Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Ambiguities
The art world in the second half of the nineteenth century and the first half of the twentieth was a tumult of controversy, debate, wild invention and stubborn reactionism that resulted in the radical transformation of centuries-long conventions of artistic production. Absolutely central to those conventions were ideas about how to correctly and responsibly portray the human body. As ideas about subjectivity, attitudes toward modern society, and the understanding of the human animal changed, artists transformed the aesthetics, iconography and symbolism of the human body in representation. This class will concentrate on the ways in which representations of the body changed, from the monumental canvases of Courbet to the frenzied iconoclasm of the surrealists. We will be concentrating on a few case studies, each of which will involve reading a number of texts that approach the challenge of interpretation very differently.
This emphasis on methodology and focus on conversations that form around particular objects will also allow for the prioritizing of close reading and analyzing of the texts themselves, and we will therefore be introduced to the broader spectrum of ways to look at and to think and write about art. We will also be practicing the basic skills involved in researching, reading and writing effectively in an academic context.