develop.
IDEA 135: Games at Work: Participation, Procedure, and Play (Ben Coonley and Keith O’Hara)
LIT 256: The Rise of Fiction in Enlightenment Britain (Collin Jennings)
The course is a history of modern fictionality that locates the eighteenth-century novel in relation to other Enlightenment forms of supposition. The period from the Restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 through the French Revolution tends to be treated as a period of progress in Britain and Europe. It has been called the Age of Revolutions, referring to dramatic changes in politics, science, and political economy that produced new views of factuality related to scientific discoveries and mechanical inventions. However, this course explores the premise that new forms of fictionality equally characterized the emergence of modern civil society. From the scientific hypothesis, to historical conjecture, to economic prognostication, to the national lottery and other games of chance, eighteenth-century British society witnessed the proliferation of many forms of make-believe. By gathering together discussions of these different forms, this course will challenge the typical division between imaginative and scientific types of supposition. Readings will include works by Margaret Cavendish, Isaac Newton, Eliza Haywood, Daniel Defoe, Horace Walpole, Laurence Sterne, Adam Smith, Maria Edgeworth, and Jane Austen.
LIT 2041: Making Love: Introduction to Renaissance Poetry (Adhaar Noor Desai)
When we think about Renaissance poetry, we tend to think of the sonnet: rule-bound, blatantly artificial, and old-fashioned. The funny thing is, the poets writing in the Renaissance tried everything they could to make their poems appear as just the opposite: organic, sincere, and excitingly new. Just beneath the veneer of formal qualities like rhyme and meter, poems from the period are sensitive and probing explorations of chaos, frustration, madness, desire, and the sublime. This course examines, by focusing on the theme of love as a psychological, emotional, and political concept, how poets in the period fought with language in order to make poetry say things that could not be said otherwise. Our units will consider how both the concept of love and the poetic techniques used to articulate it intersect in surprising ways with political subversion, queerness, and religious doubt. Through both critical assignments and creative exercises, including engaging with digital media to better understand how the technologies of publication and the expectations of popular culture shape the transmission of ideas, we’ll hone a deep understanding of essential aspects of poetry while we think about how it was (and still is) a tool for thought and an instrument of emotional understanding. The course covers a broad range of major works as well as less commonly-read (yet nevertheless indelibly great) poetry, in particular poetry by women; Shakespeare, Spenser, Donne and Milton will take their place in context alongside Mary Sidney, Robert Herrick, Katherine Philips, George Herbert, Amelia Lanyer, and Margaret Cavendish.
LIT 2414: The Book Before Print (Marisa Libbon)
What were books like before the invention of print? What was the experience of reading them? How did they shape and how were they shaped by the world in which they were produced? And how do we know? In 1476 William Caxton set up England’s first printing press. Prior to the arrival of this new technology—which the sixteenth-century writer John Foxe deemed miraculous—English books were made of vellum (sheepskin) and were written and decorated by hand. In this course, we’ll study early English books as both cultural objects and literary archives, dividing our time between investigating how pre-print English manuscript-books were made and read, and reading their contents—the popular literature of medieval England—for ourselves: epics, lyrics, histories, romances, all of which will be made available in modern printed editions. Our work will raise questions about the relationship between material form and literary content; the intersection of image and text; the development and preservation of literary and visual artifacts; the ethical and practical problems of producing modern printed editions of handwritten texts; and the proximity of anonymous pre-print culture to the so-called Internet Age.
LIT 3046: Woman as Cyborg (Maria Cecire)
From the robot Maria in the 1927 film Metropolis to the female-voiced Siri application for iPhone, mechanized creations that perform physical, emotional, and computational labor have been routinely gendered female in both fiction and reality. In this course, we will discuss how gynoids, fembots, and female-identified machinery reflect the roles of women’s work and women’s bodies in technologized society. Why might it matter that the words “typewriter” and “computer” used to refer to women who typed and performed calculations? How are sexualized fembots marked both by their total manipulability and ultimate inaccessibility? What can cyborgism contribute to feminist theory? We will draw upon scholarship by Anne Marie Balsamo, Rita Felski, Donna Haraway, Andreas Huyssen, and others as we explore the relationships between women, modernity, and mechanization in a range of cultural texts. These will include written works from ancient Greece, Karel Capek’s 1923 play R.U.R. (in which the word “robot” first appeared), Ira Levin’s The Stepford Wives, and William Gibson’s Neuromancer; examples from film and television such as “Blade Runner”, “Wall-E”, and the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica”; as well as real-world androids and computer programs.
LIT/PHIL 322: Citizens of the World: Ancient, Modern, Contemporary (Thomas Bartscherer)
“I am a citizen of the world.” First attributed to the 4th century philosopher Diogenes, the concept of “global citizenship” has a complex history and urgent relevance to the present historical moment. This course explores a tension at the heart of the idea of global citizenship: the relationship between the particularity that defines membership in a given cultural and political community and the universality that characterizes the human condition. We will examine the philosophical and historical development of the concept of global citizenship and its political, ethical, and psychological implications from antiquity through to the present day. Authors to be read include Plato, Aristotle, Sophocles, Ibn Tufayl, Kant, Tocqueville, Nietzsche, Arendt, Darwish, Coetzee, Nussbaum, and Appiah. This course will be co-taught simultaneously in Berlin and Annandale-on-Hudson.
SPAN 301: Intro to Spanish Literature (Mar Gomez Glez (Maria Del Mar Windeler))
This course explores some of the major literary works produced on the Iberian Peninsula from the Middle Ages to the present day. Students will become familiar with the general contours of Spanish history as they study in depth a selected number of masterpieces, including works by Miguel de Cervantes, Calderón de la Barca, Teresa de Jesús, Cadalso, Larra, Galdós, Emilia PardoBazán, Unamuno, Lorca, and Carmen Laforet. The course will be organized around three thematic modules: Spanish culture’s engagement with notions of purity and pollution; the emergence and evolution of the first person singular in Spanish literature; and the representations of the country and the city, the center and the periphery. In each module we will undertake a survey of relevant literature occasionally put in conversation with the visual arts. Conducted in Spanish.
WRIT 345: Imagining Nonhuman Consciousness (Benjamin Hale)
Philosopher Thomas Nagel asked, “What is it like to be a bat?” Ultimately, he determined the question unanswerable: A bat’s experience of the world is so alien to our own that it remains inaccessible to human cognitive empathy. That’s arguable. But it is true at least that a bat’s experience—or that of any other nonhuman consciousness—is not inaccessible to human imagination. In this course we will read and discuss a wide variety of texts, approaching the subject of nonhuman consciousness through literature, philosophy, and science. We will read works that attempt to understand the experiences of apes, elephants, parrots, lobsters, cows, ants, monsters, puppets, computers, and eventually, zombies. Course reading may include Descartes, Kafka, Rilke, Jakob von Uexküll, Patricia Highsmith, John Gardner’s Grendel, Carlo Collodi’s Pinocchio, David Foster Wallace, Irene Pepperberg, Temple Grandin, Donna Haraway, Isaac Asimov, Fransde Waal, E. O. Wilson, Giorgio Agamben, and Bennett Sims’s A Questionable Shape, among others, in addition to a viewing of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and possibly other films. This is also a craft class, as each student will produce a substantial project over the semester: The assignments will be open-ended, as I am open to both creative and analytical works; but a major component of the class will be incorporating these ideas into our own writing.