Surveillance media are ubiquitous: in your pocket, on the street, at school, underground, and in the air. They work incessantly and quietly, often without our knowledge but always with the goal of producing knowledge about us. But they don’t do so equally. Wedded to concepts of security, risk, and crisis, surveillance is itself a technology of power. While some of us benefit from surveillance in certain contexts, many others are disproportionally targeted based on differences of race, gender, sexuality, class, religious affiliation, ability, citizenship, and more.
This course will explore how surveillance media distribute power in the United States and across its global connections. Throughout, we will understand surveillance media not only as the specific technologies used for surveillance, but also how these technologies differentially mediate our bodies, behaviors, communities, and political relationships. Beginning with various theoretical frameworks of surveillance, this course will track surveillance media across various sites and systems. These include borders, policing, drones, algorithms, and labor. In each, we will examine both contemporary and historical materials in order to consider how our dominant ideas and values about surveillance media are rooted in the ideologies and violences of capitalism, colonialism, and empire. We conclude by exploring modalities of resistance in art and grassroots organizing that imagine more just futures.
Games are everywhere, so pervasive that we tend to take for granted what games are and how the notion of play is associated with specific cultural and historical contexts. In this class, we will defamiliarize our understandings of games and play by exploring their active interactions with literature mainly in pre-modern China and Japan. From Tang dynasty riddle tales to Edo period puppet theater, from the fantastic pilgrimage in the novel Journey to the West to the virtual journey on the Sugoroku game board—all these materials we will cover in class center on the ways in which playing, storytelling, and reading go hand in hand with one another. Stories are turned into literary games, and sometimes, games start to tell stories. By engaging theories in game studies, media studies, and narratology with a close reading and discussion of selected tales, novels, and plays, we will consider: What aspects of games and play, as well as their related cultural values can we discover in these literary works? How do games and play as a perspective enable us to consider such issues as fictional world, objecthood, adaptation, and memory in literature and beyond? How do certain narrative and stylistic devices in different media (e.g. textual, visual, and material) function in our examination of games and stories? All readings will be provided in English.
Throughout history, music fed the machinery of war and helped to come to terms with war. We will be examining how music, as realized by military commanders 500 years ago, has the power to intimidate the enemy, to energize and coordinate combatants. In the Renaissance, composers wrote ‘battaglias’ which is program music imitating battles. We will study pieces that celebrated victories and songs of thanksgiving which were performed during peace celebrations. During the Second World War, more than ever, music became both a propaganda instrument of the Nazi Reich and of counter-cultures. We will also encounter how soldiers of the Vietnam War dealt with their traumas and how their soundtrack created the means for articulating the cultural memory of a generation.
In this course, we will actively investigate the dark and light side of music, namely, music’s role in wars, conflicts, and peace. On the dark side, we explore how music instigates or accompanies violence, music’s role in propaganda, and how music can be (ab)used to create hatred. On the light side, we investigate music as a medium of commemoration, remembrance, hope, and healing. We will be doing so through active listening at home and during class and by discussing our findings in this seminar-style course. Sound recordings will be our main historical source supplemented with weekly readings of secondary literature.
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Writing about music is always an act of translation: trying to set the indescribable—sound, beyond words—into a worded space. This class will explore different tactics taken by writers across form and genre and look at how they attempt to solve the problem; we’ll also practice writing about music within different conventional forms (reference article, review) in order to test out their strengths and weaknesses ourselves. We will look to the expanded approaches to music writing offered by the internet as well as older genres, as defined in the four nodes of the course: personal, contextual/analytical, fictional, and multimodal, with the idea of communication about and with music at the center of all the writing we do. As primarily a writing class, we will build a toolbox of techniques, looking to both academic and popular forms, and will focus on developing article and essay pitches for journalism and web outlets as well as gaining a broader knowledge of the different kinds of music writing there are and ways to use them separately and in combination.
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Taking on a transatlantic and trans-historic approach to understanding the role and representation of women in connection to food, this course will explore a diverse array of cultural artifacts ranging from 1583 to contemporary times. We will read authors such as Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz, Spanish chronicles about the food cultures of the Mexica people, alongside cookbooks, and representations of women and food in Baroque, Colonial Latin American, and Latinx art. We will put premodern and modern sources in dialogue in order to flesh out the long-standing ideas and representations of women’s relation to food. Some of the questions we will explore are: How have notions of race shaped the experience of Latin American women in the kitchen? What modes of knowledge transmission has food enabled for women? How have Mexican and Latinx women re-appropriated the figure of a 17th-century poet as a culinary icon? How have poets re-imagined the religious meanings of food? Our focus will be on how notions of motherhood, femininity, and sexuality are expressed and constituted in practices and cultural beliefs about food. We will also explore how women have reimagined the space of the kitchen and challenged conventions such as domesticity, breastfeeding, health, and appetite. Today, gender inequality in the domestic space and the food industry is still very much a reality. For that reason, this class also aims to reflect upon women’s contemporary issues in relation to eating and cooking.
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Uniting methodologies and readings from media and performance studies, this interdisciplinary course explores the historical and contemporary proximities between games and theater as interactive media. Each unit of this course interrogates the generic boundary of “games,” seeing games as the content of, source of, medium for, and engine behind compelling performances. Our course will make a study of “immersive” and game-like theatrical works that provoke meaningful questions about audience agency, interactivity, and the role of technology in our contemporary understanding of what it means to attend or take part in “play.” Students in this course can expect to read theatrical scripts, attend and participate in performances, and perform game exercises in class. Part of taking this class is “being game” – open to participating in the various forms of play we will explore together. Students will watch contemporary works of gaming theater and participate in a hands-on gaming theater workshop, in addition to attending live improv comedy and an escape room. In the midterm assignment students will compose a performance game of their own, designing and testing the piece over three weeks. The final assignment emphasizes the process of producing scholarly writing and asks students to apply performance and game studies approaches to texts from our class.
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