Jonathan Lyle Beller

Apr 2020

One of the most rewarding classes I've ever done... if you're interested in a philosophy/theory of the Image, photography, mass-media, etc. Beller is very sweet and extremely intelligent-- he is somewhat of a theory star, having coined the term "attention economy." The discussions I had in the class have drastically altered my worldview and intellectual direction. I think that this class is best enjoyed if you have some kind of foundation (or intuition!) in critical theory because Beller talks very quickly and uses a particular academic lexicon that I think is lost on many people. I honestly would rank this a GU level course, if not a bit higher. He is, despite this, very accommodating, and once people stopped fearing to stop him and ask him what a word meant, he would explain in a very astute and comprehensible way. Don't be afraid to raise your hand and ask him what he's talking about! (You may feel stupid but most other people in the class probably have the same question.) In terms of subject matter: I would say that what the class interrogates is the Image-- the politics of the image. We interestingly didn't read Guy Debord or Marshall McLuhan, which I would see as somewhat foundational to media theory. He begins with some key thinkers on photography, so Bazin, Barthes, Sontag, etc. Then the class tackles the politics of the image. What is/was the relationship between photography, the circulation (or economy) of images, and say, for example, colonialism? In what way does photography reify categories of sex and race? What are the politics of visibility (particularly as it pertains to Black people/studies)? How can we criticize hegemonic ways of looking and begin to formulate new, more freeing ways of looking? This class made me seriously consider pursuing graduate study in media theory/visual culture.

Nov 2014

DO NOT TAKE THIS COURSE! Let me save you a load of trouble now. I know what you're probably thinking (because it's what I thought when I signed up for this class). Feminist media theory? Sounds like you talk about women in film and television and journalism and just have a blast! False. Absolutely false. For the first 3 weeks, we did discuss these topics, but after those 3 weeks, Beller completely abandoned the "feminist" aspect of the course and just went back to teaching what he teaches in the fall, Media Theory. Not once did Beller explain what his definition of "Media Theory" was, which left me feeling totally lost whenever I tried to discuss it in class or write a paper about it. After the first 3 weeks of class we started doing readings on posthumanism and cybernetics. What are those, you may be asking? I haven't the slightest idea. Beller assigned us readings on these topics in which the authors assumed you already knew what they were, then in class, Beller would discuss them as though we were masters on the subject, and never once attempted to define them for us. He is also terrible about scheduling. He ended his class late every single week, he forgot to grade my midterm, and then handed my midterm back to me the week before the final was due. I feel that I should also mention that there was one week in which he encouraged a discussion that got a few students seriously fighting (not debating, fighting) to the point where one of them started to cry, and he did nothing to stop it. It was completely unprofessional of him and I felt uncomfortable for the entirety of that 2 hour class. tl;dr: take another class in the Gender Studies department or in the Film department, but do not, under any circumstances, take this class

May 2009

This is probably the only class I have ever taken that I would take again in a heartbeat. After the first class, where about 25 people showed up, the room pared down to 10 of us, and it was incredible throughout! The readings were fascinating and have been continuously important for me in my academic life, and everyone in the class was totally into the material and each other's comments, due mostly to Beller's incredible passion and kindness. I actually wanted to do all the readings, and I looked forward to class. Though he's not terribly accessible (I had to walk with him to his office to discuss a paper topic and once had to call him at home to talk about a presentation because he's not often on campus,) I am totally obsessed. Also, he doesn't put anything up on courseworks or email the syllabus, so hold on to it. While the workload is heavy, he is an incredibly easy grader. I'm pretty sure everyone in the class got an A.

Dec 2008

Amazing professor with the thickest lexicon around, Beller takes some getting used to, but his classes are always worth the effort. You'll encounter no other like t/him! I've taken both his Women & Film course (really Feminist Theory & Film Theory: Transnational Perspectives) and his Literary Theory class (A History of Criticism), the latter of which being exceedingly challenging (700p novel first week, 165p of Marx another week - aerobic!). Both have changed my world immensely (read: I am a different and better person for them). He studied Fanon with Said, Jameson at Duke - he may just be the next theory superstar. Besides, who doesn't dig a feminist male professor? P.S. Barnard/Columbia's his side gig - Pratt's the full-time deal.