ENGL2923 PARISIAN VIEWS: SPECTACLE, REALITY, AND THE INVENTION OF MASS CULTURE
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SCW syllabus / YU only
This course will consider the ways that nineteenth-century Paris inspired artistic creation through its cultivation of a variety of new ways of seeing, which led in turn to new forms of entertainment. The artistic products of this rich and imaginative time were in many ways responsible for contemporary mass culture and our lingering fascination with the real. To explore this fascinating history to our own cultural tastes, we will employ a host of colorful characters as tour guides: from Balzac’s young student, who abandons legal studies for a Parisian education of another sort, to Baudelaire’s flâneur, who invented a whole new way of wandering the city, to Zola’s naïve young woman cruising the newly invented department store, to Colette’s writer-turned music hall dancer, newly divorced, facing the city on her own terms. But we will not limit ourselves to the strictly literary: in addition to reading novels and poetry, we will consider the overlapping ways through which painting, art criticism, photography, early cinema, architecture and various kinds of public exhibits addressed the feelings of excitement and anxiety around the new points of contact that the modern French city offered. Juxtaposing poems with paintings, novels with photographs, we will compare the different idioms through which these art forms attempted to respond to a shared set of questions. As we consider the panoply of new desires, seductions, and fascinations for which Paris itself seemed wholly responsible, we will also not fail to notice the deep and lasting impact of those practices on our current modes of entertainment and pleasure… from cinema to celebrity culture to reality TV.
Mesch, Rachel. (2021, Fall), Syllabus, ENGL2923 PARISIAN VIEWS: SPECTACLE, REALITY, AND THE INVENTION OF MASS CULTURE, Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University.