Spring 2015 Course Offerings
SHUM 4993 U.S. Pop Music & Racial Common Sense
(also AMST, MUSIC, PMA)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
T 2:30 – 4:25
This course brings together the fields of sound, popular music, and performance studies in order to investigate how “racial common-sense”—a set of notions drawn from everyday experiences that naturalize race—has been constituted at various moments in U.S. history, from the mid-19th century to the present.
Historical events and cultural moments to be studied include:
• post-bellum era minstrel shows;
• late 19th century U.S. colonial & anthropological expeditions;
• early 20th century Tin Pan Alley;
• the Harlem Renaissance;
• post-World War II “teen culture”
• avant-garde poetry performances;
• civil rights movement & the Vietnam War;
• multiculturalism & music television;
• late 20th-century “digital revolution” and reality TV;
• rise of the “prosumer” (producer + consumer)
Through the central trope of the “sensing body,” this course draws from a diverse set of interdisciplinary analytics—listening, voice, audio-vision, accent, soundtrack, to name a few—to investigate the relationship between popular music and performance and U.S. racial common-sense. Likewise, this course pays attention to the relationship between live performances and the various recording and media technologies that have impacted a longer U.S. cultural history—the phonograph, radio, microphones, film soundtracks, TV shows, YouTube, critical and creative writing. Course assignments include: short reading and listening responses, album and performance reviews, annotated bibliography/discography, group blog project, and final research paper. Moving through these diverse writing styles and their concomitant audiences, this course requires students to continually reconsider and reflect upon the quality of and meanings produced by their own phonographies, or “sound writings.”
Christine Bacareza Balance is Assistant Professor of Asian American Studies at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), where she teaches courses on popular culture, performance/writing, and kinship & belonging in Asian America. She received her Ph.D. in Performance Studies at New York University (NYU) in 2007. Her articles and writing appear in Women & Performance: a journal of feminist theory, Journal of Asian American Studies (JAAS), Women’s Studies Quarterly (WSQ), BOOM: a journal of California Studies, and online at In Media Res. One-ninth of the indie rock/pop band The Jack Lords Orchestra, Balance continues to collaborate with Lucy San Pablo Burns (UCLA) on a project entitled California Dreaming: Production and Aesthetics in Asian American Art. She is currently finishing her book manuscript, Tropical Renditions: Popular Music and Performance in Filipino America(Duke University Press, forthcoming).
SHUM 4995 Sensory Power, Sensory Subjects
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
M 2:30 – 4:25
The seminar will be divided in two parts. The first part will deal with theory and will explore the relation between politics and the body drawing a comparison between the classical rationalist theories of modern politics and the foucauldian biopolitical paradigm. The aim will be to focus on the notions of sensory power and of politics of sensations through the analysis of contemporary power and its ways to make us feel, see, touch, taste and smell in certain ways, determining therefore what remains unfeelable, unseeable, untouchable, untasteable, unsmellable, and thus unthinkable. The seminar will involve the lecture of a list of texts by contemporary authors such as Foucault (The Birth of Biopolitics, The History of Sexuality), Butler (Precarious Life, Frames of War), Cavarero (Corpo in figure, Horrorism), Rancière (The Emancipated Spectator).
In the second part, the ethical-aesthetical governmental dispositif implemented in Italy in the last twenty years by Silvio Berlusconi’s mass-mediatic and sensationalist populism will be analyzed as a case study of the sensory biopower investigated in the first part of the seminar. Berlusconi’s sexual politics, as emerged in a sequence of sex scandals between 2009 and 2011, will be at the center of the analysis together with its consequences on the heteronormative redefinition of gender roles. To this end, the theoretic analysis will be supported by visual materials and in particular by the movies Il corpo delle donne, by Lorella Zanardo, and Draquila by Sabina Guzzanti. The anti-Berlusconi satire performed by comedians, actors and musicians will be analyzed, together with the aesthetically grounded feminist protest, as an example of parodic, deconstructive protest practices aimed at the contestation of biopower.
Ida Dominijanni is a member of Diotima, a comunity of feminist philosophers at the University of Verona, Italy. Both a journalist and a scholar, she worked for many years at the Italian daily ‘’il manifesto’’ and taught political theory as a visiting professor at the universities of Siena and Roma Tre. She is also a member of the Centre for the Reform of the State (Crs) in Rome. Her areas of research include feminist theory, political theory, media theory, psychoanalys. She is the editor of the volume Motivi della libertà (Reasons of Freedom) and the author of numerous essays published in Italian, English, French, German (the last ones: “Populism post-oedipien et démocratie neo-liberal”, in Actuel Marx; “Soggetto dell’inconscio, inconscio della politica”, in Filosofia politica; “Wounds of the Common”, in Diacritics; “Das Schielen der Venus. Die Krise der Politik aus der Sicht der Differenzpolitik”, in Inventionen). Her book on the sex-money-power nexus under neoliberalism (and specifically in Berlusconi’s Italy) is forthcoming this year.
