Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Folklore and Contemporary Art
This course explores the use of folk arts, folklore, and “the folkloresque” in contemporary art. We will begin by asking: What is folklore? Who are “the folk” (and who are not)? What kinds of socio-political structures and identities are articulated and reified–or, alternatively, subverted and dismantled–through folklore’s conceptual and aesthetic invocation? Positioning folklore as a discursive visual mode, we will consider a wide range of entangled themes, such as traditionality and modernity; cultural identity, gender, and ethnicity; and the complexities of cultural production in late capitalism. Using postcolonial theories and contemporary folkloristics as our guides, we will explore how invocations of “the past” are reflections of how we see our present and formulate possible futures. A series of case studies will introduce us to a range of mediums and artists, providing an opportunity to present and practice methods of visual and textual analysis, research, and writing. In addition, students will be asked to engage in practice-oriented research methods through in-class practical demos. As this is an R1B course, students will be assigned a variety of reading and writing exercises to develop the composition and research skills necessary for college-level coursework. Assignments will be scaffolded, increasing in length and complexity, culminating in a 10-12 page research paper on a topic related to the course.