Introduction to Culture and Creative Expressions

Home/ Introduction to Culture and Creative Expressions
Course TypeCourse CodeNo. Of Credits
Foundation CoreSUS1FC0364

Semester and Year Offered: Monsoon Semester, 2015

Course Coordinator and Team: Benil Biswas and SCCE Faculty

Email of course coordinator: benil[at]aud[dot]ac[dot]in

Pre-requisites: No prior knowledge is required. It is also open for students of all disciplines.

Aim: This course is meant to introduce the creative practices to first year undergraduate students in the context of the historical evolution of cultural practices. While the course is restrained in terms of the philosophical depths to which questions about culture and creative expressions can reach, it will offer some provocative insights into such explorations through carefully chosen exhibits, reading material and lectures.

Course Outcomes: The primary aim is to help students re-imagine the role of creative expressions as foundational to human civilization rather than as supplementary to other areas of material progress.

  1. Basic familiarity with various genres of Creative Expressions, namely Performance, Film, Visual Art and Creative Writing.
  2. An initiation into the cultivation of conceptual and critical awareness about the role of creative expressions in the development of culture, the bedrock of human society
  3. This course will help students to understand the phenomenon of creative potential of humanity as foundational to its dreams and hopes.

Brief description of modules/ Main modules:

The course is divided into four modules (3 weeks per module) which will be handled by faculty members of the four streams of the School of Culture and Creative Expressions. The first two sessions are planned as introductory lectures; the final week will be used for recapitulation of things learnt.

Week I :

Two Lectures.

Introductory Sessions/ Concept of Culture/Creative Expressions,

Familiarization of the Basic concepts, it will try and introduce the students to the four branches of creative arts and will give them a brief overview of the complete course structure, before we begin the modules. The two lectures will touch upon very brief sections of the following texts.

Berger, John. Ways of Seeing, London and New York: Penguin Books, 1977

Jain, Nemichandra. Indian Theatre: Tradition, Continuity and Change. New Delhi: Vikas Publishing House, 1992. Print

Ramanujan, A.K., Folk Tales from India: A Selection of Oral Tales from Twenty-Two Languages. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Schechner, Richard. Performance Studies: An Introduction. London and New York: Routledge, 2002.

Zarrilli, Phillip B. Bruce McConachie, Gary Jay Williams, Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei. (eds). Theatre Histories: An Introduction, 2nd Edition. London and New York: Routledge, 2010.

Week II | Module I: Performance Studies (Special focus Theatre)

Lecture 1: Performing Arts, Performance & Entertainment

What do we mean by entertainment? How does this concept relate to theatre? Should theatre be

for pleasure or instruction? Can it not be both?

Reading: Davis, Jim. “Defining Entertainment” & “Melodrama” in Theatre and Entertainment, Jim Davis, Palgrave Publications, 2016. pp. 1- 13

Zarrilli, Phillip B. Bruce McConachie, Gary Jay Williams, Carol Fisher Sorgenfrei. (eds). Theatre Histories: An Introduction, 2nd Edition. London and New York: Routledge, 2010, pp. 1-30.

Lecture 2: Theatre & the Audience

This lecture will be focused on the belief in theatre's potential to influence impact and transform. It seeks to problematize any simple equation between audience participation and empowerment. What does theatre do for – and to – those who witness, watch, and participate in it?

Reading: Weaver, Lois, Helen Freshwater, Theatre and Audience, Palgrave publications, 2009, pp. 1-25

Week III | Lecture 3: Theatre & the Gendered Body

Bodies are vital elements of theatre production and spectatorship. But the body is not just physical, it is also conceptual. What do we mean when we talk about bodies in theatre? And how does theatre affect the way we think about the human body? This session will be supplemented with a workshop to have an embodied understanding of the embodiment, spatiality and temporality in performance.

Reading: Conroy, Colette. Theatre and The Body, Palgrave Publications, 2010, pp.9-27, 73-75.

Lecture 4: Theatre & Visual

This lecture will focus on the history of textual hierarchy of words in theatre. It will examine the role of spectatorship exploring pleasure, difficulty and spectacle, to consider the implications for visual experience in the theatre.

Reading: Johnson, Dominic. Theatre and the Visual, Palgrave Publications, pp. 1-39.

Week IV | Lecture 5: Theatre and Mind

All performance depends upon our abilities to create, perceive, remember, imagine and empathize. This lecture will provide an introduction to the evolutionary and cognitive foundations of theatrical performing and spectating and will take on some of the major assumptions about what takes place in the theatre.

