Courses / Fall 2021

Fall 2021

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    Course Number: R1B Section 3 | CCN: 21699

    Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Moving Objects, Static Stories

    Kristen Keach

    Tuesday, Thursday: 11:00-12:30pm (Remote)

    IMPORTANT: Seats in this remote section have been reserved for those students who are unable to return to in-person instruction on the campus. To register in the course under these circumstances, please contact the instructor, Kristen Keach, at and cc

    Part of the power of myths, tall tales, biblical legends, and dynamic stories is in these narratives’ ability to not only capture the attention of the audience, but also to visually come to life in the mind of the reader/listener. Often including complex characters, elaborate settings, and detailed descriptions of the plot, written and oral narratives have served as prime sources of inspiration for many visual artists. How does this shift in medium impact the nature of the story? This course will examine the ways in which a “static” medium, such as painting or sculpture, attempts to visually communicate a “moving” narrative. Looking at various artistic devices such as continuous narrative versus synecdoche, multi-panel paintings versus singular visual frames, and group scenes versus the exemplary figure, this course will discuss the various techniques and strategies artists employ to accurately conceptualize and portray visual art’s wordy counterpart. Some of the questions we will explore are: Which medium more effectively communicates the action of the narrative? What gets lost in translation from a literary or oral tradition to a visual image? How does the artist transform the text into a visual metaphor or emblem for a larger social, political, or religious purpose? What happens to the story when it is visually adapted outside of its original historical or cultural context and enters into another spatial and temporal moment? Can a work of art create its own “narrative” beyond or outside of a textual model? This course seeks to cover a broad range of transhistorical Western texts and images, including late medieval and early Renaissance iterations of classical myths and biblical heroes and contemporary interpretations of literary epics. 

    This course aims to develop students’ critical thinking and analytical skills through close reading of primary materials, visual analysis of works of art, and secondary source criticism. Throughout this course, students will complete writing assignments that will allow them to develop the building blocks necessary to provide thorough analyses of both texts and images. By the end of this course, students will have the skills needed to develop an argumentative, 10-12 page undergraduate research paper on one of the topics covered this semester.

    This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

    Prerequisite: Successful completion of the “A” portion of the Reading & Composition requirement or its equivalent. Students may not enroll in nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.

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