CULTURAL THEORY | Università degli studi di Bergamo - Didattica e Rubrica


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Didattica Convenzionale
Secondo Semestre
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Attività formative affini o integrative


Educational goals

By addressing key texts in recent cultural history, students will get familiar with cultural phenomena that determine contemporary culture, and with their theories. Students will thus be better equipped to critically understand social and historical dynamics shaping contemporary cultural production.

Course content

“Nostalgia for the future”. This course addresses the current nostalgia mode, from the most diverse areas of merchandising and cultural production to the very contours of today’s ‘connected’ sociality. Current nostalgia seems to impede creativity and the very idea of a future, which would appear to be unthinkable without being filtered by the sepia lens of a cosmetic vision of the past. In TV programs, cinema, fashion or advertisement, cars or pop music, our time is the time of quotation, revival, and remake. It is a zombie time in which the future coincides with the generational time one regrets the loss of. It is a cosmetic time of hyperkinetic immobility, in which the future is a retro concept – a time that it would nevertheless be vital to get moving again, by subverting the present so as to set subjectivity back into a full sense of contemporaneity.

Textbooks and reading lists

Films: 1) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (dir. Michel Gondry, 2004); 2) Be Kind Rewind (dir. Michel Gondry, 2007); 3) Close Encounters of the Third Kind (dir. Steven Spielberg, 1977); 4) ET The Extraterrestrial (dir. Steven Spielberg, 1982); 5) Minority Report (dir. Steven Spielberg, 2002); 6) Back to the Future (dir. Robert Zemeckis, 1985); 7) Grease (dir. Randal Kleiser, 1978); 8) Wall-E (dir. Andrew Stanton, 2008); 9) Inside Out (dir. Pete Docter, 2015); 10) Skyfall (dir. Sam Mendes, 2012); 11) The Artist (dir. Michel Hazanavicius, 2011); 12) Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 2013); 13) Arrival (dir. Denis Villeneuve, 2016)
TV series: Mad Men, season 1 (AMC, dir. Matthew Weiner, 2007)
music record: Nouvelle Vague, Nouvelle Vague (2004)
Criticism (600 pages): 1) Brainard, Joe, I Remember, New York: Angel Hair, 1970 (any edition); 2) Fabio Cleto, “Nostalgia for the Future”, ZoneModa Journal, 6, 2016, pp. 48-54. (available online:; 3) Svetlana Boym, “Nostalgia and Its Discontents”, The Hedgehog Review, 2007, pp. 7-18 (available online); 4) Zygmunt Bauman, Retrotopia, Polity Press, 2017; 5) Simon Reynolds, “Introduction: The 'Re' Decade/the Retroscape” & “Prologue: Don't Look Back: Nostalgia and Retro”, in Retromania: Pop Culture’s Addiction to its Own Past, New York, Farrar Straus & Giroux, 2011, pp. ix-xxxv; 6) selected chapters from Katharina Niemeyer (ed.) Media and Nostalgia: Yearning for the Past, Present and Future, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014; 7) Marc Augé, The Future, London: Verso, 2015; 8) Douglas Rushkoff, Present Shock: When Everything Happens Now, New York: Current, 2013

Teaching methods

Lectures and seminars, engaging students into active participation and productive analysis. Along with some literature and critical writing, videos, iconographic materials and pop culture items will be also used.

Assessment and Evaluation

Written exam, with open questions. Some questions will address the student’s familiarity with the reading list; other questions will test the student’s ability to critically understand the underlying cultural logic at stake. Relevance in the assessment will also be given to the logical, linguistic and rhetorical quality of the argumentation. Attending and interested students may take active participation to seminar meetings, with presentations and papers; such activity will significantly contribute to the final assessment.

Further information

Besides being available at the unibg library, books and materials may be shopped at online distributors and at local bookstores.