ANTH108 PO - The Essay as Resistance: Writing, Photography, Film, and the Politics of FormWhen Offered: Spring 2021.
Instructor(s): K. Wittman; J. Nucho
I understood, writes Chris Marker of Sans Soleil, “that the whole film was a kind of exorcism for sixty years on this dubious planet…and a way to take leave of them.” His film essay is an exorcism of the world, a melancholy, critical farewell-but Sans Soleil is also about the world, a visual celebration of that world: at once exorcism and homage; a leave-taking and a reverent, fine-grained representation. That is the tension inherent in the essay: a global, culturally rich form in writing, photography, and film that both makes the world strange and holds it intimately close, a form that criticizes the world and also loves it. If we are conditioned by our education to think of the essay as academic, five-paragraph, caught up in the power, conventions, and privileges of the academy and belles lettres, this course explores a different way of writing, photographing, filming. Since its formal inception in the sixteenth-century the essay-associative, digressive, fragmentary; filled with the presence of the author-has been defined and redefined as everything from a stay against fascism to the “writing on the walls of the prison house of culture,” a way of resisting the deadening status quo, a “matter of life and death.” We will study the history of the essay as a form and write, photograph, draw, and film our own essays in order to understand what the essay is, how it works, and what social and political force it might, and does, have. A course in literature, film, and visual anthropology (taught by faculty from English and Anthropology), we will be thinking about the relationship between powers of resistance and modes of representation. Assignments will be both written and visual; you will learn to film your own essay. Possible artists include James Agee, John Akomfrah, Kazim Ali, Jorge Amado, James Baldwin, Roland Barthes, Augusto Roa Bastos, Lynda Barry, Elif Batuman, Allison Bechdel, Anne Carson, Durga Chew-Bose, Catherine Chung, Teju Cole, J.M. Coetzee, Walker Evans, Harun Farocki, Hollis Frampton, Ross Gay, Édouard Glissant, Yi-yun Li, Chris Marker, Michel de Montaigne, Trinh T. Minh-ha, Mary Oliver, Marlon Riggs, Ngügï wa Thiong’o, Agnes Varda, Virginia Woolf. Course is equivalent to ENGL108 PO.
Satisfies the following General Education Requirement(s), subject to conditions explained in the Degree Requirements section of this Catalog:
Area 2; Writing Intensive
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