Reading: Mc Conachie, Bruce. Theatre & the Mind, Palgrave publication, 2013. pp. 1-29.

Lecture 6: Theatre and Protest

Theatre and protest are often closely interlinked in the contemporary cultural and political landscape, and the line between protest and performance can be difficult to draw. Yet this relationship is also beset with doubts about theatre’s capacity to intervene in the social world. How does protest engage with theatre? What does theatre have to gain from protest?

Reading: Kelleher, Joe. Theatre and Politics, Palgrave Publications, 2009, pp. 1-32.

The mode of assessment in this module will be class presentation and write up.

Week V | Module II: VISUAL ART

The lectures are divided as follows: the first dealing with the historical component of the artistic field. The second will connect historical examples of image making practice with examples from our time.

Lecture 1

To provide a historical understanding about notions of modernity, modernism, and modern art in an art historical context. We won’t provide a general account. Rather we will use select examples to complicate modernist ideological categories such as primitivism, avant-garde, indigenism, alternatives, etc. We will explore the historical conditions of their emergence and their contemporary relevance. We will also keep in mind the modernist appropriation of various “pre-modern” artistic expressions.

Similarly, we will also look at representation in terms of formal categorisations such as ‘simple form’ and ‘complex form’, ‘spiritual form’ and ‘material form,’ and so on.

Readings: Gombrich, E.H. The Story of Art, London and New York: Phaidon, 1969. Pp.1- 40.

Lecture 2

We also look at making or breaking images, or image-making, as a crucial aspect of subject formation. To illustrate this point, we may use traditional image making from Greco-Roman, early Christian, and Byzantine to Renaissance and thereafter the modern period where these questions acquired a secular dimension.

In short, the question of representation is addressed through a glimpse of artistic culture where we discuss how images operate in a specific field and the way in which artists have tried to interrupt the ‘normal’ flow of meaning-making.

Readings: Hauser, Arnold. The Social History of Art, London: Routledge & K. Paul, 1951. pp. 42-58.



To understand Representation/Non-representation and Re-presentation through the practices of looking and making: Art practice as a mode of perceiving, organizing, positing as well as questioning a particular world view or sensorial matrix through the use of various elements and techniques of art.


Session 3. Looking:

at select examples from contemporary art to unravel and discuss various aspects and techniques of representation.

Areas that could be addressed through discussions on particular examples from contemporary art practice include but are not limited to:

Space (perspectival, aperspectival, 2D surface and environment), form (mimetic, abstract, symbolic etc.), medium/materiality (meaning making through use of collage, photography, sound, found object, internet, code, smell, ephemerality among others), archive based practices, interventional practices, community based practices.)

Class 4 and 5 Making:

Practical exercises in framing and reframing through the use of photography and/or collage. (Exercises may vary depending on the person offering the course as long as they respond to the stated objective of the course)

Week VII | Module III: Film Studies

Cinema and the question of Representation: understanding the mechanically reproduced movement images.

The purpose of the module is to help student understand the ways in which the so called reality is represented or constructed through film narrative. Beginning with Plato’s cave, the debate on illusion and the real and ending with censorship the module will help introduce the key questions in the development of cinema as art and its inalienable, indexical commitment to the actual and the real.

Lecture 1: Cinema in Thought – the long gestation of movement images:

  1. Plato’s cave – moving shadows, screen & Truth. Is that a philosophical analogy for film experience? What connects and what differs?
  2. Camera Obscura – Inversion of images through passage of light through pinhole. The realist impulse of 15th century Europe & quattracento persepctivalism.
  3. The invention of camera and static mechanically produced images.
  4. The desire to capture motion: Magic Lantern, Edward Muybridge, Zoostrope
  5. Edison and Lumeirre – the mechanics of projection as control of movement. The birth of cinema or kinema.
  6. Readings: Ellis, Jack C. A History of Film, New York: Allyn & Bacon, 1995. pp. 1- 25

Lecture 2: Early cinema and directions:

  1. Realism and Magic: Lumierre – Melies (Projection of Clippings)
  2. Fair ground projections, touring cinema, Cinema of Attractions.
  3. Nickolodeons in US. Pathe Films
  4. Alice Guy Blache = Woman pioneer; questions of historiography.
  5. `eadings: Mast, Gerald. and Bruce Kevin, A Short History of Movies, New York: Pearson, 2011, pp. 1- 30

Week VIII | Lecture 3:

  1. Birth of Film Narrative
  2. Screening Cabiria
  3. Kuleshov Experiment and Generation of meaning in sequence.

Readings: Skaler, Robert. A World History of Film, New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2002.

