HUMS 426, Modernities: Scared to Death

Meeting Time: 
TTh 9:00a-10:15a

Fear is a dominant political, cultural, social, and economic force today. However, its importance is often overlooked, especially in film and media studies. While recent work has looked at our positive affective relationships with media, including fandom and cinephilia, the fear of media has been largely ignored. Yet, media are deeply accomplice of social anxieties. On the one hand, as they try to respond to and to resist these anxieties, they register and disseminate them. Media are often amplifiers of social distress. On the other hand, their action raises fears, either because they display aggressive behavior, or because they produce addiction – not to say the cases in which media break moral norms, make us to lose our sense of reality, or are instrumental of forms of bullying. Media can be improper weapons. This lecture course considers how media and fear intersect, asking both how technology mediates fear and how fear shapes our engagement with media. To this end, the course is broken into two main units. In the first, “Fearing Media,” we look at media as objects of fear, due to their nature as technological, modern, ephemeral, unfamiliar, attractive, and pervasive objects. In the second, “Fears in the Age of Medias,” we analyze how fear has historically circulated and how media have conveyed and transformed this emotion. In order to better explore fear as a concept and as an object of experience, every week we present both a theoretical framework and a case study. At the same time, we discuss forms of protection–including those provided by the so-called protective media–against the threats that media intercept and amplify. Readings include not only academic papers but also op-eds and articles in both print and digital publications.