Courses in Film and Visual Studies

List of Courses Approved for Graduate Credit

Fall 2016

Please visit my.harvard.edu for the most up-to-date information on course schedules.

VES 158BR . Sensory Ethnography 2
Enrollment: Limited to 10. 
Jennifer Bornstein
Fall Term. Mondays and Wednesdays 3pm to 6pm.
Students collaborate in the production of substantial work of ethnographically informed non-fiction media. Principal recording should have occurred before enrolling in the course. Interested students must attend first meeting of class during shopping week to speak with teaching staff about course enrollment procedure.

VES 172G. The Digital Image
Alexander Galloway
Fall Term. Fridays 11am to 1pm.
Digital devices permeate contemporary life. But what exactly does the digital mean? Are all computers digital? What about photography or film? We begin with a working definition of digitality as “representation via discrete units.” Using this definition, we explore the various technologies of the computer age, but also look beyond them. Source sections are devoted to technical images, digital versus analog images, global digital networks, and, ultimately, the concept of a non-digital image.

VES 174. Art of the Real
Enrollment: Limited to 15.
Denis Lim
Fall Term. Mondays 3pm to 5pm.
A historical survey of the documentary from the silent era to the digital present, with an emphasis on documentary as art. The seminar will discuss the evolution of documentary in terms of cinematic engagements with the generative possibilities of the real, the confluence of documentary and experimental film, and the emergence of documentary as a mode of art making. This course has mandatory weekly film screenings on Tuesdays from 10 am to 1 pm.

 VES 192. Cinema and French Culture from 1896 to the Present
Tom Conley
Fall Term. Mondays 1pm to 3pm.
Focuses on relations of cinema to French culture from the silent era to the age of video. Explores film in dialogue with cultural and historical events, development of a national style and signature, a history of criticism. Correlates study of cinema to cultural analysis. Takes up Renoir and poetic realism, unrest in 1930s, France and other filmic idioms (Italy, Hollywood, Russia), new wave directors, feminist and minoritarian cinema after 1980.This course has mandatory weekly film screenings and weekly mandatory discussion sections. For the fall 2016 term, mandatory weekly film screenings will he held on Tuesday evenings from 7pm to 9pm in the Carpenter Center Lecture Hall. 

 VES 196R. Directed Research: Studio Course
Enrollment: Limited to 12.
Stephen Prina
Fall Term. Wednesdays 6pm to 9pm.
This course is intended for students who have developed the beginnings of a practice they are prepared to pursue. The motive is to assemble a group of disparate artists who come together to exchange thoughts across disciplines: painting next to photography next to writing next to filmmaking, and so on. Recommended for concentrators in Visual and Environmental Studies in their junior and senior year but also open to others with permission of the instructor. This course was formerly numbered VES 96r. Interested students must attend first meeting of class during shopping week to speak with teaching staff about course enrollment procedure. First Meeting Note: First meeting is Weds, August 31 at 6pm in Carpenter Center 5th floor. Class will not be held on Weds, Sept 7.

VES 199F. Film Curatorship: Film Cinematheques, Archives, Museums
Enrollment: Limited to 15.
Haden Guest
Fall Term. Wednesdays 10am to noon.
Although the curating of art has long been recognized as a professional discipline and field of critical study, film curatorship remains largely marginalized and misunderstood, with cinema increasingly subsumed by the museum in problematic ways. Exploring the deeper histories of film curatorship within its various institutional settings- the archive, the cinematheque, the film festival- this course studies the theories and practices that ground and singularly define the work of the film curator. This course has required weekly film screenings on Mondays from 11:30 am to 1:30pm. First Meeting Note: First meeting is Weds, August 31 at 11:30am in Carpenter Center Lecture Hall.

VES 209R. Curation, Conservation and Programming
Carrie Lambert-Beatty
Fall Term. TBD.
For research and independent projects in the archives, collections, and exhibitions of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the Harvard Film Archive, or the Harvard Museums and other campus arts institutions. Open only by petition to the Department; petitions should be presented during the term preceding enrollment, and must be signed by the instructor or staff member with whom the project is to be done.

