Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Becoming “Sensitive to That”: Photographic Practices of Receptivity
Suzanne Li Puma
Tuesday | Thursday: 3:30 - 5:00pm
What forms of sensitization, "listening," or noticing are made possible through a photographic mode of engagement? This class will investigate how photographic images might participate in sensitizing the viewer to the world around her, or, conversely, in rendering her less receptive, even "desensitized" to her surroundings. We will examine a variety of photographic practices in order understand how the photograph might disrupt or perpetuate habits of overlooking what is often directly in view.
As we consider how different photographic practices participate in fostering or undoing modes of aesthetic and affective receptivity, we will also ask how photographs might reshape our interactions with other living and non-living beings. What are the stakes—for a subject, for a community, for an artist or a viewer—of cultivating receptivity under different historical, political, or social regimes? Are there moments when becoming "sensitized" aesthetically offers a point of resistance or liberatory insight? Alternately, we will consider moments when aesthetic/affective sensitivity (or oversensitivity) becomes an undesirable, or even dangerous position.
The texts and images selected for this class will focus primarily on practices and theories of photography in the 19th and 20th centuries. While we may make some brief forays into the 21st century, this class will primarily turn its attention backward, seeking to highlight diverse moments in the prehistory of the contemporary photographic image.
This course fulfills the second half of the Reading and Composition (R&C) requirement at UC Berkeley. The readings and images in this course will be activated through our own practice of scholarly writing, reading and research. We will seek to develop the critical tools required of writers and readers at the college level by establishing strategies for close reading and analysis of visual works and texts, as well as crafting a longer (10-15 page) undergraduate research paper.
Please note: This course must be taken for a letter grade to fulfill the R1B requirement.