Cultural Studies | Images and Critique in Public Culture
C701 | 29483 | Simons
M, 4:00 PM-6:30 PM, C2 272
Meets with CMCL-C 608
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 negotiation. 30%