SHUM 4991 Romanticism and the Fate of the Senses
(also COML, ENGL, STS)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
R 12:20 – 2:15
What if, William Blake once asked, every bird that flies “is an immense world of delight, closed by your senses five?” Asking what real and possible worlds our habits of sensory perception exclude, Romantic poets criticized their culture’s increasing faith in sense-based, empirical knowledge – knowledge supposedly free from subjective bias, historical circumstance, national prejudice, and political complicity. This seminar will focus on poetry as a form of sensory re-training and on Romantic and post-Romantic claims to a politics of perception. Can artworks produce rival scientific knowledge, provide access to non-human modes of experience, register otherwise unthinkable histories – or sensually suspend the ethical pressures to do so? Since 19th Century conflicts over the right representation of empirical experience helped to forge the humanities and sciences as we still know them, the seminar will equip us to think differently about the organization of knowledge in the modern university and poetry’s place in contemporary culture. Readings from Blake, Keats, Dickinson, Goethe, Herder, Bacon, Locke, Foucault, Latour, Daston & Galison, Rancière, Bourdieu, Williams, Adorno, de Man, Terada, Hartman, and Stewart, among others – and one session in the Johnson Museum of Art.
Amanda Jo Goldstein is an Assistant Professor of English at Cornell University. Her teaching and research focus on Romantic poetry and the history and philosophy of science, with special interest in figuration, pre-Darwinian biology, and materialist philosophies of history, nature and poetry. She received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature (English, German, French) from the University of California, Berkeley and was a Mellon postdoctoral fellow in Biopolitics at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her book manuscript, Sweet Science: Romantic Materialism and the New Sciences of Life, shows how writers from Goethe and Percy Shelley to Karl Marx revived ancient atomist poetry as fit to connect two epochal problems: the biology of living form and the pressure of collective history. She is the author of essays in print or forthcoming in the European Romantic Review and Representations, as well as the volumes The Relevance of Romanticism (Oxford UP, 2014) and Marking Time: Romanticism and Evolution (U of Toronto).
SHUM 4997 Pygmalion: Aesthetics of Touch
(also CLASS, VISST, ARTH)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
T 10:10 - 12:05
“Please Do Not Touch” is one of the signs we are most accustomed to seeing in museums and art galleries, yet the very need to make this request demonstrates how objects often invite, seek, even demand that we transgress the limits of vision and engage with them physically. They may have been designed to be handled (such as vessels or lamps), worn on the body (such as jewelry or clothing), touched in worship (such as certain cult statues) or even consumed (such as Byzantine ‘edible icons’); their textures and finishes may invite tactile exploration and evaluation (such as the smoothly polished finish of a marble sculpture, or the thickly caked layers of an oil painting); they may depict sensous forms that prompt desire and invite a stroke (or a kiss!); they may even prompt acts of violence that result in their own defacement or destruction. Indeed, it is the inviting tactility of the ivory girl he has created that prompts Pygmalion, in Ovid’s version of the myth, to caress the statue until it ‘grows soft ... and yields beneath his fingers,’ the girl’s veins ‘pulsating beneath his testing thumb’. In the Pygmalion myth, the artist’s creating hand and the viewer’s desire to touch come together in a fantasy of somatic union with the object that has been endlessly appropriated and reimagined in later Western culture, from Prosper Merimée’s The Venus of Ille to Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo.
Taking Pygmalion (and Greco-Roman sculpture) as our starting point, this course explores the role of touch and embodiment in the viewing and reception of art objects, including painting, mosaics, metalwork, and the glyptic arts (cameos and intaglios). We will focus in particular on the relationship between the visual and tactile senses, drawing on the distinction drawn between the ‘optic’ and ‘haptic’ by Aloïs Reigl in his influential 1901 essay on “The Late Roman Art Industry” and on Bernard Berenson’s concept of the “tactile consciousness” in art, and tracing the development of these ideas in the work of phenomenologists such as Maurice Merleau-Ponty. In concentrating on Greco-Roman art, we will also draw on ‘emic’ models of sense-perception found in ancient philosophy, in particular theories of vision that present sight as a haptic experience in which tactility is essential to visibility. Although Classical Idealism suggests an aesthetic that effectively dematerializes art objects through a form of abstracted and disembodied ocularity, we shall see that the relationship between matter and form, sight and touch, objects and bodies has been continually tested, examined, and reformulated by artists, viewers, and thinkers.