VES 232. The Nonhuman: Aesthetics and Politics of Personhood
Alexander Galloway
Fall Term. Thursdays 2pm to 4pm.
From climate change and infrastructure to objects and animality, the nonhuman realm exerts a growing influence on contemporary life. In this seminar we consider persons as things and things as persons, but also peer beyond the human into a world devoid of humanity. What does personhood mean in the age of the posthuman? Themes include precarity, proletarianization, posthumanism, new materialism, cognition, willful subjects, and generic personhood.

VES 271. Proseminar in Film and Visual Studies: Theory
Giuliana Bruno
Fall Term. Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm.
An advanced survey of current debates on the place of the moving image in contemporary visual culture and art practice with respect to concepts of space, time, movement, and affect. Required of all Film and Visual Studies graduate students as well as graduate students intending to declare a secondary field in Film and Visual Studies. This course has a mandatory weekly film screening on Tuesdays from 7pm to 9pm in Carpenter Center B04. 

VES 292. Avant-Garde Film and Philosophy
Rebecca Sheehan
Fall Term. Wednesdays 2pm to 6pm.
This course will investigate works central to the history of American and European avant-garde cinema in the context of their poetic and philosophical influences. Departing from the premise that avant-garde films philosophize, this course will consider this cinema in the context of texts essential to the field of “film philosophy” (Deleuze, Cavell, Wittgenstein) in order to better understand what concepts of representation, ethics, identity, and language avant-garde cinema advances. Film screenings are incorporated into the weekly class meeting time.

Visual and Environmental Studies 301. Film and Visual Studies Workshop
Eric Rentschler  

Visual and Environmental Studies 310. Reading and Research
Members of the Department
Note: Conducted through regular conferences and assigned writing. Limited to students reading specifically on topics not covered in regular courses. Open only by petition to the Department; petitions should be presented during the term preceding enrollment, and must be signed by the instructor with whom the reading is to be done. All applicants for admission should first confer with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Visual and Environmental Studies 320. Directed Study
Members of the Department

Visual and Environmental Studies 330. Teaching Workshop
Carrie Lambert-Beatty
Fall Term; repeated Spring Term.
This course serves as an introduction to teaching in Visual and Environmental Studies, as well as a forum for designing instruction. There will be an emphasis on discussions of hybrid methodologies between research and practice.

ANTHRO 2722. Sonic Ethnography
Enrollment: Limited to 12.
Ernst Karel
Fall Term. Thursdays 1pm to 4pm.
This is a practice-based course in which students record, edit, and produce anthropologically informed audio works which interpret culture and lived experience. Listening sessions will provide a broad context of contemporary work using location recordings, and readings will situate the practice within the growing field of sound studies. In their projects, students will experiment with technical and conceptual strategies of recording and composition as they engage with questions of ethnographic representation through the sensory dimension of sound. Course will also include additional weekly two-hour listening session, and occasional required technique/technology workshops, to be scheduled.

EAFM 202. Rip and Tear--The Body as Moving and Moved Image in Japanese Film: Seminar
Alexander Zahlten
Fall Term. Thursdays 1pm to 4pm.
This course traces the role of the body as a discursive anchor in moving image culture in Japan. The focus will lie on the period after WW II, although the mapping of historical contexts will entail investigations into earlier histories as well. Film screenings will be held on Tuesdays 6:00-8:00 pm.

ENGLISH 298DH. Methods in the Digital Humanities
Enrollment: Limited to 15. 
Derek Miller 
Fall Term. Wednesdays 2pm to 5pm.
This course combines practical work in an array of techniques popular to digital humanities with theoretical debates about the field. We will emphasize DH as a research methodology, rather than its archival and pedagogical modes. Some knowledge of programming (e.g., an online course) preferred; comfort with computers required. Subjects include text encoding, topic modelling, network analysis, regular expressions, databases, and data visualization.

