FR 481 Global Literary Experiments in the Other Arts: A Photrographic Approach Spring 2019 Open Seats
Posted by Tim on January 28, 2019 in General Education Requirements, Honors Experiences, Registration and Seminar Information
The photographic image has undoubtedly been a decisive artifact in the construction of modern life. Today, we take more pictures and see the results faster than ever, given the technology that most people with a cellphone have access to. But why do we love taking pictures? Why is the “selfie” so ubiquitous? What are we after? Has that changed since photography’s beginning, not so long ago, in the mid-19th century?
The word “photography” was invented by resorting to Greek, linking light, “photos,” and writing, “graphein,” suggesting that this practice of recording images on a surface is a way of writing with light. This form of writing has developed a productive dialogue with literature, as a longstanding creative practice of writing that draws on reality and language… and their uncanny underside. Feeding on literature’s special potential to express unacknowledged dreams, psychoanalysis has provided a vocabulary to consider that enigmatic underside, where words and images exceed conscious will and established discourses. This course considers the relations photography maintains with perception, signification, time, history, pleasure, desire, sexuality, and political agency, among other factors. Such an investigation will take us forward: to interrogate the sense and effects of current and future photographic practices, from everyday Instagram smartphone shots to photojournalism, to photography in contemporary art galleries. And it also takes us back: to 19th-century Paris as a starting point, where photography finds important roots with inventors Daguerre and Niépce, and where a certain medical practice that involved photography, namely, Dr. Charcot’s experiments and theories of hysteria, led to the invention of psychoanalysis, a field that gave rise to the concept of the unconscious in ways highly relevant, in turn, to experimental photography and literature. And further back… to fairy tales Charles Perrault introduced to the literary cannon at the end of the 17th century, which still intrigue us today (Blanche Neige/Snow White, for instance). The trajectories of photography, psychoanalysis, and literature are therefore intertwined in rich ways that we explore in this course. How, for instance, does photography transform literary works? And what do literature and psychoanalysis reveal to users of photographic images about themselves, or about the bodies and world they see through photography? Can photographs make visible what remains unacknowledged, unthought, yet shaping our reality? These are questions that certain photographers and writers actively explored, drawing on plastic experiments, psychoanalytic theory, and on the unique knowledge that literary works can give access to. The discussion remains open for you (and your camera) to join. *French majors and minors (or readers of French) are strongly encouraged to read in French whenever possible.