Audiovisuality: The Public Senses
Comm/Clst 2227
Mondays, 5:20-7:50pm, 1128CL

Fall 2000 - Jonathan Sterne

John Cage once wrote that vision and hearing are the "public senses"; they are the senses most intensely engaged by the mass media. In the 20th century, the human sciences have described and redescribed the relationship between the sensory capacities of the body and modes of social and cultural organization. This course will critique some ways in which hearing and vision have been constructed as objects of knowledge outside the behavioral sciences.  In so doing, it will also acquaint students with some of the classic writings on sound and light in human experience, and explore new directions in this area.  What does it mean to study the senses?  What are the possible relationships among physiological capacities and modes of social and cultural organization?  What are the possible relations among sensation, thought, and experience?  How do questions of essentialism and antiessentialism play out when we consider phenomena that cut across physiological and sociocultural domains?  How do theories and histories of sensory experience shape the ways we talk about media and mediation generally?  Why have sight and hearing so often been singled out in social and cultural thought; is their differential treatment warranted?  Is it possible to invoke a conceptualization of sensation apart from a conceptualization of linguistic sense? 


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Supplemental Readings