Courses / Fall 2023

Fall 2023

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    Course Number: R1B Section 8 | CCN: 23187

    Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Psychoanalysis, Art, and Transformation; or, What Can Art Do?

    Ned Dostaler

    Tuesday, Thursday: 3:30-5:00pm

    Since its formal inception by Sigmund Freud, and through its many and varied subsequent iterations, the psychoanalytic tradition has had a close relationship to art objects and practices. This is, in part, because psychic transformation (the ostensible goal of psychoanalysis as a clinical and/or philosophical practice) often happens in relation to aesthetic experience (i.e., “art”). Rather than seeing artworks as simply representational, psychoanalysis understands art as that which transforms the subject. In this course, we will think with the psychoanalytic tradition to understand such processes of transformation.

    Rather than learning to apply psychoanalytic thought to the analysis of art, this course seeks to offer a psychoanalytic understanding of what art reveals about the human (and, conversely, what the human reveals about art). In order to pursue this, we will study a number of foundational psychoanalytic concepts–such as the unconscious, transference, and sublimation–in relation to a wide variety of art objects (film, painting, performance art, theater, dance, etc.) in an effort to ask: how does art transform the subject, and to what end?

    As this is a Reading and Composition course, students will engage in a range of reading and writing exercises aimed at cultivating their composition and research abilities essential for college-level studies, culminating in a 10-12 page research paper on a topic related to the course. In an effort to bridge the content of the course (psychoanalysis and art, and, more specifically, how art transforms the human subject) with the aim of the course (to attain reading, writing, and research skills), there will be a special attunement to how one’s writing and research practices (as a mode of artistic production, about art as such) might transform the human subject (that is to say: you).

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