Courses in Film and Visual Studies

List of Courses Approved for Graduate Credit

Fall 2017

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

VES 155 Documentary Fictions
Fall Term, Tuesday, Thursday, 1:00pm - 3:59pm
Joana Pimenta

In this film production course, students will make short films that explore the fluid boundaries between documentary and fiction. We will discuss the generative possibilities of the real in the production of fiction works, and fictional strategies for working in documentary film. Assignments will encompass video and sound recording and editing, cinematography and montage. Class time will include technical workshops, film screenings, discussions of student work and occasional visiting filmmakers. Interested students must attend first meeting of class to speak with teaching staff about enrollment procedures. At least one previous VES film/video course and/or experience in film/video and sound recording and editing is recommended, but not required.

VES 169 History and Philosophy of Media
Fall Term, Tuesdays, 11:00am - 12:59pm
Sean Cubitt

After introducing fundamental concepts of mediation and communication, periodisation and embodiment, the course addresses media and empire between globalisation and decolonial approaches. Its central section concerns workplace media, the work performed by media technologies, and the work of audiences. The final weeks focus on materials from materialist and ecocritical perspectives and the aesthetics of truth, the Good and beauty. A previous course in film and visual studies is helpful, but not required.

VES 176W The Cinema of Fred Wiseman: Towards a Visual Anthropology of Institutions and Power
Fall Term, Wednesdays, 12:00pm - 3:59pm
Lucien Castaing-Taylor

This course will analyse the observational films of pioneering American documentarian Frederick Wiseman. It will concentrate on their representations of social institutions and power, both in the United States and in Europe. Jointly Offered with Faculty of Arts & Sciences as ANTHRO 1761

VES 193 Fortunes of a Genre: The Western
Fall Term, Tuesdays, 1:00pm - 2:59pm
Tom Conley

Studies American westerns through appreciation of genre theory and history with emphasis on French reception. Includes films of Boetticher, Dwan, De Toth, Ford, Fuller, Hawks, Hellman, Lang, Mann, Ray, Vidor, Walsh, et al. This course has an additional weekly film screening, Tu., 7 pm-9 pm.

VES 196R Directed Research: Studio Course
Fall, Term, Wednesdays, 6:00pm - 8:59pm
Stephen Prina

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 30 at 6pm in Carpenter Center 5th floor.

VES 205 Graduate Seminar in Curricular Development: What is Media?
Fall Term, Mondays, 2:00pm - 3:59pm
Laura Frahm

A graduate seminar in curriculum development that explores the theoretical and historical underpinnings of media studies with an emphasis on media in art and visual culture. Graduate students will be collaborators in proposing and composing course syllabi for a new introductory lecture course “Introduction to Media Theory” to be offered within VES in the coming years. This course will be constructed around novel media-based assignments, and curricular preparation will include research and resource development on media-based scholarship.
Related Sections: Film Screening Wednesdays, 1:00 PM-2:59 PM
Note: First meeting is Weds, August 30 at 2pm in Sever 411

VES 209R Curation, Conservation and Programming
Fall Term, by petition only
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 241 New Media Theory
Fall Term, Wednesday, 11:30am - 12:59pm
Laura Frahm

A graduate course that surveys new developments in media theory and provides an overview of advanced approaches to the study of media. We will look at different schools and streams of thought that productively expand and transform the established corpus of media theory, ranging from cultural technologies, media archaeology, and object studies to non-representational theory, actor network theory, and process philosophy. Two research projects will further advance our critical survey of new media theory. This course has mandatory weekly screenings on Tuesdays 12:00 PM-1:59 PM
Note: First meeting is Tues Sept. 5 at 12pm in Sever 416

VES 261 Ecocritique and Popular Cinema
Fall Term, Fridays, 11:00am - 12:59pm
Sean Cubitt

Taking a broad view of the terms 'cinema' and 'popular', this course proposes methods for ecocritical research, implications of those methods, and hypotheses derivable from them. It develops advanced tools for criticism based on the principle that textual encounters are a privileged instrument of humanities research revealing unique constellations of ecocide, debt, digitisation and obligation. It seeks expression of environmental responsibility in blockbusters and animations amid the challenges of anthropocentrism, melancholia and socio-technical change. There will be mandatory weekly film screenings for this class on Thursdays from 10am-12pm in the Carpenter Center Lecture Hall beginning on Thursday, September 14, 2017.

VES 271 Proseminar in Film and Visual Studies: Theory
Fall Term, Wednesdays, 2:00pm - 3:59pm
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.
Course Notes: 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.

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

VES 330R Teaching Workshop
Fall Term, Wednesdays, 5:00pm - 5:59pm
Carrie Lambert-Beatty

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.

VES 351HFA Film Study Center Non-Fiction Filmmaking Workshop
Fall Term, Tuesdays 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm
Lucien Castaing-Taylor

A graduate workshop for Film Study Center non-fiction film and video projects. Students must complete both parts of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit. Admission Limited to Critical Media Practice graduate students and Film Study Center fellows.