Lecture 4:

  1. Griffith and the invention of close up
  2. Griffith – Eisenstein
  3. Clippings from Birth of the Nation, Battleship Potemkin
  4. Birth of Hollywood – film industry, Culture industry
  5. Walt Disney

Readings: Kups’c’, Jarek. The History of Cinema for Beginners. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan Impression, 2010. pp. 1-40.

Week IX | Lecture 5:

  1. Invention of sound synchronization
  2. Silent Film – sound synchronized film distinctions
  3. Charlie Chaplin excerpts from City Lights
  4. Sound Track and Emergence of National and Regional markets

Readings: Kups’c’, Jarek. The History of Cinema for Beginners. Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan Impression, 2010. pp. 41-51.

Robertson, Robert. “The Audiovisual Imagination Beyond the European Tradition” in Cinema and The Audio-Visual Imagination: Music, Image, Sound. I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd. 2015, pp.81-88.

Lecture 6:

  1. What is national cinema?
  2. Cinema and cultural boundaries
  3. Industrial, Commercial Cinema and Art Cinema
  4. Film Festivals, Film Societies
  5. Censorship

Readings: Nelmes, Jill. “Indian Cinema” in Introduction to Film Studies, 5th Edition. New York: Routledge, 1992, 2012. pp. 399-425.

Rajadyaksha, Ashish. Phalke Era: Conflict of Traditional Form with Modern Technology,

Week X | Module IV: Creative Writing

Reading and Writing Literature

Lecture 1: The class will read Guy de Maupassant’s short story “A Piece of String” as an introduction to the elaboration of character through setting and plotting. After discussing how Maupassant develops his character the class will be introduced to the guidelines E.M. Forster lays down in his chapter on “People” in ‘Aspects of the Novel.’ The class will be given a take-home-assignment in character creation.

Reading: Forster, E.M. “People” in Aspects of the Novel. 1927, Rosetta Books LLC, 2002, pp.35-46

Lecture 2: Building on what has been established the class will read J.L. Borges’ “The Shape of the Sword” as an example of an intricately plotted story. The class will discuss the merits of the techniques used and their effect on the reader’s reception of character. The discussion of point-of-view and focalization will be guided by excerpts from Gerard Genette’s chapter on “Mood.” The class will revisit the characters created and begin thinking about the plot of their short story.

Readings: Borges, Jorge Luis. “The Shape of the Sword” in Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley, Scanned AFMG 2004/12/11, Allen Lane: The Penguin Press.

Week XI | Lecture 3 & 4: To complicate all that has been said about character and plot the class will read Angela Carter’s reworking of the story of Little Red Riding Hood as an example of an attempt to write women into a genre that normally denies them agency. If time permits the class will then progress to a discussion on Gilbert and Gubar’s “A Dialogue of Self and Soul: Plain Jane’s Progress”. The class will begin discussing the stories they are planning.

Readings: Gilbert, Sandra M., Gubar, Susan., The madwoman in the attic: the woman writer and the nineteenth-century literary imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2000. pp. 336-371

2. As an example of writing character and states that cannot be classified as normal the class will read and discuss S.H. Manto’s “Toba Tek Singh” and then continue workshopping their stories.

Readings: Manṭo, Saʻādat Ḥasan, Tahira Naqvi. Toba Tek Singh

Manoa, Volume 19, Number 1, 2007, University of Hawai'i Press. pp. 14-19.

Singh, Namvar. and Harish Trivedi, Decolonising the Indian Mind in Indian Literature, Vol. 35, No. 5 (151) (Sept.-Oct., 1992), pp. 145-156

Assessment- The class will present their stories and critique each other based on the topic discussed.

Week XIII | Recapitulation of course learning and interactive session.

Assessment Details with weights:

The course will run for 2 hours per day for 2 days a week. One of the 2 hours’ session may be conducted as a seminar/workshop (which will be longer than usual session) , where students are required to make presentations. Given the intense nature of the course, with 20 students, their progress will be continuously monitored. Specific specimens will be chosen and Special care will be taken to introduce the various creative expressions to PWD students. The activities for each week will include four important steps:

  • There will be a short assessment at the end/during each of the four modules (4 x 15% = 60%). Most of the modular assessments are continuous in class evaluation situations, which encourages active participation of the students in class room activities for an engaged learning.
  • There will be a time bound term end exam covering all modules (40%).

Reading List: