Ugliness and the Exotic

Module Leader:
Luca Szemetová
2020-2021 Spring
Arts and Humanities

The aim of this module is to introduce students to the aesthetic and socio-political discourse on ugliness. Throughout the course, we will be connecting different understandings and connotations of ugly both as means of visual representation and as a socio-political category. Is ugly something frightening, unwanted or perhaps fascinating? How does ugliness connect to the exotic? We will primarily focus on how ugliness breaks down borders between self and other, how social identities are interrogated and negotiated through “ugly” aspects. The course will investigate who and in what way used to be regarded ugly for the European mind in the movement of the East-West encounter and changing social values. Through the discussion of how in terms of aesthetics inside and outside enemies were depicted we will get a closer look into mystery, monstrosity, freakishness – questions unavoidable in understanding issues such as scapegoating, colonising, and racism. Many aspects will be examined against contemporary visual culture to see how our multicultural world is rooted in tradition and employs various forms of othering.
Most of the course sessions will contain additional visual materials as optional readings/viewings. The students are invited, although, in the majority of cases, not strictly required, to use these readings/viewings in their weekly reflections and class discussions.