ANTHRO 2635 Image/Media/Publics
Fall Term, Thursdays, 1:00pm - 2:59pm
Mary Steedly

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.

COMPLIT 274 Politics of Aesthetics: Worlds, Objects, Matter, Sensation
Fall Term, Thursdays, 1:00pm - 2:59pm
Verena Conley

Examines and compares the relation between politics and aesthetics in major texts by: Rancière, Balibar, Nancy, Latour, Harman, Badiou, Meillassoux, Jane Bennett, Tim Morton and others. Focuses on politics of aesthetics in critical texts of the last two decades that link a politics of aesthetics to the reassessment of world(s), objects, sensation, matter while looking for a new type of realism. Deleuze, Rancière, Nancy, Cixous, Latour, Stengers, Bennett, Graham, Badiou, Meillassoux, Morton will be paired with film, fiction, painting.

EAFM 206 Japanese Media Studies: Seminar
Fall Term, 1:00pm - 3:59pm
Visiting Professor Shun’ya Yoshimi

Japan is a media society. We see this in the extensive influence of television on daily life; in the presence of national newspapers that can boast some of the highest circulation numbers in the world; in the ubiquity of smartphones in places like the lecture hall or on the train; and in a highly-developed print culture rivalling that of any modern Western country. Media, as a topic, provides us with a vital starting point for a study of Japanese society. Furthermore, the study of the connections between Japan and media informs our larger understanding of the role these media have played in Korea, China, and other parts of modern Asia.

This seminar will focus on the study of eleven cultural fields whose development is indivisible from the larger development of media in Japan. These fields are: print and publishing; the poster; the telephone; the camera; the movie theater; television; advertisements; the fair/exposition; the department store; the university; and the archive. We will examine the emergence and transformations of these fields in the context of modern Japan. At the same time, through an examination of a number of concrete examples, we will consider theoretical and empirical approaches for connecting media studies to disciplines like history and sociology.

Throughout the course, students will be encouraged and expected to “attack” the ideas presented by the professor during the seminar or in the readings. Structured critiques of the professor’s ideas will be a central part of this seminar’s structure. Such a practice, it is hoped, can serve to reclaim a “revolutionary” creativity, in an academic sense, for the modern university.

EAFM 222 Media Cultures in the People's Republic
Fall Term, Mondays, 1:00pm - 3:29pm
Jie Li

This seminar examines the changing Chinese mediascape from the 1950s to the present. Every week, we will focus on a different form of representational media, from propaganda posters, photography, radio broadcasting, and cinema, to television, video piracy, and the Internet. We will ask question such as: How have media technologies changed contemporary Chinese culture and society? Were they instruments of totalitarian control, commodities of market capitalism, or tools of resistance and independent expression? How did the mass media affect perception, experiences, and memories of socialism and postsocialism, as well as the periods' cultural forms and aesthetics? What is specific or special about each medium, and how do different types of media interact in the Chinese context? While analyzing media texts, we will also consider their sociopolitical, institutional, and technological as well as engage with media theories and explore untapped historical sources.

HAA 206 Science and the Practice of Art History
Fall Term, Wednesdays, 1:00pm - 2:59pm
Narayan Khandekar

This course leads students through the examination of a work of art from the collection of Harvard Art Museums using the perspectives of a curator, conservator and a conservation scientist. Students will examine and interrogate a work using these different perspectives to understand how and from what the object is made and how it has changed since its creation using visual and instrumental techniques. The course will conclude with a presentation of a forgery/attribution/authentication case by individuals. The course will be taught by curators, conservators and conservation scientists from the Harvard Art Museums.

Spring 2018

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

VES 165V Vertical Cinema
Spring Term, Tuesdays and Thursdays, 1:00pm - 3:59pm
Karthik Pandian

The ever-increasing flexibility of video presentation technology creates the opportunity to reconsider cinema’s most deeply rooted conventions. In this course, students will create vertical videos. Drawing on a history of artists who have investigated aspect ratio, portraiture and the creation of new contexts for moving image, we will pursue a phenomenology of format through the creation of 9:16 work. The course will culminate in the erection of a temporary cinema house dedicated to vertical videos.

Interested students must attend the first meeting of the class during shopping week to speak with teaching staff about enrollment procedure. The first meeting of this class on Tuesday, January 23 will be in the 2nd floor sculpture studio of the Carpenter Center. At least one previous VES film production or studio course, or permission of the instructo

VES 177W The Cinema of Fred Wiseman II: American and French Society and Culture
Spring Term, Wednesdays 12:00pm – 4:00pm
Lucien Castaing-Taylor

This course will analyse the later observational films of pioneering American documentarian Frederick Wiseman, from the 1980s until today. It will concentrate on their representations of American and French society and culture, both “high” and “low,” and their transformations.

VES 181 Film Theory, Visual Thinking
Spring Term, Thursdays, 11:30am - 12:59pm
Giuliana Bruno
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 HIS 4132. This course has an additional weekly film screening, Wednesday, 7 pm-9pm in the Carpenter Center Lecture Hall.

