Jerz: Media Aesthetics

Course Syllabus

1. Where and When

Tues, Thur 3:30 PM - 4:44 PM (M334)

2. Instructor


Dennis G. Jerz ( 403 St. Joseph, Box 461 Phone: 724-830-1909 (but I prefer to be contacted by e-mail)

Office Visits: I usually leave my door open. If you should happen to drop by when my door is closed, please come back later or send me an e-mail.

Office Hours: Mon 2-3, Tue 10-11, Wed 1-2; and by appointment.

Occasionally I step out of my office to run errands, so if you want to be sure to catch me, send me an e-mail in advance.

3. Course Description

From the catalog:

Students will learn and apply a variety of critical methods for understanding and evaluting aesthetic criteria in media. Depending on the topic, the course may cover television, film, [the] internet, or any one of several other contemporary or emerging media.

This particular iteration of the course:

Course Description: Aesthetics is the study of beauty. This course explores the literary and critical traditions surrounding the representation and contemplation of beauty. Approaches will include the philosophical (what is beauty?), the psychological (how does beauty affect us?), the formal (what techniques does the artist use?) and more particularly, the relationship of beauty to truth, morality, and usefulness. The first half of the class will examine selected themes and texts from a variety of traditional and modern perspectives; the second half will focus on "new media," including interactive and experimental genres. Coursework includes reading a variety of texts (including literary and scholarly works); researching and presenting informal and formal seminar topics; writing two short research papers and a final term project, and maintaining an online reflection journal (weblog).

4. Course Objectives

After first examining classical perspectives on traditional
media, students will progress to contemporary perspectives on both traditional
and new media. Students will:

  • Recognize the elements of composition and structure in the media
    under consideration.

  • Use a variety of critical approaches to understand particular media.

  • Analyze elements of media productions in terms of style and meaning.

  • Evaluate media aesthetics (i.e., make judgments about the value
    of products in various media)
  • Conduct independent research on media.

5. Course Requirements

The course is a seminar, which means that peer interaction (both in the classroom and via weblogs) will be the dominant mode of instruction. Students will be expected to apply their advanced critical thinking skills to the examination of assigned primary and secondary texts, to formulate and execute a research plans, to document and organize their findings, and to present them in an intellectually stimulating manner.

In a small seminar, each time a student is absent or unprepared, you leave a gaping hole that affects the educational experience of the students who do show up. Keeping up with the readings and active participation in class are both vital.

5.1 Attendance

Students are expected to attend every class. (See Seton Hill University Catalog, p. 28-29, “Class Attendance” and “Excused Absences”.)

Each unexcused absence lowers your participation score by one letter grade.

I am happy to excuse students who have legitimate reasons, but students who miss a class period for any reason are still responsible for the material covered that day. An excused absence does not automatically grant an extension for any work collected or assigned that day.

If you are absent from class without an excuse approved by the dean of students, on a day when a major assignment is due -- perhaps because you stayed up all night working on a paper and are too tired to attend class -- the assignment will be counted an extra day late. (You might as well go to bed without finishing the paper, come to class so you don't fall farther behind, and then turn in the paper the next morning.)

5.2 Participation

Students are expected to contribute actively to a positive classroom environment, both in person and online. Students who dislike public speaking may wish to invest more effort in their online writing, and vice-versa.

Common sense and common courtesy dictates that absences, late arrivals and early departures, inconsiderate behavior, lack of preparation, and inattentiveness will impact your participation grade.

Those who participate above and beyond the call of duty will receive a bonus.

5.3 Late Penalties

Any work that is submitted on time and in the proper format receives a 1/3 letter grade bonus. (This grade is factored into the mark I put on the paper -- you won't see a "+1/3" on it.)

Work that is unstapled, crumpled, or otherwise not ready when I collect it forfeits the bonus. Further, if your paper isn't in the stack with all the others, I will put it at the bottom of my "to do" list. (This might mean that I don't comment on it in as much detail, or, if the assignment is a draft, you might not get it back in time to submit the revision.)

Note: If you feel you want more rapid or more detailed feedback on an assignment, make an appointment with me during my office hours, and I will go over the work with you in detail, regardless of whether it was late or on time.

Getting Credit for Late Work
If your assignment is not ready when I collect all the others, and thus doesn't make it into the stack, I will record a zero for that assignment.

In order to remove that zero, and get partial credit for your late work, follow this two-step process.

  1. Paste a copy of your work into an e-mail (please do not send an attachment) with your last name, the course name, the assignment name, and the word "Late" in the subject line. Example:

    "Smith EL150 Ex 1-2 Late"
  2. Write the word "Late" on a printout of your assignment, and hand it to me at the next class period (there's no need to make an extra trip to slip it under my office door).

If the e-mail submission of late work arrives in my box by 11:59:59 pm on the due date, it forfeits the bonus but receives no other penalty.

Exercises earn only a maximum of half credit (2.0 out of 4) when they are submitted later than midnight on the day they were due.

Agenda Items earn no class participation credit if they are late (however, you should still complete any agenda items you missed in order to get full credit for your class portfolio).

Unless I grant you an extension in advance, all other assignments are penalized one letter grade for each day they are late (including Saturdays, but not counting Sundays or holidays when the university does not offer classes). (Students who have had me before should note, this is stricter than my previous policy.)

5.4 Texts

In addition to the required texts listed below, readings also include some online articles. When we are scheduled to discuss an online text, bring a complete printout to class with you.


Clarvoe, PICK UP AX 0881451037
Laurel, Utopian Entrepreneur 0262621533
Powers, Galatea 2.0: A Novel 0312423136
Thorburn & Jenkins, eds. Rethinking Media Change 0262701073


Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray 0451526015
(You can opt to download a free copy of this out-of-copyright novel, but if you don't like the idea of reading a novel from a screen, this inexpensive paperback is an option.)

6. Assignments

All assignments are marked on a standard four-point scale.

Thus, if a particular exercise is worth 8% of your final grade, and I mark a "3.5" on it, don't panic -- you got a 3.5 out of 4, not a 3.5 out of 8.