Caroline Chung Simpson
Relationships between literature and other arts, such as painting, photography, architecture, and music, or between literature and other disciplines, such as science. Content varies.
Literature and the Other Arts: Writing and Photography
In the last century, the reliance on reading and writing texts in order to form or express ideas has been largely replaced by mass viewing and visual recordings of our experiences. Or so the argument goes. Rather than jumping to any dire judgments about this shift, or trying to explore the entire field of visual culture, this course will focus instead on the particular ways in which writers and critics debated or understood the effects of an increasing reliance on photography to shape perceptions. We will need to grasp both the history of the development of photographic practice and circulation, as well as how the development of photography’s social usefulness set off provocative claims about photography’s effects on, among other things: traditional social relations; political culture; and, of course, the uses and value of writing and reading. Most readings will be collected in a course packet, including, among other things: short works by Henry James, Edgar Allen Poe, John Dos Passos, and James Agee and Walker Evans; criticism by Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Shawn Smith, Martha Rosler, and John Tagg. In addition to the course packet, we’ll read two novels, the graphic novel Palestine by Joe Sacco, and Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer.
Student learning goals
Students will become familiar with some of the major debates and theories on photography.
Students will be able to provide interpretive arguments about these debates and theories, in discussion and writing.
Students will be able to expand on or further refine their interpretations of the theory when reading literary-photographic texts.
General method of instruction
Class discussion, minimal lecture.
Class assignments and grading
In addition to regular attendance and participation in in-class discussion and groupwork, students will be required to complete regular reading responses, and to complete one of two written project options. (One option requires that students complete two short essays, the other requires the completion of a final, longer essay.)