English 190

Research Seminar: Visuality, Textuality, and Modernity


Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
13 Fall 2009 Abel, Elizabeth
Abel, Elizabeth
TTh 3:30-5 109 Wheeler

Other Readings and Media

James Agee and Walker Evans, Let Us Now Praise Famous Men; Malek Alloula, The Colonial Harem; Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida; John Berger, Ways of Seeing; Theresa Cha, Dictee; Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle; Anthony Lee, Picturing Chinatown; Toni Morrison, Jazz; Jacob Riis, How the Other Half Lives; W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz; Susan Sontag, On Photography.

Photography books (on bspace): Robert Frank, The Americans; Aaron Siskind, The Harlem Document; Carrie Mae Weems, The Kitchen Table Series; Edward Steichen and Carl Sandburg, The Family of Man

Description

We inhabit image-saturated social and literary worlds. If, as Walter Benjamin predicted in the 1930s, ‘The illiteracy of the future … will be ignorance not of reading or writing, but of photography,” it is a form of illiteracy that urgently solicits remedy. Pursuing what has been called the “visual turn” in literary studies, this course will examine the interplay between verbal and visual modes of representation, with photography (“light writing”) as our central term. Reading a range of literary and visual texts both independently and interdependently, we will examine the deployment of words and images in composite photo-texts, the evocation of imaginary photographs in autobiographical fictions, and the textuality of photographic albums, archives, and narratives. We will analyze photography’s cultural work in composing social categories (race, class, nation, and family) and exposing their contradictions. Informed by readings in semiotics, psychoanalysis, phenomenology, and Marxism, we will map some key tensions of twentieth-century cultural theory and production: the relations between subjects and objects of observation, mechanical reproduction and imaginative creation, the legibility of images and the visibility of words, and the codes of verbal and visual meaning. After a few short papers that will hone close reading skills, students will conduct extended research projects on literary or photographic texts of their choice.

English 190 replaces English 100 and 150 as of Fall ’09. English majors may fulfill the seminar requirement for the major by taking one section of English 190 (or by having taken either English 100 or 150 before Fall ’09). Please read the paragraph on page 2 of this Announcement of Classes for more details about enrolling in or wait-listing for this course!

Please click here for more information about enrollment in English 190.

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