HUM 425-01 ||Thought and Image
Fall 2014
Dr. Robert C. Thomas
T/TH 12:35–1:50 in BH 28
Office: HUM 416, Office Hour: Thursday’s 1:50 pm — 2:50 pm
E-mail: theory at sfsu dot edu
Teaching Assistant: Dane Pederson | E-mail: pederson at mail dot sfsu dot edu
Course Website:


One of the defining characteristics of globalization has been the increasing proliferation of the image (in various forms) throughout society. Images are everywhere: Cell phones, the World Wide Web, social networking, advertising, movies, video games, comics, pornography. They pervade our everyday lives. How do we think the growing proliferation of image in society? In this course, we will think seriously about the power (and potential) of the image in global culture. In particular, we will ask how our relation to the image changes the ways we think. We will think the historical present through the analysis of diverse forms of visual expression, including video games and digital media, together with readings in social theory, literature, and philosophy. We will study melodrama/women’s pictures in order to articulate the limits of gender, race, and class (and introduce students to the concept of mise-en-scene. which helps ground students in the unique language of film). We will study modern forms of “visualization” (ways of seeing and social practices and relations) exemplified in 19th century visual forms (architecture, taxidermy, fake mermaids). We will think “spectacle” as a ubiquitous form of “governing,” and think “control,” in contrast to modern discipline, as a paradigm for the historical present. Work from the Art Theater Guild and Japanese avant-garde cinema will be studied in relation Japanese landscape theory (fûkeiron), and compared to the work of the Situationist International / May ’68 in France. We will read a magical realist novel (Billy Moon) about Christopher Robin “growing up” to become a member of the Situationist International. And we will ask what it means to think the “post-cinematic” and video games in a digital era. Through all of this work we will ask ourselves: what are the limits imposed by our present social world, and how, after elucidating these limits, can we think about going beyond them? Forms of popular culture will be used to interpret the cultural present. Cross-cultural analysis will be presented in the context of subcultures within globalization, as well as in relation to Western and non-Western cultures.

BOOKS (Available at the bookstore)

ESSAYS (Print, Read, Bring to Class)


Video Essay


Students are responsible for completing all the assigned course work and are expected to regularly attend and participate in course discussions. Reading difficult texts is a major component of this course. If you are not prepared read and interpret difficult material, you should not take this course. Students are expected to come to class prepared. Prepared means that you have done the assigned reading, have thought about it and have something to say in class. Always bring the assigned reading material (for each particular day) to class. Always take notes. My lectures, comments, and rants constitute an important “text” for the course. There will be two short (2-page) essays, a final (6-page) essay, and a final exam required. There will be a handout on the essay assignments before each essay is due (see the schedule). These will only be handed out in-class. If you do not come to class, you will not receive the assignment. No digital copies of the assignments will be handed out or made available. For this reason, do not lose your copy of the essay assignments. Pay close attention when I go over the assignments in class. To complete the course, per the Segment Three rules, you must write a total of 10 pages of formal college level writing. Your essays must demonstrate mastery of the reading material and course lectures for the assignments (your grade will be based on this)No papers will be accepted via e–mail (no exceptions). No rewrites and no late papers. Plagiarism in any of the course assignments, in any form, will be dealt with harshly and will be forwarded to the Dean’s Office for appropriate action. Plagiarism on any assignment will also result in a grade of zero. You must receive a letter grade on all assignments in order to complete the course. (Please note that Wikipedia is NOT a critical source and cannot be used for college writing. The same is true of IMDB.)  The final exam will consist of ten questions and test whether students have done the required readings. If you do not read the course material, you will fail the final exam. Warning: approximately 60% of students in previous semesters have failed the final exam because they have not done the course readings. Students are responsible for all of the course content and materials even if they are absent (absences of more than three class sessions can result in your final grade being substantially lowered). No incompletes will be given. Please be aware that from time to time I may need to contact you via e–mail. In order to facilitate this, you will need to make sure that your SFSU e–mail account is actively working. The system is not set-up to accommodate non-SFSU emails. It is your responsibility to make sure your SFSU email is working and accessible to you.

Warning: This is a difficult and challenging course. Please note that we are not watching films so that you can be “entertained” by them, but in order to critically study and analyze them. If you are not up to the challenge of learning a new language for the interpretation of film, do not take this course. While we are doing some really cool things in this course, the purpose is to challenge you. I know from experience that showing a lot of older films can be challenging to students. It’s worth remembering that this is a University course and it’s supposed to be challenging. If you do not do the course readings, you will be completely lost in this class. 

The biggest mistake that students make on the essay assignment is to not actually read the assignment and/or fully follow the instructions or fully answer the questions. Additionally, if your paper does not demonstrate that you’ve read the assigned books, you will be graded down significantly and may not receive a passing grade. Students need to include a self addressed stamped envelope if they want their final papers returned to them.

This syllabus is part of the course materials and your road map to the class and your learning. You are provided with a copy of the syllabus at the beginning of the semester and are expected to know the information contained within it the same way you are expected to know the information contained in the articles, books, and lectures for the course. I reserve the right to grade you down based on your lack of knowledge of the syllabus and any other written directions. Refer to the syllabus BEFORE asking me questions (that I have already answered in writing or in class).


Cell phones are to be turned off in class. If you are caught text messaging in class, surfing the web, or playing video games, or engaging in any other non–course related activity, you will be required to leave the classroom. No eating in class (unless you bring enough to share with everyone). No electronic recording in the classroom. If even one student complains about the misuse of laptops or tablets in class, especially during film screenings, they will be permanently banned from the classroom.


Enrollment in this course constitutes your agreement to abide by all of the above rules and policies.


To meet the segment III writing requirement, you will be required to write 10 pages of writing. These papers are “formal” and will be read and graded by the professor. You will be expected to argue coherently, to support your arguments with detailed examples from the works analyzed, to edit your papers for spelling, grammar punctuation and agreement, and to meet recognized standards for notes and bibliography when relevant. All of the above will be taken into account in the grading of these assignments.


This course satisfies part of the General Education, Segment III requirement. Ten pages of formal critical writing, which will be graded by the professor for style and content, will be required (see below).


Students with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations are encouraged to contact the instructor. The Disability Programs and Resource Center (DPRC) is available to facilitate the reasonable accommodations process. The DPRC is located in the Student Service Building and can be reached by telephone (voice/TTY 415–338–2472) or by email: [email protected]


Attendance and Participation: 10% ||First Paper: 20% || Second Paper: 20% || Final Paper: 40% | Final Exam: 10%

Films that SFSU does not own will be placed on reserve at the Library (main check out counter) under the course name, number, instructor, AFTER they have been used in class.

Electronic Version of Course Syllabus
HUM 425 New Final Version 2014 Revised


Second Essay Assignment (due November 13th)

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