Archives

Making Arrangements (MCO4112.01)

In this course we will discover the basic principles of arranging for various ensembles playing in multiple genres (using horns, strings, background vocals, etc. along with a rhythm section)We will look at a wide range of notable artists working in many jazz subgenres and related styles. Students will be encouraged to creatively question existing forms and traditions in pursuit of a personal voice. Arranging students’ original compositions will also be encouraged. Emphasis will be on elements of instrumentation, orchestration, harmony, melody and rhythm. A background in chord/scale theory and familiarity in music notation software is encouraged but not required. 

Feminist Philosophy (PHI2102.01)

Contemporary feminism is a multi-faceted social justice movement to end gender-based oppression. Feminist movements have deep and interesting intellectual roots. In this course, we will excavate and investigate these roots. Throughout the course we will explore various contested conceptual terrains, such as: agency, affinity, body, equality, difference, desire, freedom, power, sexuality, and work. We will use philosophical tools and methods to come to grips with some of feminism’s perennially critical questions: What is gender difference? How is agency exercised under oppression? What is feminist freedom? What change does feminism imagine in the world? We will use feminist texts from the 18th-20th c. as the basis for our inquiry, with attention to how these texts are situated in historical, social, and political contexts.

Gender and Security in the 21st Century (SCT2130.01)

This course is designed to critically examine twenty-first century security discourse and the ways it interacts with the gendered constructions of people’s lives. Combining the interdisciplinary approaches of feminist studies, cultural political economy, and critical security studies, we will examine the meanings of “security,” its manifestations around the world, and the ways in which gender scripts are constitutive of the global discourse of security. Subtopics covered by the course include case studies of gender in conflict situations in the United States, Europe, Africa, Latin America, and East Asia; gender and the global war on terror; masculinities and global security; security and neoliberal reforms; visions of alternative security frameworks; and proposed normative changes.

Analysis (MAT4214.01)

For the first one hundred and fifty years after its introduction, calculus saw an explosive development in its applications to mathematical and physical problems, defeating old problems thought of as insoluble, and solving new problems no-one had even thought to consider before. At the same time, it was under a cloud of suspicion: it rested on vague arguments about quantities becoming “infinitely” small or “infinitely” numerous, and though it usually gave correct answers in the end, it was far from the model of logical clarity provided by Euclid’s Elements. In this class, you will prove everything that was taken for granted in introductory calculus, starting from first principles. Aside from providing logical certainty, these techniques of proof provide insight as to the real meaning of “infinitely” small, “infinitely” many, and “limiting” value. These techniques are used almost universally in higher mathematics, and a course in Analysis is the central building block of an undergraduate mathematics degree. In addition, the techniques are also essential to theoretical computer science, so students interested in that field should take this course as well.

The Glaze Renovation Project (CER4216.01)

The emphasis of this course will be placed on testing and cataloging the new glaze palette developed in the spring of 2019 in “Glaze-Redesigning the Ceramic Studio’s Glazes.” We will concentrate on layering the new ^04 and 10 glazes over one another as well as with the studio’s slips and washes and creating a comprehensive reference for use by all the proceeding ceramics classes to aid in surface selection. The results will be recorded both physically with a series of test tile palettes displayed in the glaze lab and digitally using HyperGlaze software. Color and surface variation of the ^10 and ^04 base glazes will also explored and, using the testing systems developed previously, we will construct a ^6 pallet to endow the ceramic’s studio with a full complement of all the major firing temperatures. The ^6 and 10 glazes will also be tested in the various atmospheric conditions that we have available to us including oxidation, reduction, salt, soda, and wood and recorded with the test tile palettes. Some possible subjects for additional exploration are raku, crater, crawl, and crystalline glazes among other possibilities. The class objectives will be facilitated through demonstration and hands-on practice. The overarching goal of this class is to empower students with the technical knowledge to express themselves through ceramics coherently using a comprehensive understanding of surface through formulation and testing.

