Study-Unit Description

Study-Unit Description


TITLE Media Aesthetics

LEVEL 02 - Years 2, 3 in Modular Undergraduate Course


DEPARTMENT Media and Communications

DESCRIPTION The successful analysis (or even more so, the creation) of an audiovisual text calls for, as a necessary condition, the presence of a good foundation in the grammar of audiovisual media.

Through formal practice and study, as well as through research into philosophical and psychological connotations the cognitive effects of the formative elements of film, television, and small-screen media (smartphones, tablets, and the like), this study unit will investigate the various visual, aural, spatial and temporal aesthetic fields as identified by Herbert Zettl in Sight Sound Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics Sight Sound Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics (see below). Each field will be discussed individually – starting from its most basic elements and leading up to the higher manifestations and their implications – and also in relation (whether in consonance or counterpoint) to the other fields.

Lectures will be as hands-on as possible, with in-class demonstrations of various aesthetic phenomena wherever necessary. Select still and motion clips from AV audiovisual texts, pertinent to the discussion at hand, will also be screened. The latter will be used to demonstrate how, when creating an audiovisual work, one must not only possess familiarity with the various elements of film and television language, but also the sagacity to use these those elements judiciously, coherently, and also, as the case may be, in ways contrary to their established utilisation: in a manner, to understand why certain directors are seen as artists and others as talented craftsmen, when they all have access to the same aesthetic means.

The study-unit is updated each year, to reflect the yearly developments in the field.

Study-unit Aims:

- To further develop the understanding and appreciation of how formative elements function within film language;
- To examine technical causes and aesthetic effects;
- To introduce theoretical thinking on various aesthetic approaches;
- To inspire critical readings of audiovisual texts.

Learning Outcomes:

1. Knowledge & Understanding:

By the end of the study-unit the student will

- Become conversant with the various elements of film language;
- Become familiar with several technical considerations;
- Be aware of the manners in which formative elements interact.

2. Skills:

By the end of the study-unit the student will be able to

- Cogently discern between plot and the aesthetic attitude to the plot;
- Analyse a film critically in technical and aesthetic terms;
- Approach further courses in audiovisual production with a solid base of fundamental knowledge;
- Read further on various critical and theoretical preoccupations in the light of the technical and aesthetic considerations which inform them.

Main Text/s and any supplementary readings:

Required Reading:

- Zettl, Herbert (2016). Sight Sound Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics, 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
(The price of the 8th edition is rather hefty. You are therefore welcome to source and use a second-hand copy of the 5th, 6th or 7th edition, but not older.)

- Zettl, Herbert (2013). Sight Sound Motion: Applied Media Aesthetics, 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
(The 7th edition is being sold at a price that is significantly higher than what other editions used to cost. You are therefore welcome to source and use a copy of the 5th or 6th edition, but not older.)

(Strongly) Suggested Reading:

- Chion, Michel (1994). Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (C. Gorbman, Trans.). New York: Columbia University Press. (Original work published 1990, as L’Audio-Vision, Paris: Editions Nathan).

Suggested Reading:

- Bordwell, David & Thompson, Kirstin (2012). Film Art: An Introduction, 10th ed. New York: McGraw Hill. (Older, cheaper editions are equally valid as far as this course is concerned)
- Bordwell, David (1998). On the History of Film Style. London: Harvard University Press. (For students interested in a deeper analysis of the poetics of cinema)
- Bordwell, David & Thompson, Kirstin (2009). Film History: An Introduction, 3rd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.


- Peters, Daniel (2010). A Movie Lover’s Guide to Film Language. First Light Video Publishing.

- Glassman, Arnold; McCarthy, Todd; Samuels, Stuart (1992). Visions of Light: The Art of Cinematography. American Film

- Various segments, with respective sources identified in class.


Assessment Component/s Assessment Due Resit Availability Weighting
Assignment SEM2 Yes 100%

LECTURER/S Kenneth Scicluna

The University makes every effort to ensure that the published Courses Plans, Programmes of Study and Study-Unit information are complete and up-to-date at the time of publication. The University reserves the right to make changes in case errors are detected after publication.
The availability of optional units may be subject to timetabling constraints.
Units not attracting a sufficient number of registrations may be withdrawn without notice.
It should be noted that all the information in the description above applies to study-units available during the academic year 2020/1. It may be subject to change in subsequent years.