HAA 274M. Minding Making: Art History and Artisanal Intelligence
Jennifer Roberts
Fall Term. Tuesdays 1pm to 3pm.
If the artisanal and technical skills behind artmaking are forms of knowledge, how can (or should) that knowledge be integrated into the analytical methods of art history? This seminar will provide a wide-ranging exploration of this question, examining theories of craftsmanship, fabrication, and material reciprocity, debates over the concept of "tacit intelligence" and the value of making or remaking as historical method, issues of skill and deskilling on the part of both artists and art historians, and the challenge of exhibiting making in an art museum context. We will explore the transformative possibilities of rigorous attention to making, such as its potential to create forms of interpretation that cut across the fine, decorative, and industrial arts. The course will include close looking sessions in the Harvard Art Museums, hands-on making exercises, and visits from guest artisans.

HAA 276G. Deception
Carrie Lambert-Beatty
Fall Term. Thursdays 3pm to 5pm.
This course will treat questions of trickery, deceit, and duplicity as characteristics of art, and attempt to theorize the aesthetics of deception. The approach will be through contemporary art, where artists have reinvented the old association between art and illusion, but students of any period or culture will be able to pursue their interests as the class treats the long history, and complicated theory, of art's association with trickery.

ITAL 260. Up to Speed: Italian Fiction and Cinema, 1990-2005
Francesco Erspamer
Fall Term. Fridays 1pm to 4pm.
The transformation of Italian society and culture through the narratives of the best Italian novelists and directors of today. Conducted in Italian.

Spring 2017

Please visit my.harvard.edu for the most up-to-date information on course schedules.

VES 100. Critical Studies: The Artist
Enrollment: Limited to 20.
Carrie Lambert-Beatty
Spring Term. Thursdays 2pm to 4pm.
What does it mean to be an artist? Challenging assumptions about the artist as cultural role, this seminar explores the different ways makers of aesthetic things have been named and defined, trained and treated. It uncovers the histories that shaped the modern, Western model of the artist, and evaluates the challenges and alternatives that have weakened that model’s dominance. Working toward an understanding of contemporary artists’ many choices and challenges, we will turn to sources including works of art and conversations with contemporary artists as well as primary texts, historical and anthropological scholarship, films, literary representations, and biographies. *Strongly recommended for students considering concentrating in any area of VES. For VES concentrators, this course fulfills one history/theory requirement in the film/video and studio tracks, and it meets the one of the two introductory course requirements in the film and visual studies track, although it is a triple-digit course. Format is a weekly seminar meeting plus one weekly special session (e.g. film screening, studio visit, or museum trip) during a reserved “screening” time.

VES 164. Video, Performance, Narrative, Text, Actions
Enrollment: Limited to 10.
Jennifer Bornstein
Spring Term. Mondays and Wednesdays 3pm to 6pm.
Taking its title from an essay by Lucy Lippard, this course uses video as a springboard for exploring new genres media. During the semester, students will create artworks that blend video with performance and studio art; projects exploring poetry, intermedia, and emerging art forms are also invited. Artists such as Joan Jonas, Chris Burden, and Mike Kelley will be introduced. The goal is to emphasize the development of artistic ideas by broadening and challenging students’ investigations. Prerequisite: a familiarity with studio art is preferred, but the course is open to everyone. Interested students must attend first meeting of class during shopping week to speak with teaching staff about course enrollment procedure.

VES 176 . Border Cinema
Enrollment: Limited to 15.
Rebecca Sheehan
Spring Term. Wednesdays 10am to noon.
Cinema's documentary impulse and its ability to communicate in images that transcend linguistic and cultural borders uniquely suits it to address the ideological, ethnic, racial, gendered, sexual and class divisions that national borders generate and maintain. Departing from the intersections of cinema studies and border studies, Border Cinema looks at cinema’s participation in the construction and reification of national and cultural borders and how it has also been used to unsettle and challenge them. There is a mandatory weekly screening for this course. This course has mandatory weekly film screenings on Mondays from 3 to 5:30 pm.

