Graduate Program

350:560 - Writing with Light: Photography and the Nineteenth-Century U.S.

Course No:  350:560
Index # - 12541
Distribution Requirement:  A4, B, D
Tuesday - 9:50 a.m.  
MU 207

Writing with Light: Photography and the Nineteenth Century U.S.

Dana Luciano

This seminar explores the relationship between photography and writing in the nineteenth century, focusing primarily on the U.S. We will consider the interplay of photography and print in evolving understandings of consciousness, affect, history, and time. Our discussion will be divided into three segments. The first, “What is Photography?” considers evolving understandings of the medium, its uses, and its meanings in the decades after its emergence; the second, “Photo/graphic Cases,” looks at a series of topics (race and racialization; romance and realism; landscapes of colonialism; war and commemoration; lyric and photographic time) through the lens of photographic history; and the third, “Dialectical Images,” takes up the question of photographic history itself, assessing the politics of time, method, and memory as photography illuminates them.   

19th century writers will include Edgar Allan Poe, Frederick Douglass, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Dion Boucicault, Herman Melville, William J. Wilson, Emily Dickinson, Rebecca Harding Davis, Henry James, W.E.B. DuBois, and Jacob Riis; photographers will include William Henry Fox Talbot, Augustus Washington, Matthew Brady, Andrew Gardner, Julia Margaret Cameron, Eadweard Muybridge, Edward S. Curtis, and numerous others, along with 21st century refractions by Carrie Mae Weems, Hulleah J. Tsinhnahjinnie, and Brandon Jacobs-Jenkins. Along the way, we will also encounter criticism and theory by Walter Benjamin, Roland Barthes, Jasmine Cobb, Shawn Michelle Smith, Maurice O. Wallace, Sarah Blackwood, Tina Campt, Kaja Silverman, Deborah Willis, and Ariella Azoulay, among others.

Over the course of the semester, we will take advantage of events connected with the Center for Cultural Analysis’s 2020-21 seminar, “What Is Photography?” as well as relevant exhibits in the NY/NJ area.

Students will be responsible for regular blog responses, a presentation, and two short papers.