Some basic tools will be required.

The Actor’s Instrument (DRA2170.02, section 2)

The craft of acting will be the main focus of this class. Through physical and vocal warm-up exercises, sensory exploration, improvisation, scene work, and extensive reading students will be asked to develop an awareness of their own unique instrument as actors and learn to trust their inner impulses where this is concerned. Extensive out of class preparation of specific exercises as well as rehearsal with scene partners will constitute the bulk of expected work. Students can expect this to amount to six hours of required rehearsal time per week. In addition students will read several plays throughout the term, as well as weekly theory handouts. The writings, exercises, and work of such theater artists as Anne Bogart, Constantin Stanislavski, Sanford Meisner, Uta Hagen, Jerzy Grotowski among others will be researched and discussed in class.

Corequisites: Dance or Drama lab assignment

Beginning Composing (MCO4120.01)

This class explores and reviews notation and the rudiments of music through the act of composing small pieces for a variety of instruments. It is intended for students who have taken instrumental lessons for a few years or more and who can read music in at least one clef. It is meant for those who have never imagined composing music as well as for those who have already begun writing music. We will take a hands-on approach to learning about such matters as intervals, modes, key signatures, and the fundamentals of tonal harmony through using these musical elements creatively. The students are also encouraged to produce original creative work that is not tied to learning any particular materials, but simply reflect the student’s imagination and instincts. Students are requested to show work during the term at Music Workshop.

Corequisites: attendance at 6 music workshops

Global Environmental Systems in the Anthropocene (ENV4123.01)

It’s about anthropogenic climate change, but also the history of global systems over millennia and longer, effects of human civilization and agriculture on global nutrient and hydrological cycles, etc. — with focus on planetary scale. This course views global processes through the lens of ecosystem science (sometimes called ‘biogeochemistry’, which tells you something about the discipline’s scope). The biosphere functions at the interface of geological/geochemical, atmospheric, hydrological, and biological processes, and we will need to integrate understanding from all of these areas. We will focus particularly, but not exclusively, on the role of human activity in altering systems function at the global scale (thus ‘Anthropocene’ in the title). The core questions of the class will be science-based, but many will have direct implications for the viability of human ‘support systems’. Understanding of earth systems function is essential for deep understanding of human history and for effective address of environmental concerns in social, economic, and political arenas. Topics may include: how global systems can be/are studied and modeled; feedbacks between global climate processes (historical and future) and global ecosystem function; the interaction between historical development of agriculture, global nutrient dynamics, and likely future constraints on human nutrition/population; whether the ‘anthropocene’ concept makes sense and, if so, how to define it; how biosphere(s?) develop; etc. The work will include extensive reading in primary research literatures, which will call for basic competency in some branch(es) of the sciences — earth science, chemistry, ecology, will all be important but, most importantly, students should be comfortable wading into technical materials that are not entirely familiar — and comfort with quantitative thinking.

Student to Student: A College Access Mentoring Program at Mount Anthony Union High School (APA4132.01)

In this course, college student mentors will work with high school student mentees to develop college aspirations and contribute to mentees’ knowledge about the college application process. Each week college students will travel to Mount Anthony Union High School to meet with their college student mentees for an hour. We will then return to Bennington College campus for the remaining class time during which we will discuss literature about mentoring and college access, as well as the plan for meeting with the high school students next week. Mentors will share their college access stories with their mentees and invite their mentees to discuss their own educational aspirations in shared storytelling sessions. Possible topics we will cover with the high school student mentees include the college application process, including searching for colleges and writing a personal statement, as well as the process of applying for financial aid. In this course, Bennington College students will have the opportunity to put a personal face on the often mystifying college application process and will develop mentoring and leadership skills as they do so.