VES 181. Film Theory, Visual Thinking
Giuliana Bruno
Spring Term. Thursdays 11:30 am to 1pm
How do moving images transform the way we think? Introduction to film theory aimed at interpreting the visual world, and developing skills to analyze films and media images. Survey of classical and contemporary film theory goes from turn-of-the-century scientific motion studies to the virtual movements of today. Considers theories of space, time, and motion, including Eisenstein's theory of montage and architecture. Treats visual technology and sensate space, the cultural history of the cinematic apparatus, the body and physical existence, affect and gender, and screen theory. Different theoretical positions guide us in understanding and reading films. Offered jointly with the Graduate School of Design as 4132. This course has an additional weekly film screening, Wednesday, 7 pm-9pm. 

VES 191. The Non-Actor
Enrollment: Limited to 15.
Denis Lim
Spring 2017. Mondays 3pm to 5pm.
This course traces the conception and status of the non-actor, linked so often to slippery notions of authenticity and truth, across a wide range of cinematic genres and forms. From Soviet montage cinema and Italian neo-realism to the works of Bresson, Rouch, Warhol, Pedro Costa, and others, this seminar explores both the presence of non-actors in fiction films and the role of performance and re-enactment in non-fiction. This course has mandatory weekly film screenings on Tuesdays from 11 am to 2 pm.

VES 195G . The Dream Factory: The Art, Industry and Imagination of the Hollywood Studio System, 1927-1974
Enrollment: Limited to 15.
Haden Guest
Spring Term. Wednesdays 1pm to 3pm.
This course examines the "Golden Age" of American cinema as an industry, art and mode of popular imaginary by looking closely at the system of motion picture production studios that flourished in Southern California from the early 1920s and through the 1950s. Using a diverse range of primary documents and period films to explore the different stages and roles of industrialized filmmaking, this class will also trace Hollywood’s changing self-image and place in popular culture. There is a mandatory weekly screening for this class on Mondays from 1 to 3 pm.

VES 196R. Directed Research: Studio Course
Enrollment: Limited to 12.
Stephen Prina
Spring Term. Wednesdays 6pm to 9pm.
This course is intended for students who have developed the beginnings of a practice they are prepared to pursue. The motive is to assemble a group of disparate artists who come together to exchange thoughts across disciplines: painting next to photography next to writing next to filmmaking, and so on. Recommended for concentrators in Visual and Environmental Studies in their junior and senior year but also open to others with permission of the instructor. This course was formerly numbered VES 96r. Interested students must attend first meeting of class during shopping week to speak with teaching staff about course enrollment procedure.

VES 209R. Curation, Conservation and Programming
Carrie Lambert-Beatty
Spring Term. TBD.
For research and independent projects in the archives, collections, and exhibitions of the Carpenter Center for the Visual Arts, the Harvard Film Archive, or the Harvard Museums and other campus arts institutions. Open only by petition to the Department; petitions should be presented during the term preceding enrollment, and must be signed by the instructor or staff member with whom the project is to be done.

VES 270. Proseminar in Film and Visual Studies: History
Tom Conley
Spring Term. Mondays 1pm to 3pm.
Considers film history and the relations between film and history as well as pertinent theoretical approaches to historiography. Critical readings of exemplary film historical studies and careful scrutiny of films both in and as history. Required of all Film and Visual Studies graduate students, as well as graduate students intending to declare a secondary field in Film and Visual Studies. This course has mandatory weekly film screenings on Wednesdays from 1 to 3 pm.

