Comparative Literature 385
Topics in German Studies 328
Washington University, Spring 1996
Recent developments in communication technologies have thoroughly disturbed our assumptions about what is real and what is artificial, our understandings of the body and identity, of experience and presence, of space and time. Under the aegis of cyberspace and virtual reality, the age-old quest to distinguish between reality and its image, between the real and its representation, in fact seems curiously outmoded. What haunts contemporary concerns instead is the troubling question regarding the extent to which reality itself has become a technological simulation, a spectacle solely fabricated to entertain our senses and particularly our eyes.
This course seeks to position current debates about and cinematic renditions of the virtual within a larger intellectual, cultural, and technological history of visuality, vision, and simulation from the Romantic age to the present. More precisely, the course is designed to trace and theorize the various ways in which sight and visuality during the past two hundred years were implicated in the construction and experience of reality; how nineteenth-century photography and early film addressed and involved unprecedented scopic desires; how modern urban life, shopping malls, and theme parks solicit architectural spaces as pure spectacles for ever-mobile spectators; how current visual media transform political events into theatrical performances; and finally, how new technologies of representation such as VCRs, computer games, and virtual reality machines partake of a fundamental re-vision of traditional regimes of seeing, experience, and knowledge.
Discussing the political, social, cultural, philosophical, and psychological ramifications of virtual spaces in modern life, the course involves readings from literary texts by authors such as Mary Shelley, E.T.A. Hoffmann, and William Gibson, as well as a variety of examinations drawn from film criticism, visual theory, urban studies, and political philosophy. Weekly film screenings provide a collection of examples to guide and illuminate our discussions.
Papers and Assignments
1. Presentations Participiants will be asked to provide one in-class summary of assigned readings, as well as one in-class presentation about one of the films.
2. Seminar Paper Participants will be asked to compose two essays (5 pages) in the course of the semester; topics will be suggested or may be proposed. In addition, participants will be asked to submit four one-page responses to readings assignments of their own choice. All papers and responses should be typed and double-spaced, using standard fonts.
3. Film evaluation: Every student will be asked to complete a film evaluation sheet for each film. This assignment is meant to help you focus on certain aspects of each film and prepare for discussion. The evaluations will be collected periodically throughtout the semester.
Williams, Linda. Ed. Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein
Berger, John. Ways of Seeing
Gibson, William. Neuromancer
Additional readings will be available in a reader to be purchased in the German Department, Ridgley 319.
All texts and films are on two-hour reserve in Olin Library.
Asterisks (*) in the course schedule signify recommended readings.
Introduction: Visuality and the Virtual
The Piano (theater sequence)
Disclosure (VR sequence)
Plato, "Simile of the Cave" [Rd.]
Martin Jay, "The Noblest of the Senses: Vision from Plato to Descartes" [Rd.]
A Brief History of the Visual/Virtual
Jonathan Crary, "Modernizing Vision"
Tim Gunning, "An Aesthetic of Astonishment: Early Film and the (In)Credulous Spectator"
*Raymond Fielding, "Hale's Tours: Ultrarealism in the Pre-1910 Motion Picture" [Rd.]
Max Frankel, "Pixelography" [Rd.]
Anne Friedberg, "Cinema and the Postmodern Condition"
Michael Heim, "The Erotic Ontology of Cyberspace" [Rd.]
Week Three and Four
Virtual Bodies I: Robots, Dolls, and Monsters
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Mary Shelley, Frankenstein
Elaine Scarry, "The Merging of Bodies and Artifacts in the Social Contract" [Rd.]
E.T.A. Hofmann, "The Sandman" [Rd.]
*Sigmund Freud, "The Uncanny" [Rd.]
Fritz Lang, Metropolis
Andreas Huyssen, "The Vamp and the Machine: Fritz Lang's Metropolis" [Rd.]
Week Five and Six
Images, Cameras, Scopophilia
Andre Bazin, "The Ontology of the Photographic Image" [Rd.]