Our Curated World: Seeing a Trend Through the Lens of Tradition (VA2243.01)

From bookstore shelves to restaurant menus, a widening swath of contemporary life seems to involve, even require, the hand of a curator. So what exactly does it mean to BE a curator? Where did the profession of curator originate and how has it evolved? This introductory class considers historical examples of acquisition and display from the sixteenth century to today; curatorial models such as the encyclopedic collector, the cultural provocateur, and the globetrotting celebrity; and a range of installation contexts, from Wunderkammer to museum to art fair. Within this historical context, we consider the role digital technology plays in our desire for “curated” experience and the potential for curators as cultural producers.

“First World Problems” in Chinese Microcinema (CHI4520.01)

“First world problems” has become a prolific meme generating phrase. However, it can have deeper meaning. How is Chinese society dealing with its own “First world problems” , while simultaneously dealing with those of its own unique history? These are some of the questions we will explore through the lenses of Chinese Microcinema makers. Students will naturally advance their Mandarin linguistic competencies as they view, analyze and discuss Microcinema from China and Taiwan.

Corequisites: Language Series

Education, Inc. (SOC4104.02)

In this course, we will examine the rise of market-based approaches to K-12 education reform in America. What are the theoretical arguments for implementing free market reforms in public schooling? What are examples of school choice policies and what are the consequences of these for students and families? How has the increased privatization and marketing of schools influenced the larger educational landscape? To what extent do free-market reforms contribute to racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic segregation in schools? We will examine current research addressing all of these questions, including the role that politics plays in producing school choice scholarship. Students will learn to apply a variety of theoretical frameworks used to examine school choice policies, including Milton Friedman’s free-market capitalism, Albert O. Hirschman’s concepts of exit, voice, and loyalty, and organizational ecology.

Working With Light (DRA2234.01)

Lighting design has the powerful ability to shape the experience of an audience. Its practice incorporates elements of artistry and craft, and should interest those working in all aspects of visual and performing arts. In addition to hands-on work with theatrical lighting equipment in and outside of class, awareness of light, play analysis and conceptualization, color, angle, composition and focus are explored in class demonstrations and in a series of individual and group projects. Some reading (including two plays) and short writing assignments are also included, as is an introduction to lighting design documentation.

This course will be offered the first seven weeks of the semester.

Extragalactic Astronomy and Cosmology (PHY4103.01)

Galaxies are massive collections of stars, gas, dust, and dark matter. They are both the birthplace of stars and planets and the signposts of the universe. By studying what happens inside galaxies, we are able to understand the conditions under which stars form. By studying the galaxies themselves, we can understand how the environment shapes their structure and makeup. By studying the distribution of galaxies, we gain insight into the structure and evolution of the universe as a whole. In this class, we will undertake a detailed, quantitative study of galaxies, with particular attention to the environment in which galaxies form and evolve and their place in the universe as a whole.

Contemporary Native American Literature (LIT4126.01)

As Stephen Graham Jones writes in his essay, “Letter to a Just-Starting-Out-Indian-Writer and Maybe to Myself”: So many readers and critics and students and professors, they don’t engage [Native] writing as art, they engage it as an ethnographic lens they can use to focus attention on peoples and cultures and issues and crimes and travesties and all the ‘other’ that’ll fit in a discussion. This course will engage contemporary Native American Literature as it’s meant to be engaged: as art. The course will begin its exploration of Native American writers with James Welch and Leslie Marmon Silko, sliding then into the worlds of Louise Erdrich and Debra Magpie Earling and Linda Hogan, the shifting narrative points of view of Tommy Orange, the short stories Toni Jensen, the genre-bending novels of Stephen Graham Jones and Rebecca Roanhorse, the electrifying poetry of Tommy Pico, Natalie Diaz, Joy Harjo, and Layli Long Soldier, and the boundary and form-breaking non-fction of Elissa Washuta and David Treuer. Students will be responsible for class presentations and critical essays. Students are additionally required to attend all literature evenings and Poetry at Bennington events, held most Wednesdays at 7pm. All students applying for this course must submit a writing sample — scholarly or creative — between four and six pages long.

