Course Information

Course Description | Grade Distribution | Required Texts

Class Time & Room: T 4:00 - 6:30 / Cupples I, 113
Instructor: Lutz Koepnick
Telephone: 935-4350
Office: Ridgley 328
Office Hours: Mon 1:15-2:30 & Wed 1:15-2:30

Course Description

In 1935 Walter Benjamin argued that the advent of photography and film not only changed traditional aesthetic practices but our entire notion of art and sensual perception: mechanical reproduction, according to Benjamin, emancipated the aesthetic from the authority of concepts such as originality, genius, and expressive authenticity. More than seventy years after Benjamin, digital imaging today once again seems to transform visual culture drastically. The rise of digital culture has radically changed earlier notions of time and space, body and mind, subject and object, human and machine, past and present, the near and the far. This seminar focuses on a number of important theories of the aesthetic, cultural, social, and political impact of both mechanical reproduction and digital imaging. Starting with Benjamin's artwork essay, the seminar will examine the work of theorists such as Theodor W. Adorno, Roland Barthes, Jean Baudrillard, Jay Bolter and Richard Gruisin, Jonathan Crary, Friedrich Kittler, William J. Mitchell, Mark Poster, and Susan Sontag in order to uncover significant continuities and decisive discontinuities between Benjamin's and our own times. All readings and discussions in English. Undergraduates with permission of instructor.

Grade Distribution

  • Participation and attendance: 30%
  • Presentation on either 3/12 or 4/9 (10 minutes): 20%
  • Thought Paper, to be posted online (500 words): 10%
  • Paper (1 x 10-12 pages or 2 x 5-6 pages): 40%

Required Texts

Xerox packet available from Hi-Tech Copy Center, 375 N. Big Bend Blvd. (Includes all readings marked with an "*" in the Course Schedule.).

Course Reader: List of Content/Bibliographical Information

All books available for purchase at the Washington University Bookstore:

  • Crary, Jonathan. Techniques of the Observer. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992.
  • Darley, Andrew. Visual Digital Culture: Surface Play and Spectacle in New Media Genre. New York: Routledge, 2000.
  • Barthes, Roland. Camera Lucida. London: Vintage, 2000. (1981)
  • Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Schocken, 1969.
  • Bolter, David and Richard Gruisin. Remediation: Understanding New Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000.
  • Kittler, Friedrich. Gramophone, Film, Typewriter. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999.
  • Poster, Mark. What's the Matter with the Internet? Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2001.
  • Sontag, Susan. On Photography. New York: Anchor, 1990. (1977)

Go to Top