VES 183 Art Cinema/Counter Cinema: The Rebirth and Revolution of Post WWII Japanese Cinema, 1950-1979
Spring Term, Wednesdays, 1:00pm - 2:59pm
Haden Guest

This class explores one of the richest and most turbulent period in the history of Japanese cinema, looking closely at the resurgence of Japanese films on the international scene in the 1950s and the reinvention of filmmaking as a radical and revolutionary practice during the period around 1968. The work and career of key Japanese directors will be closely studied, including Akira Kurosawa, Hiroshi Teshigahara, Shohei Imamura, Nagisa Oshima, Shuji Terayama, and Shinsuke Ogawa. Prerequisite: VES 70: the Art of Film or another film and visual studies course.

Films, Film Screening Mondays 1:00 PM-3:59 PM.

VES 196R Directed Research: Studio Course
Spring Term, Wednesdays, 6:00pm - 8:59pm
Stephen Prina

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 198M Film Experiments and Artistic Practices from the 1920s to the Present
Spring Term, Thursdays, 2:00pm - 3:59pm
Philippe-Alain Michaud

This course is an overview of the procedures invented by the artists-filmmakers from the avant garde of the 1920s to the expanded cinema of the1960s up to the present :
- to deconstruct the cinematographic apparatus and reconsider the film in its materiality
- to transform a high-tech medium into an object hand-made
- to break with the authoritarian model of the screen projection as experienced in the movie theaters.
This course has weekly screenings on Fridays from 1pm to 3pm.

VES 209R Curation, Conservation and Programming
Spring Term, by petition only
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 215 Critical Printing
Spring Term, Tuesdays 10:00am – 12:59pm and Thursdays 11:00am – 12:59pm
Matt Saunders and Jennifer Roberts

Incorporating both studio and seminar instruction, this intensive course will explore printmaking’s history, trace its particular forms of intelligence, and test its future potential. The class will meet for three hours of studio and two hours of seminar/discussion per week. Assignments will include weekly readings, a short scholarly paper, and two studio projects. For the first half of the semester, students will pursue a rigorous grounding in a particular historical technique (etching/intaglio); in the second half students will translate what they have learned to another medium, thus exploring printmaking as an expanded field of practice. The course is designed for graduate students and advanced undergraduates in any related department. Interested students must attend the first meeting of the class during shopping week.

VES 221 The Work of Art in the Age of Its Remediation
Spring Term, Tuesdays, 2:00pm - 3:59pm
Philippe-Alain Michaud

Since the dawn of the 21st century, we are witnessing a massive migration of images in motion from screening rooms to exhibition spaces, a migration borne along by the digital revolution. This makes it possible, or even necessary, to redefine the cinema beyond the conditions which governed it in the 20th century, that is to say, over and above the restricted spectrum of its history, from a viewpoint expanded to encompass a general history of representations.

VES 270 Proseminar in Film and Visual Studies: History
Spring Term, Mondays, 1:00pm - 2:59pm
Tom Conley

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
Spring Term, Wednesdays 2:00pm – 3:59pm
Giuliana Bruno

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 immateriality of atmosphere.

Course Notes: This course has occasional weekly film screenings on Tuesdays from 7pm to 9pm in Carpenter Center B04. Interested students must attend the first meeting of the class during shopping week. This course is jointly offered at the Graduate School of Design as HIS 4451; GSD students should enroll in the course via the GSD.

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

VES 330R Teaching Workshop
Spring Term, Wednesdays, 5:00pm - 5:59pm
Carrie Lambert-Beatty

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.

VES 351HFB Film Study Center Non-Fiction Filmmaking Workshop
Spring Term
Lucien Castaing-Taylor

A graduate workshop for Film Study Center non-fiction film and video projects. Students must complete both parts of this course (parts A and B) within the same academic year in order to receive credit.

Admission Limited to Critical Media Practice graduate students and Film Study Center fellows.

VES 355R Critical Media Practice
Spring Term, Wednesdays, 9:00am - 11:59am
Lucien Castaing-Taylor

This course is for graduate students pursuing the PhD Secondary Field in Critical Media Practice, as well as for other students creating artistic or interpretive media projects that are complementary to their scholarship. Open to any media or subject matter, the course is centered around exhaustive, constructive critique, supplemented by workshops, screenings and visiting artists. Recommended Prep:Interview with instructor.

EAFM 220 Topics in Chinese Film and Media Studies: Seminar
Spring Term
This course addresses the question "What was/is cinema in China?" from shadow puppets to DV documentaries. Topics include cinema's arrival in China, silent film stars, sound film sing-alongs, wartime collaborations, mobile projection teams, revolutionary model operas, and Chinese cinema's transnational connections.

HAA 274M Minding Making: Art History and Artisanal Intelligence
Spring Term, Tuesdays, 1:00pm - 2:59pm
Jennifer Roberts and Ethan Lasser

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 277K The Contemporary
Spring Term, Thursdays, 3:00pm - 4:59pm
Carrie Lambert-Beatty

Graduate seminar exploring the intersection of the field of art history with the globalized art world. What is "contemporary art" - in theory, in practice, and in history?

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.