Communication and Culture | Images and Critique in Public Culture
C608 | 28835 | Simons, J.
M, 4:00 PM-6:30 PM, C2 272
Meets with CULS-C 701
Open to Graduates Only!
Instructor: Jon Simons
Office: C2 239
The course examines and assesses some contemporary critical thought
about images, especially the role of images in politics. Rather than
only pursuing various strategies for the critique of images that
have become familiar as ideology critique, the course explores the
possibility of thinking critically through images. It studies
different types of images (in advertising, film, television,
history, science and politics) through a variety of theoretical
approaches (Marxist ideology critique, Benjamin’s dialectics,
continental philosophy, semiotics, psychoanalysis, visual culture
and rhetoric, and neuroscience). The seminar course also serves as a
review of the emerging field of Image Studies, in which visual
cultural theorist W.J.T. Mitchell is a central figure. A good guide
to the range of literature relevant to Image Studies is S. Manghani,
A. Piper and J. Simons (eds) Images: A Reader (Sage, 2006).
The course addresses the following questions and issues: whether all
types of images can be considered as a category; the relation
between the visual and the verbal; the non-visual as well as visual
character of images; the pertinence of iconoclastic hostility to
images in society and politics; and the potential for critical
thought by means of images. The course opens by problematizing the
conception of images as only visual, leading to a deeper examination
of the relation between words and images in democratic culture. It
then examines the view that images are ideological and hence a
problem for politics and society, before turning around the opening
negative assessment of images by looking at the ways in which media
and other images might provide critical insight or induce critical
thinking. We also consider the imagistic nature of human thinking by
drawing from contemporary history of art, and neuroscience. Scholars
whose work you may encounter in the seminar include: Roland Barthes;
Jean Baudrillard; Walter Benjamin; Henri Bergson; Antonio Damasio;
Gilles Deleuze; Kevin DeLuca; James Elkins; Jacques Lacan; Karl
Marx; W. T. J. Mitchell; Jacques Rancičre; Michael Shapiro; Barbara
Stafford; Slavoj Žižek.
Student projects will consist of written or creative “image
critique”, examples of which we’ll consider through Sunil Manghani’s
Image Critique and the Fall of the Berlin Wall (2008) and my own
current research on “images of Peace in the Israeli Peace Movement”.
The purpose of an image critique is to (a) understand the elements
and complexities of the cultural-political image of a phenomenon
(such as “Obama,” “America,” “the fall of the Berlin Wall,” “peace
in the Middle East,”); (b) construct a critical image that
questions, resists, undermines, or even replaces hegemonic images;
or (c) demonstrate and amplify how an image performs this critical
work. (Note that this is quite a different intellectual operation to
critiquing visual images).
(Please note that this seminar will complement but be quite
different to C617, Rhetoric and Visual Culture, as taught by Prof.
Lucaites in Spring 2011. While some of the scholars we read are also
addressed in that seminar, we will read different texts by them,
with the possible exception of Barthes’ “Rhetoric of the Image.”)
1) Seminar leadership and participation: 20%.
2) Mid-semester seminar ‘write-up’: a critical assessment of
the reading for a seminar and the discussion we had about it, of
approximately 1,500 words. 15%.
3) Paper/project proposal 10%
4) Literature review 15%
5) Class presentation 10%
6) Course paper/project: approx. 6-7,000 words, on any topic
addressed by the course that performs an image critique. By
negotiation, the paper can include (or even consist of) the
production of (an) image(s) and be of shorter word-length. Image
production projects may also be undertaken by pairs or groups, by