English 166

Special Topics: Infrastructuralism: Reading Setting in Literature and Film

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
3 Spring 2013 Eichenlaub, Justin
Eichenlaub, Justin
TTh 3:30-5 210 Wheeler

Book List

Barthes, Roland: Camera Lucida; Waldie, D.J.: Holy Land: A Suburban Memoir; Ware, Chris: Building Stories; Yamashita, Karen Tei: Tropic of Orange

Other Readings and Media

The course will include a reader.


In a film essay on the way movies depict Los Angeles, Thom Andersen raises a question that will form the basis for this course: “If we can appreciate documentaries for their dramatic qualities, perhaps we can appreciate fiction films for their documentary reflections.” Beginning with Andersen’s film, Los Angeles Plays Itself, we’ll consider his hypothesis and investigate the surprising importance, sometimes even the primacy, of setting in literary and filmic works—including Charles Lamb’s essays in praise of urban London, a Hitchcock film, William Wordsworth’s Guide to the Lakes, Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories, Karen Tei Yamashita’s magical-realist novel Tropic of Orange, Chris Ware's new graphic novel Building Stories (this text is a 'total work of art,' with a number of different pieces, so it retails for $50--it is currently $30 on Amazon), D.J. Waldie’s suburban memoir Holy Land, and Patrick Keiller’s Robinson in Space.

Rather than take spaces, places, and infrastructure in these works as the object of a transparent representation, we will pay close attention to the way the written word and the camera shape how we read, see, and perceive the worlds that fictional characters inhabit. We will consider both the role of places and spaces in these works and their relevance (or irrelevance) to story and discourse, to narrative and descriptive modes, and to theories of novelistic and filmic space. While our primary focus will be on what literary and film scholars have to say on these issues, we will also consider the work of geographers and architectural theorists, among others. Theorists and critics of literary, filmic, and urban space will include Stephen Heath, Roland Barthes, Michel de Certeau, and György Lukács.

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