Corequisites: Students enrolled in this course are required to attend Wednesday night literature events.

La famiglia: Literary Portrayals of the Modern Italian Family (ITA4610.01)

In Italy, no other institution has been credited as much as the family for keeping the country afloat during periods of financial decay, and cursed, at the same time, for hindering the country’s social progress. Three short novels will guide us in the exploration of the modern Italian family: Melania Mazzucco’s Sei come sei, Elena Ferrante’s I giorni dell’abbandono, and Domenico Starnone’s Lacci. Students will expand their knowledge of Italian literature, culture, and history while improving their critical analysis, writing, and research skills. They will tackle Italian advanced grammar and syntax, and write longer essays thus progressing towards proficiency. Conducted in Italian. Intermediate-high and advanced levels combined.

Corequisites: Language Series

Dining Culture in China (CHI2117.01)

“Have you eaten yet?” This common Chinese greeting is just one of many common phrases that shows the centrality of food to Chinese culture. In this course we will focus on the theme of Chinese food and dining culture as an entrée into the study of Chinese language and culture. As Chinese grammar is very simple with no verb conjugation, no plural, no gender, no articles or subject and object forms, it is very easy to speak Chinese. Students will be able to begin speaking Chinese from the very first class and be able to engage in a lot of daily conversation after one term.

Also by studying the form of the most basic Chinese characters students will simultaneously gain insights into traditional Chinese cultural values while learning to read and write Mandarin. “Let’s do Chinese!” Chinese food? Yes, but also language and culture.

Corequisites: Language Series

Programming Languages (CS4116.01)

This class will look at a variety of different programming languages, both common and obscure. In this class, we’ll look at functional programming languages, object oriented programming languages, and languages that combine these paradigms. We will look at interpreted vs compiled languages, and look at the differences in memory management systems between languages. Students will gain a deeper understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of different programming languages by looking at them side by side. Students will think critically about how the architecture of a language influences the applications of that language. Experience programming in at least one programming language is required for this class.

The Film Trailer Project (FRE4603.01)

In this course, French films are used as linguistic and cultural textbooks. While honing their language skills (listening, reading, speaking and writing), students will focus their critical skills on selected cultural topics (food, clothes, history, gestures, etc.). Students will create film trailers that reflect their understanding of the French linguistic and cultural realities. Films include L’argent de poche (Truffaut, 1976), Rue Cases-Nègres (Palcy, 1983), Au revoir les enfants (Malle, 1987), Chocolat (Denis, 1988), Comme une image (Jaoui 2004), Vers la tendresse (Diop, 2016). A common website and in-class presentations will allow students to share and discuss their findings. Conversation exchanges with native speakers will enrich the exploration of these representations of the French-speaking world. Intermediate Low. Conducted in French.

Corequisites: Language Series

Chemistry 3 (CHE4213.01)

Chemistry 3 focuses on why chemical reactions happen, what the steps are, how we discover them, and how we use this to look at practical problems such as the synthesis of drugs, or the kinetics of atmospheric reactions. Emphasis will be on mastering general principles of chemistry such as nucleophiles and electrophiles, molecular orbital concepts, thermodynamics and kinetics in order to guide an understanding of specific reactions. The latest research will be used to relate the chemical concepts to current applications. Students will read, present and discuss research articles to demonstrate the ability to apply the chemical ideas to new situations.

Corequisites: Chem 3 lab

Italy Yesterday and Today (ITA2118.01)

This course introduces students to Italian language and culture. It focuses on the social changes that Italy has undergone during the past thirty years in many spheres of its social life, such as the family, education, the environment, and politics, and with regard to several issues, for instance gender equality, diversity, and immigration. By the end of the semester, students will be able to produce simple sentence-level discourse, orally and in writing. Emphasis is on oral communication and performance. This is a language introductory course, taught entirely in Italian. No previous knowledge of the language is either necessary, or desirable.

