Fulfills Distributional Course in Arts & Letters (for students admitted before Fall 2006)
In the mid-nineteenth century, socially conscious artists developed an aesthetics meant to represent the way unremarkable people – most of them poor – actually lived. Naming their aesthetics realism, they proposed it as a socially conscious and politically involved alternative to the formalism and fantasy of classical and romantic art. But with the invention of film – a medium seemingly designed for the perfect recording of reality – realism began to lose much of its original political motivation. By the early 1990s, the old forms of social realism were virtually exhausted, but a new kind of realism was coming into prominence. This new realism, taking its cues from both postmodern philosophy and popular culture, would, by the turn of the century, come to dominate Western television and radically transform how we conceive of reality itself and our relationships to it. In this course, we’ll examine the aesthetics of Contemporary Realism in film and television: How did it develop? How does it work? What is its significance? We’ll look at Reality Bites, The Truman Show, The Matrix, television series like The Real World, Big Brother, and The Hills, and theoretical writing by Bazin, Baudrillard, and others.