Our class began with a consideration of how advertising images acquire meaning (denotation/connotation)–and continued last week with the exploration of film form (plot, shots, montage) and film history (early cinema, showing, telling). This third week, we will be exploring a critical frame for understanding the impact of photography and cinema on art in general. In reading Walter Benjamin’s essay, we will note how he narrates a history of human sense perception and the implications that mechanization has for aesthetics. The essay, as you will note, is not a simple read, and I would like for you to focus on the questions outlined for you in the handout (under modules). We will also be breaking down the reading into constituent parts in class with a focus on the following key terms: human sense perception, aura, cult value, exhibition value, magician/surgeon.
Your challenge for section this week is to provide a detailed close reading of Section II and III in which you reflect not only on what Benjamin says about aura, but how he does so. You are welcome to quote sections of his essay as you trace the contours of his argument. The goal, as I will explain in class on Monday, is to have you weigh some of the complexities of Benjamin’s description of aura. Do you see Benjamin as someone celebrating aura and lamenting its apparent demise? Or do you see Benjamin embracing the potentials of modern technology? What about these two sections gives you this impression? We will be discussing these and other parts of the essay in class on Monday and Wednesday, but for the section assignment, I do encourage you to focus strictly on Sections II-III (220-223) (attached below) , or even one section or the other, if you prefer. Your reflections of no fewer than 400 words will be due in section on Thursday. We will be building up to the first paper with this week and next week’s assignments, so please make sure to follow the directions that I will offer in class closely.
These two vids used in class if you needed for extra help.