Corequisites: Language Series

Insider Perspectives on the Francophone World (FRE2103.01)

Viewed from the outside, the French-speaking world offers enticing images of beauty, pleasure, and freedom. From the inside, however, it is a complicated, often contradictory world where implicit codes and values shape the most basic aspects of daily life. This course will give you an insider’s perspective on a cultural and communicative system whose ideas, customs, and belief systems are surprisingly different from your own. Together, we will examine how daily life and activities (friendship and family relationships, housing, leisure, work, and food culture) reflect culturally specific ideologies and values. Emphasis will be placed on developing ease, fluency, and sophistication in oral and written expression. Designed for students with no previous study of French, this class will revolve around authentic materials from the Francophone world (video, music, advertisements, literary texts). Introductory level. Conducted in French.

Corequisites: Language Series

Movement Practice: Intermediate-Advanced Dance Technique (DAN4148.01)

This intermediate-advanced level movement practice is designed for students with prior experience in dance technique. In this class, we will hone in on the importance of balancing controlled and spontaneous action as well as internal and external movement through using a series of improvisational and compositional practices. We will be learning longer and complex movement phrases that are structured with principles from Water Body Movement (“Body is a container filled with water. Movements are a flow of the water.”) Bringing conscious thought and heightened awareness to both interior and exterior spaces, we deepen our understanding about the unity of our body/mind and how it functions as a whole. We aim to maximize each student’s performance skills and cultivate personal ways to understand how to use one’s own body.

Normality and Abnormality: Defining the Limits (PSY2206.01)

This course is an examination of the idea of normality as a central organizing principle in psychology. We begin with an effort to define normality and/or psychological health, and then move on to examine the limits or borders of normality. The course examines the value-laden, historically determined, and political nature of psychological normality. Topics discussed include: psychoanalytic contributions to the study of psychopathology (Freud and Erikson); normality and creativity; contemporary psychiatry; and the politics of mental illness.

Students write two short and one longer final paper on issues raised in the course.

Dying in Diaspora (SCT4108.01)

This class examines geographies of death, dying, and mourning as experienced by migrants living in diaspora or exile. In it, we will map out the multiple mobilities of grief and death—the circulation of emotions, cadavers, toxins and cancers, and mourning relatives gathering to grieve—and the political, and imperial, factors that co-produce death and mobility—such as the U.S. nuclear testing in the Marshall Islands, U.S.-Mexico border policing that pushes migrants into death-producing deserts, or the woefully inadequate U.S. recovery efforts in Puerto Rico following Hurricane María. We will also consider the transnational political economy of dying ‘at a distance’—including the exorbitant costs of transporting bodily remains and the resulting shifts in migrants’ shifting burial and cremation practices—as well as affective circulations of grief and trauma across time and space. In particular, we will pay attention to how experiences of large-scale intergenerational trauma are compounded by and linked with experiences of ‘individual’ grief and loss by migrants living in diaspora. Throughout the course, we will engage feminist geopolitical scholarship on the interplay between the global and the intimate, as well as indigenous feminist theories on research methods, emotion, trauma, and power relations.

Latin American Critical Theory (o, más allá de la alteridad) (SPA4716.01)

Oddly, perhaps, theory itself, despite its own premises, its ethical veneer and visceral critical posture, has never quite overcome the traditional, global division of intellectual labor. It is applied, and alterity is nominally, similarly, embraced, thus paradoxically resulting in a cultural neo-imperialism that all the while overtly denies its own imperialist practices. The title of this course, to quote Neil Larsen’s lengthier plea for an escape from such an awkward impasse, “simply means exiting, however momentarily, the hegemonic, secular-poststructuralist terms of a language-game in which ‘Latin-America’ has come to signify, always already, only one thing – a thing, that, by constantly evoking the periphery as omni-presently ‘other,’ makes its intellectual experience into something, ironically, always the same.” The content will simply be comprised of readings by critical theorists working within Latin America, an apparently atypical process. Conducted in Spanish. Advanced.

