Current dichotomies of size in moving image media, with IMAX on one side and iPods on the other, provide the occasion for thinking about the aesthetics and history of scale in both image production and narrative form. Far from a specifically contemporary phenomenon, this “schizophrenia of scale,” has taken many forms throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This course will examine texts, films, and artworks that occupy the extreme edges of our perception in relation to size and scale.
This course seeks to understand how these vast differences in size and scale influence the meaning, construction, and reception of the objects in question. How does our reception of contemporary forms of extreme scale differ or derive from this long tradition? How might the consideration of the size of artworks and cultural objects open up alternative modes or spaces for experience, both aesthetic and political? Does size matter when artworks intersect with politics, economics, and Culture? Does the classic division between the beautiful and the sublime still make sense? How do psychoanalytic terms like schizophrenia and the uncanny illuminate these issues? How does the hierarchy of size persist even into the realm of video games?
The ambitious scope of this course will lead us to consider thinkers and critics such as Kant, Freud, Benjamin, Fried, Agamben, Adorno, Hansen, Krauss, Bachelard, and Kracauer; artists, authors, and filmmakers such as Jonathan Swift, Disney, Raoul Walsh, Hollis Frampton, Frank Tashlin, Jean Painleve, Jorge Luis Borges; and cultural forms including painting, cinema, literature, television, toys, and the built environment.