English R1B

Reading & Composition: Photographic Memories

Section Semester Instructor Time Location Course Areas
14 Spring 2014 Yoon, Irene
MW 4-5:30 225 Wheeler

Book List

Barthes, Roland: Camera Lucida; Sebald, W.G.: The Emigrants; Sontag, Susan: On Photography

Other Readings and Media

Course reader with additional texts will also be required.


"We work in unison with movement as though it were a presentiment of the way in which life itself unfolds. But inside movement there is one moment at which the elements in motion are in balance. Photography must seize upon this moment and hold immobile the equilibrium of it." - Henri Cartier-Bresson, "The Decisive Moment" (1952). Such, according to photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson, is “the decisive moment.” Those select images worth sharing and saving emerge from a combination of luck, skill, diligence, and lots of film. Half a century later, in the age of Facebook and Instagram, it seems perhaps all too easy to bestow just about any moment in one’s life with a similar sense of public significance--only now instantaneously and with decidedly less effort. But the transitions from the laboriously contrived daguerreotype images of photography’s inception to the mid-century photo-journalist’s snapshots on the move to the instantly uploaded and immediately public photos of anyone with a camera phone and an inclination to use it don’t just offer a narrative of technological development—they also mark the changing ways we see the world around us and subsequently remember it. In this class we will explore the impact of photography on the way we narrate our individual and collective experiences today. While we will consider relevant developments across a range of disciplines, the bulk of the course material will focus on literary texts from the latter half of the twentieth century.

The central aim of this course is to develop and refine critical thinking, reading, writing, and research skills. While we will address issues of mechanics and style, the emphasis will be on how to gather evidence, organize and support claims, engage secondary materials, and ultimately formulate well-researched and well-reasoned arguments for clear, persuasive essays. To that end, this course entails one short diagnostic essay (assigned during the first week of the semester) and three critical essays of increasing length, culminating in a final research project (~10pgs). Students are responsible for careful completion of all reading and writing assignments as well as active participation in class discussion and peer review.

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