Corequisites: Language Series

Latin American Art since Independence (SPA2111.01)

This course ranges from the republican art of nation-building in the 19th century to modernism, magical realism, and the postmodern. While there will be some discussion of standard tactics such as stylistic nuances and artists’ biographies, it is expected that we will rapidly develop sufficient ability to focus on movements, theory, and politics, thus treating the works as ideologemes, representations of social import touching on several fields. The usual tactics associated with mastering a foreign language – explicit grammar sessions, vocabulary, oral and aural practice, text – will be on offer, but they will generally be student-driven, servicing the content, corroborating the hope that in confronting our own preconceived notions of the Spanish-speaking world we will simultaneously debunk those regarding how a language is taught. Students will therefore learn to speak, listen, read and write in increasingly meaningful scenarios. Conducted in Spanish.

Corequisites: Language Series

Reinventing and Branding Japan (JPN4710.01)

After the World War II, Japan tried rigorously to improve their national reputation in the World. As Japan’s economy improved, Japan’s image shifted from a brutal and heartless military nation to a powerful economic nation, and then to a nation of “soft power.” In the last 10 years, the Japanese government came up with a PR strategy called “Cool Japan” and has been promoting the Japan’s soft power – nation’s creative industries such as fashion, manga, animation, tourism, and music. Has the “Cool Japan” strategy been successful? Is it the best way to promote Japan? In this course, students will examine the “Cool Japan” strategy and evaluate the success of the strategy. Then, students will learn and research new trends in Japan such as sustainability and renewable energy, earthquake-resistant architecture, and traditional crafts in the modern society. Throughout the course, students will practice and improve their linguistic knowledge as well as their cultural knowledge by reading and discussing various texts about the “Cool Japan” strategy and new trends in Japan. As the final project of the course, students will create a new strategy to promote Japan and present It to the Japanese people. Conducted in Japanese. Advanced level.

Corequisites: Language Series

100 Places Where You Must Visit in Japan (JPN2112.01)

Where do you want to go when you visit Japan: Mount Fuji in Shizuoka, Imperial Palace in Kyoto, or Ghibli Museum in Tokyo? What would you like to eat there? Do you want to eat sushi, tonkatsu, ramen, or pizza that is topped with corn, tuna, and mayonnaise? Do you want to see traditional performing arts like Noh and Kabuki? Or would you like to see current pop groups like Arashi and AKB48? Japan is an interesting place where tradition and modernity beneficially influence. For example, the styles and techniques of woodblock prints from the Edo period (1603-1868) were passed down to manga in the 21st century.

In this introductory level course, students will learn and examine uniqueness of Japanese regions and how traditional and modern culture coexist in the regions while they practice and build their linguistic skills (listening, speaking, reading, and writing) in Japanese. Students will also perform various situations to demonstrate their understanding of Japanese language and culture. Japanese writing systems – Hiragana, Katakana, and Kanji – will be introduced. Introductory level.

Corequisites: Language Series

2D-3D-2D – Animation in a Created World (MA4203.01)

The class will be concerned with manipulating two dimensional imagery, creating three dimensional forms and models by utilizing the laser cutter, and finally animating forms, drawings, objects combined with the three dimensional world using tracking cameras and a green screen.

We will be moving backwards and forwards between creating worlds and manipulating these worlds, creating images to animate and animating them.

Original narratives, adapted stories, historical references will be used for source materials. Various animators will be looked at.

Farhad Mirza will be embedded in a portion of the classes.

