Undergraduate English Courses

359:361 Literature and Visual Culture: Writing, Photography, Color

01   MW6   CAC   17689   GASKILL   SC-206

Writing, Photography, Color

This course will approach the intersection of literature and visual culture through two primary examples: realism's relation to photography and the modernist fascination with color. We'll begin by analyzing several texts that combine prose and photography as methods of social reform—e.g., Jacob Riis's How the Other Half Lives, James Agee's and Walker Evans's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men, and Richard Wright's and Edwin Rosskam's 12 Million Black Voices. We'll then turn to authors and artists of the early twentieth century who appealed to color—specifically the "language of color" and the "color of language"—as a way of articulating modernist aesthetics (e.g., Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein, Wassily Kandinsky). Bridging our two themes will be several readings by Stephen Crane, whose work not only draws on photography and flaunts its colors but also dramatizes the visual culture of the Jersey Shore at the turn of the twentieth century.

We will equip ourselves with the critical tools for analyzing our two primary topics by reading essays on photography (by Roland Barthes, Susan Sontag, and Kaja Silverman), color (by Goethe, Michael Taussig, and William H. Gass), and visual studies in general. Most of our primary readings will be drawn from the period between 1880 and 1945, but we will spend the final weeks of the course using the skills we've learned to examine more recent images and texts (including Anne Carson's Autobiography of Red).

Assignments will include: 2 essays, several short assignments, and a final exam.