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HUMN 3093 Topics in Humanities: Interpreting Contemporary Culture

Vanessa Place

We scan our computers, and our computers scan us. In the 21st century, readers read, but more than ever we are also being read by devices that are transforming the arts and the media. This course examines the effects of this technological change on one of the most basic forms in which our interaction with culture occurs: reading. The course surveys forms of reading in today’s culture, with special attention to the relations between traditional and new forms of reading and will emphasize how these forms have affected the act of interpreting culture.

Students will consider the interplay between historical events and the arts, and they will address a number of comparative questions in their examination of how the media act at once historically and aesthetically. How do film, literature, visual art, television, and social media reflect competing social values? What is the relationship between the 1913 Russian avant-garde, 1935 Stalinist art, and contemporary aesthetics? Between Law and OrderCrime and Punishment and the death penalty in Texas, and between a Facebook “like” and Occupy Wall Street?

The course will include projects that draw on the Lucy R. Lippard Collection of Artists’ Books in Norlin Library’s Special Collections, the CU Art Museum’s rich holdings in 1960s and 1970s art, and the CU Media Archeology Lab.

Vanessa Place is a practicing criminal appellate lawyer, publisher, artist, art critic, and author of seven fiction and non-fiction books. Place’s work as an attorney has informed her work in many mediums, from her screenwriting for Law and Order and her 2010 non-fiction book The Guilt Project: Rape, Morality and the Law and her visual and literary projects that use Twitter and Facebook. Her influential book Notes on Conceptualisms, co-written with Robert Fitterman, has been at the center of literary debates since its publication in 2009; it has been translated into six languages. She lives in Los Angeles, where she is the co-director of the experimental feminist press Les Figues.

In fall 2014, Place was a visiting professor of American studies at the University of Paris-Nanterre.

Term A

HUMN 4093 Advanced Topics: The Criminal as Hero
Paul Gordon
In this comparative, interdisciplinary course we will examine Freud’s, Nietzsche’s, and other theories of criminality and apply those to the study of a number of films and literary works which focus on heroic figures who are also, paradoxically, criminals. In addition to Nietzsche (The Gay Science) and Freud (“Character-Types Met in Psychoanalytical Work”), other works to be studied include: AntigoneMacbethNotes from UndergroundA Good Man is Hard to Find (Flannery O’Conner), The Stranger, and The Executioner’s Song.  Films include Herzog’s Aguirre the Wrath of God, and the films of Scorsese (Taxi DriverCape Fear, etc).

Term B 

HUMN 3660/FILM 3660 The Postmodern
David Ferris
Analyses the cultural and critical practices as well as the thought that defines the postmodern period at the end of the twentieth century.  Prereq., HUMN 2000 or junior/senior standing. HUMN 3660 and FILM 3660 are the same course.  Approved for the arts and sciences core curriculum: literature and the arts.