Susan Sontag, On Photography (sel ) [Rd.]
John Berger, Ways of Seeing (sel.)
Laura Mulvey, "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" [Rd.]
Alfred Hitchcock, Rear Window
Michael Powell, Peeping Tom
Carol Clover, "The Eye of Horror"
Theories of Classical Cinematic Spectatorship
Andre Bazin, "The Myth of Total Cinema" [Rd.]
Jean-Louis Baudry, "The Apparatus: Metapsychological Approaches to the Impression of Reality in Cinema" [Rd.]
*Martin Jay, "The Camera as Memento Mori: Barthes, Metz and the Cahiers du Cinema" [Rd.]
Danial Dayan, "The Tudor-Code of Classical Cinema" [Rd.]
William Rothman, "Against 'The System of Suture'" [Rd.]
*Judith Mayne, "Paradoxes of Spectatorship"
The Modern City: Between Aesthetic Experience and Virtual World
Walter Benjamin, "On Some Motifs in Baudelaire" [Rd.]
Vanessa R. Schwartz, "Cinematic Spectatorship before the Apparatus"
Walter Ruttmann, Berlin--Symphony of a Big City
Dziga Vertov, Man with a Movie Camera
Ridley Scott, Blade Runner
Week Nine and Ten
The Society of the Spectacle
Walter Benjamin, "The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction" [Rd.]
Leni Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will
Susan Sontag, "Fascinating Fascism" [Rd.]
Walter Benjamin, "Paris--Capital of the Nineteenth Century" [Rd.]
Margaret Crawford, "The World in a Shopping Mall" [Rd.]
Michael Sorkin, "See you in Disneyland" [Rd.]
Umberto Eco, "Travels in Hyperreality" [Rd.]
Video Culture and the Mobilization of Images
Jean Baudrillard, "The Ecstasy of Communication" [Rd.]
Sean Cubitt, Timeshift (sel.) [Rd.]
David Cronenberg, Videodrome
Oliver Stone, Natural Born Killers
Week Twelve and Thirteen
Virtual Bodies II: Interfaces and Cyborgs
Claudia Springer, "The Pleasures of the Interface" [Rd.]
Benjamin Wooley, "Cyberspace" [Rd.]
Paul Verhoeven, Total Recall
Allucquere Rosanne Stone, "Will the Real Body Please Stand Up?" [Rd.]
Donna Haraway, "Cyborg Manifesto" [Rd.]
James Cameron, Terminator II
Robert Longo, Johnny Mnemonic
Howard Rheingold, "Teledildonics and Beyond" [Rd.]
The Poetics of Virtual Space
William Gibson, Neuromancer
William Gibson, Neuromancer
SCREENINGSScreening sessions take place on Mondays, 7pm, in Ridgley 219.
(Ridley Scott, USA, 1982/92)
Terminator II: Judgment Day
(James Cameron, USA, 1991)
(Fritz Lang, Germany, 1926)
(Alfred Hitchcock, USA, 1954)
(Michael Powell, GB, 1960)
Berlin-Symphony of a Big City
(Walter Ruttmann, Germany, 1927)
Man with a Movie Camera
(Dziga Vertov, Soviet Union, 1929)
Triumph of the Will
(Leni Riefenstahl, Germany, 1935)
Natural Born Killers
(Oliver Stone, USA, 1994)
(David Cronenberg, Canada, 1983)
(Paul Verhoeven, USA, 1990)
(Kathryn Bigelow, USA, 1995)
(Robert Longo, USA, 1995)
Tuesdays & Thursdays 2:30-4:00 pm
Room: Ridgley 219
Oral participation: 30 %
Two In-Class Presentations: 20 %
Writing Assignments (papers, responses, film evaluations): 50%
Lutz Koepnick: Ridgley 422
Tu 4:15-5:30 & Th 1:15 - 2:15