“Medium” (pl. media) here designates the means and technologies by which temporal events are materially fixed and conveyed to aesthetic experience. Linked to waves of successive technological innovations in image-making, “media theory” established itself historically by taking the measure of phantasmagorical lantern shows, stereographic photography, cinema, and television. Makers were deeply involved in the project of theorizing their image-making practices, from Talbot with his “pencil of nature” to Soviet Russian filmmakers’ concepts of estrangement and montage. The extensive literature on medium-specificity received a profound jolt during the epoch of “digital convergence.” Are digital media still capable of theorization, or are we only capable of accounting for the platforms that circulate them? Does the concept of transmedia achieve the theorization of this mediation-by-platform? This seminar will take a deeply historical view of what has been known as media theory, and will engage the tensions that vex this discursive position today. Taught by an art historian and by a film scholar, Media Theory asks an overarching question: how are subjects formed by, and in, durational visual media?
Open to graduate students in any department, and advanced undergraduates (by petition to the instructors).