Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: From Los Caprichos to Charlie Hebdo: History, Memory, and Politics in Image-Text Forms
With the popularization of the graphic novel in the 21st century, readers and viewers have become more and more accustomed to seeing historical violence represented in pop culture forms, whether it be an animated film about the First Lebanese War or a manga about Japanese hibakusha. But when Art Spiegelman first published Maus, he worried about the dissonance of its form and content: “I feel so inadequate trying to reconstruct a reality that was worse than my darkest dream. And trying to do it as a comic strip!” And yet, as the novel alludes to Nazi and Disney propaganda, Spiegelman points to several historical precedents for the novel’s seemingly unusual—even pornographic—form. In fact, image-text forms have long been used to represent contemporary history—for better or for worse. From illuminated manuscripts to propaganda posters, from wordless comics to idiosyncratic image-text hybrids (like the photo-roman or cinépoésie), artists have long experimented with the relationship between image and text. While in some cases these media are complementary, more often than not it is the gaps between image and text, or the weight of one at the expense of the other which produce multiple, conflicting meanings. Together we will consider how these image-texts (or text-images) have been an essential and often critical part of larger ideologies of politics, history, and memory. We will consider a wide array of image-text forms and the histories they represent, including (but not limited to): illuminated medieval manuscripts and 16th-century emblèmes 19th-century manga by Aikawa Minwa and Hokusai; Francisco Goya’s prints Los desastres de la Guerra; Charlie Hebdo, Punch, and Mad Magazine; Tintin and Corto Maltese; Daumier, Nadar, and Doré’s political cartoons; WWII childrens’ propaganda; Roldophe Töppfer’s proto-graphic novels; Chris Marker’s La jetée; Apollinaire’s Calligrammes; and Keiji Nakazawa’s Barefoot Gen.
As this course satisfies the second half of the Reading and Composition requirement, students will focus on the acquiring the skills necessary for completing a 10- to 15-page research paper. Students should also expect to complete several paper drafts, an annotated bibliography, and a short presentation.