Reading and Writing about Visual Experience: Viewing the Pain of Others
This course will explore how images call upon us to engage with violence, with suffering bodies, or what Susan Sontag referred to as “the pain of others.” Examining visual media ranging from painting and sculpture to photography and cinema, we will consider such questions as: What are the politics and ethics of representing physical suffering? How are we positioned as viewers or spectators of violence? How do images of violence engage in, sustain, or respond to the work of memory?
We will consider media such as painting (Velazquez, Delacroix, Richter), engraving (Goya, Kollwitz), sculpture and installation art (Arp, Boltanski), and film (Resnais, Panh), as well as Holocaust memorials and war photography. Critical works will include texts by Susan Sontag, Roland Barthes, Marianne Hirsch, Andreas Huyssen, and Kaja Silverman, among others.
Exploring different genres, forms, and historical moments will allow us to develop a complex understanding of the politics of representation, while at the same time offering us the opportunity to develop a diverse set of tools for analyzing cultural texts, from the visual to the cinematic to the literary. Since this is a reading and composition course, there will be an emphasis on developing skills for researching and writing analytically about works of art, leading to the production of a 10-12 page research paper.