VES 279 . Materiality, Visual Culture, and Media
Enrollment: Limited to 15.
Giuliana Bruno
Spring Term. Wednesdays 2pm to 4pm.
What is the place of materiality in our visual age of rapidly changing materials and media? How is it fashioned in the arts, architecture and media? This seminar investigates a “material turn” in philosophy, art, media, visual and spatial culture. Topics include: actor-network theory, thing theory, the life of objects, the archive, the haptic and the affect, vibrant materialism, elemental philosophy, light and projection, and the immaterialiy of atmosphere. Interested students must attend the first meeting of the course during shopping week. This course has mandatory weekly film screenings on Tuesdays from 7 to 9 pm.

VES 289. The Frankfurt School on Mass Media and Mass Culture
Eric Rentschler
Spring Term. Tuesdays 2pm to 4pm.
This seminar considers the Frankfurt School's deliberations on film, radio, television, and mass culture. We will devote the majority of the course to three seminal figures: Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, and T. W. Adorno. More generally, we will focus on the debates catalyzed by the emergence of modern mass media and an industrialized visual culture; we will also reflect on the pertinence of these debates for our own contemporary culture of media convergence.

Visual and Environmental Studies 301. Film and Visual Studies Workshop
Eric Rentschler  

Visual and Environmental Studies 310. Reading and Research
Members of the Department
Note: Conducted through regular conferences and assigned writing. Limited to students reading specifically on topics not covered in regular courses. Open only by petition to the Department; petitions should be presented during the term preceding enrollment, and must be signed by the instructor with whom the reading is to be done. All applicants for admission should first confer with the Director of Graduate Studies.

Visual and Environmental Studies 320. Directed Study
Members of the Department

Visual and Environmental Studies 330. Teaching Workshop
Carrie Lambert-Beatty
Fall Term; repeated Spring Term.
This course serves as an introduction to teaching in Visual and Environmental Studies, as well as a forum for designing instruction. There will be an emphasis on discussions of hybrid methodologies between research and practice.

ANTHRO 2635. Image/Media/Publics
Enrollment: Limited to 15.
Mary Steedly
Spring Term. Thursdays 1pm to 3pm
Explores the relations among technologies of image production and circulation, the nature and intensity of the circulating image, and the generation of publics and counter-publics. Questions of scale, mediation, publicity, and mobilization will be considered.

HAA 270E. Art and the Enlightenment
Ewa Lajer-Burcharth
Spring Term. Tuesdays 2pm to 4pm
How did the Enlightenment affect the arts?  This course examines the engagement of art and architecture with some of the central ideas and phenomena associated with the Enlightenment. Among the issues considered are: the notions of culture and civilization; society and sociability; modernity; temporality; the public; the individual; new conception of subjectivity; empiricism and materialism; the senses; science and knowledge; technology; collecting and curiosity; authority; authorship; conspicuous consumption; luxury; travel; the global Enlightenment; gender and sexuality; the body; criticism; clandestinity; subversion.

SPANSH 243. Foundational Fiction and Film
Doris Sommer
Spring Term. TBA
Through novels that helped to consolidate nation-states in Latin America, explores modernity as personal and public lessons in laissez-faire. Sequels in film, telenovelas, performances show tenacity of genre. Links between creativity and citizenship. Theorists include Anderson, Foucault, Arendt, Lukacs, Flaubert. Conducted in Spanish.

Nota bene

  • If there are courses not on this list that you feel should count toward credit in Film and Visual Studies, do not hesitate to discuss them with the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Courses of interest may also be found at the Graduate School of Design.
  • Harvard has cross-registration agreements with MIT and Brown. You may find interesting and relevant graduate courses there, especially in Comparative Media Studies, and Modern Culture and Media.
  • For a list of undergraduate courses of interest see the undergraduate section of this website. 100-level courses are usually listed as for both undergraduate and graduate students. Many of these courses are available for graduate credit upgrades.  For more information, contact the Director of Graduate Studies.
  • Both Yale University and Columbia University have important graduate programs in film.  GSAS students have the opportunity to study there, and at eight other universities, through the Exchange Scholar Program.