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Contemporary Visual Culture and the Politics of Images

Semester and Year FA 2014
Course Number IDSEM-UG1775
Section 001
Instructor Lauren Walsh
Days Fri
Time 11:00 AM - 1:45 PM
Units 4.0
Level U
Foundation Requirement HUM


In this course students learn to think about the reading and writing practices of contemporary visual culture. What does it mean to “read” an image? How are images used politically? Is what is “un-seen” as important as what is seen? Students tackle philosophical, ethical, and political questions, and are encouraged to pursue topics that interest them for assigned papers and projects. We will ground our discussions in relevant theory and will explore all manner of visual genres, including the graphic novel form, film, magazine ads, and photography. In examining the politics of visual images, this course places special, extended emphasis on images in the context of war. Moreover, we will think about our own roles in contemporary visual culture; we are consumers, participators, creators, and sometimes we have no power over images. What does this mean for us when considered through, for example, an ethical or aesthetic or humanitarian lens? Critical literature by Susan Sontag, Susie Linfield, Scott McCloud, and Marita Sturken, among others, will inform our discussions and deepen student writing. Our syllabus also includes journalistic accounts and war photography, including work by Joe Sacco and James Nachtwey, as well as at least one piece by the writer and documentary filmmaker Errol Morris. Students will write reaction papers, longer essays, and have the option of a visual project.

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)

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