*NEW* Film Philosophers/Film Makers

LIT 620S (Cross listed in Theatre, VMS, English, DOCST and AMS)

Professor Markos Hadjioannou

Tu 4:40-7:10: Examines intersections between film, critical theory, and continental philosophy, from standpoint of spectatorship. Focuses on different approaches to film theory from a philosophical prism, and on different philosophers addressing film as a mediated visual interpretation of reality, the world, our own bodies, and societies within which we reside. Addresses film-making as an act of philosophical thought—of thinking about the world and representing subject’s position within the world. Topics include, existential phenomenology, Deleuzian metaphysics, feminism, semiotics, political theory.

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Professor Jacqueline Waeber

Fridays 12-2:30pm: A versatile word that encompasses several meanings, melodrama, as a discursive mode, emerged around the 1760s-1770s. Jean-Jacques Rousseau was the first to experiment melodrama as a genre derived from opera, associating music to spoken declamation, in Pygmalion (1770). By then, melodrama became the ideal receptacle for a new theatrical aesthetics, emphasizing the excess, the pathos, and highly abnormal situations—later assimilated into well-established dramatic genres (opera, theater, cinema).

In this seminar, special emphasis will be given to the eighteenth-century theoretical and aesthetic discourses in the fields of music, and theatre, that have led to the emergence of the melodrama and its aesthetics; and to the historical emergence of melodrama conceived as a reaction against opera. Indeed, melodrama highlights opera’s most crucial issue, which rested at the core of French debates on music since the late seventeenth century: opera’s incapacity to prioritize the semantic function of the sung voice, constantly threatened by the overpowering presence of music.

Another point of entry into the melodramatic aesthetics will be the issue of heterogeneity, of artistic “impurity” proper to melodrama—a critique constantly heard since the late eighteenth century, and famously evinced by Richard Wagner, who, in Oper und Drama, violently rejected the melodrama for being “a genre of the most unpleasant mixture.”

Following many previous commentators since the end of the eighteenth century, Wagner could not accept the main characteristic of melodrama, a genre at the crossroads of different means of expression, hence flawed by the very stigmata of artistic impurity.

Our seminar will explore such aspects of the melodrama and its aesthetics, in order to revaluate its “impurity”; to question melodrama’s peculiar persistence for maintaining non-musical elements within a musical discourse; to understand melodrama as a privileged discursive mode for testing the limits of language—a paradigm that remains valid in later generic incarnations of the melodramatic mode throughout the nineteenth century, and beyond.

The body of works considered in this seminar will include not only musical works for staged melodramas (from the eighteenth to the twentieth century), examples from operas, oratorios, stage and film music, in which the melodramatic aesthetic plays a dominant role.

NB: no specific knowledge of music (reading) is required.


LIT681S-01; ENGLISH 582S-01; PHIL 681S-01

Professor Toril Moi

M, 3:05-5:35pm: Key questions in literary theory reconsidered from the point of view of ordinary language philosophy (Wittgenstein, J. L. Austin, Cavell). Topics will vary, but may include: meaning, language, interpretation, intentions, fiction, realism and representation, voice, writing, the subject, the body, the other, difference and identity, the politics of theory. New perspectives on canonical texts on these subjects.


ARTHIST541S-01/LIT 541S-01

Professor Neil McWilliam

Thursdays 10.05 -12.35: The course investigates the relationship linking Symbolist aesthetics and practice with currents in European philosophy in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The reaction against Positivism; aesthetic idealism and the Platonic tradition; the influence of Schopenhauer and Nietzsche on artists and writers; Symbolism and mysticism (Theosophy, Rosicrucianism, the occult); Symbolism and the Catholic revival; Art nouveau and theories of psychology; the anarchist impulse. Emphasis on visual arts in France, England and Germany; focus on the relationship between word and image in Symbolist poetics.”
(contact n.mcwilliam@duke.edu for a copy of the unrevised syllabus).