Verity Platt is an Associate Professor in the departments of Classics and History of Art at Cornell, a member of the Cornell Institute of Archaeology and Material Studies (CIAMS), and co-curator of the Cornell Cast Collection. She received her DPhil in Classics from Oxford University, and before her arrival in Ithaca in 2010, held appointments at Oxford and the University of Chicago. Verity works at the intersection of ancient literary and visual studies, with a special interest in the relationship between texts and objects in the Hellenistic and Roman periods. Her research and publications focus on ancient theories of representation and sense-perception; the material and visual culture of religion; creative lives and the concept of the artist; Roman wall-painting and funerary art; Graeco-Roman seal-stones; and the historiography of ancient art. She is the author of Facing the Gods: Epiphany and Representation in Graeco-Roman Art, Literature and Religion (Cambridge, 2011) and co-editor (with M. Squire) of The Art of Art History in Graeco-Roman Antiquity (Arethusa, 2010).
SHUM 4998 Feeling in Sound: Touch and the New Musical Body
(also COML, MUSIC)
Spring. 4 credits.
Limited to 15 students.
R 2:30 – 4:25
This seminar explores musical, aesthetic, physiological, and mythical concepts associated with ‘touch’ in music. Focusing on the relationship between the hand of the musician and musical sound, the course will trace an interdisciplinary history of musical touch, especially at the keyboard, from the late 18th century to the present. The four interrelated units of the seminar explore the following issues: 1) Why the clavichord became the soulmate of genius, whose improvising hand searched out the tactile revelations heard in the instrument’s unique capabilities for expression, most famously and mysteriously Bebung (vibrato): readings include C. P. E. Bach on keyboard practice, Denis Diderot on sympathetic vibration, German romantic fiction and poetry (especially Jean Paul), and the contemporary theory of sensibility; 2) the glass harmonica and physiology of the nervous system, including readings in 18th-century medicine (Mesmer), visual representations of the sensing body (the work of art historian Barbara Maria Stafford) and primary materials on the harmonica; 3) technologies of touch in the 19th century, with a focus on Schumann and Chopin, training manuals and the fetishization of the disciplined hand; and 4) the absent or fantastic touch—as in Canetti’s fear of being touched or Coleridge’s nightmarish ‘double touch’— and its relation to music-making at early 20th-century electronic instruments, especially the theremin and its newer counterparts, including the Buchla lightning and thunder rods; this latter unit would include consideration of what I call ‘hand-fetish’ films such as the 1924 expressionist classic The Hands of Orlac.
Annette Richards is Professor of Music at Cornell. Her work focuses on music aesthetics and criticism, as well as intersections between music and the visual arts. Current projects include a study of late 18th-century gothic entitled Music on the Dark Side of 1800 as well as a book on music, portraiture and the construction of history. She is the author of The Free Fantasia and the Musical Picturesque (Cambridge, 2001) and editor of C. P. E Bach Studies (Cambridge, 2006). She recently rediscovered and reconstructed C. P. E. Bach’s extraordinary collection of musical portraits (Packard Humanities Institute, 2012). She is the founding editor of Keyboard Perspectives, the executive director of the Westfield Center for Historical Keyboard Studies and an active professional organist whose performing career has taken her across the United States and Europe. Honors and awards include a Mellon New Directions Fellowship and fellowships from the Alexander von Humboldt foundation and the Getty Center.
SHUM 6819 Scattered Projections: Mobile Global Cinema
(also ARCH 6819)
Spring 2015. 4 credits.
Limited to fellowship recipients.
Amy Villarejo (Performing and Media Arts and Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies)
W 7:00 - 9:00 p.m.
This cross-disciplinary seminar explores digital visual cultures and critical media practices in urban environments, understanding how aesthetics and politics interact in contexts of upheaval, striation, precarity, and inequality. We will be examining media infrastructures and networks with attention both to digital art and popular cinema/media, from German installation art to Nigerian videos and anything in between. Collaborative projects embrace multiple methodologies and genealogies, from critical theory to media stylos, from ethnography to digital mapping. The course will draw upon Cornell’s urbanism resources in its library and museum collections.
The aim of the course is to understand how cinema takes place (in locales, in built environments, in circuits of production/circulation/exhibition) but also how it makes places, both material and imagined. An historical overview of urban representation is therefore important as a starting point, so that we can raise questions of perception and scale within modern debates about aesthetics and politics (i.e., Soviet cinema, Weimar cinema, radio and television, avant garde art practices). So, too, do we begin with crucial theoretical formulations of the city, from Georg Simmel to Raymond Williams and onward. The heart of the course, however, will consist in testing extant rubrics for investigating urban media cultures and forging new ones through shared research.