Critical Conversations in Society, Culture & Thought: The Great Transformation at 75 (SCT2132.01)

This course will introduce students to Society, Culture & Thought by engaging with the work of one of Bennington College’s most remarkable former professors, Karl Polanyi. Seventy-five years ago, fleeing the rise of Naziism in Europe, Polanyi arrived at Bennington, and gave a series of public lectures that offered a bold new interpretation of what had gone wrong as the world fell into unprecedented turmoil. Soon, he was hard at work transforming these early thoughts into what became his magnum opus, The Great Transformation: The Political and Economic Origins of Our Time. As the war and the manuscript both neared completion in 1944, Polanyi left the final revisions in the hands of colleagues at Bennington as he rushed back to Europe to put his stunning synthesis to work rebuilding the world.

This class will be structured into two parts. Over the first half of the term, we will read and dissect The Great Transformation through a range of disciplinary lenses, including political economy, anthropology, and politics. This half of the course will culminate with students attending The Great Transformation at 75, a convening of renowned public intellectuals, writers, and activists that aims to consider the relevance of The Great Transformation to our current political moment. The second half of the term will focus on using concepts and tools from the social sciences and humanities to consider the applicability of Polanyi’s ideas to today’s most pressing issues: globalization and market fundamentalism; the rise of hypernationalism and xenophobia; climate change and the commodification of nature; and the potential for reinvigorating democracy.

Comparative Political Corruption (POL4102.01)

Political corruption is broadly understood to involve the exploitation of public office for private gain. It is a longstanding problem, and it persists more or less in every society, including old democracies and developing countries. This course explores the definitions, drivers, patterns, effects and control of political corruption from a global perspective. Key topics include: a survey of major social science and public policy debates on the meanings, indicators, and causes of corruption; corruption in historical perspective across different political cultures and systems; contemporary political scandals and their ramifications for human rights, democracy, development, conflict, and international security; and national and international strategies to counteract or prevent the corrupt practices of public officials.

History of Theater II (DRA2282.01)

This course offers a continuing introduction to the history and development of world theater and drama. We will experience the vibrant pageant of theater history through an exploration of its conventions and aesthetics, as well as its social and cultural functions. Starting in the nineteenth century, we will read representative plays ranging from the advent of stage Realism and Naturalism with Ibsen and Strindberg, through modern and contemporary drama. As we study theatrical movements including Symbolism, Expressionism, Epic Theater, and Theater of the Absurd, we will also read key critical and theoretical texts illuminating the plays. Looking at theater history as “living theater,” the course encompasses not only the study of plays as dramatic texts, but also their contexts of theater architecture and stagecraft, performance conventions, debates of art and commerce, and shifting relationships to the audience.

The Camp Aesthetic (DRA2167.01)

Sometimes seen as gaudy, perverse or excessive, camp is a sophisticated and consummately theatrical style, doubly viewing life as theater and gender as performance. Camp’s essence “is its love of the unnatural: of artifice and exaggeration,” as Susan Sontag argued in her epochal and controversial 1964 essay “Notes on Camp.” Developing historically as a language of the closet, the camp aesthetic has long since migrated from homosexual communities to the mainstream, even as it remains rooted in gay sensibilities (and is channeled by modern pop queens like Lady Gaga and Janelle Monáe). Starting in the late nineteenth century and traversing into our current “extreme camp moment” (as described by Andrew Bolton), this course will explore a varied canon of theater and film stemming from the camp imagination: florid, baroque, irreverent, and absurd, and often intersecting with drag performance. We will study theatrical work by playwrights such as Oscar Wilde, Jean Genet, Tennessee Williams, and Charles Busch; influential theaters like the Caffe Cino, the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, and Split Britches; and creator-performers of feminist camp such as Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, and Eartha Kitt. We also examine films by Jean Cocteau, Douglas Sirk, John Waters, Ken Russell, Pedro Almodóvar, and Anna Biller, among others. As students explore these theatrical and cinematic works, they will learn about camp’s shifting dualities of meaning: as a sensibility of both irony and affection; as object and gaze; as both art-for-art’s-sake style and subversive political tool that—in the words of Charles Ludlam—“turns values upside down.”