Today, most of us would accept the claim that art is political. TV shows, movies, music – we assume that such cultural objects can express ideals, make arguments, represent characters in politically significant ways, and even teach us how the world works. But where do our intuitions come from? Do they stand up to scrutiny? Drawing on perspectives from philosophy, political theory, the history of media, black studies, and gender studies, this class explores the uneasy place that artworks occupy on the terrain of the political. To begin, we will consider the status of art in the modern world. How do the economic and technological transformations of modernity change our sense of art’s capabilities? In response to this question, we raise the thorny issue of mass culture and its relation to high art and artistic subcultures. Can art today ever be more than a commodity? What does it mean to create in opposition to the mainstream? We then delve into the ongoing debate about the politics of vision, representation, and the gaze in film and other visual media. We will consider in detail the limits of what art can or should show us, without giving up on the idea that art reveals the world in new and life-altering ways.