English | Introduction to Writing and the Study of Literature
L142 | 1922 | Staff


Topic: "LITERATURE AND THE VISUAL ARTS"
Lecture Section:        1922  11:15A-12:05P TR

This inter-disciplinary course examines key moments in the interplay
between the verbal and visual arts across the nineteenth and twentieth
centuries.  There will be four units, each (except for the first)
pairing a single literary text with a film or body of artwork or
photographs.  Each unit will address some common questions as well as
the themes I list below--questions like: What can be shown and not
said?  How can we represent thought?  Or the body?  Or consciousness?
By bringing together these classics from different media we will hope
to gain fresh perspectives on each, and to understand more deeply the
natures of literary representation and visual expression.

I. Death Wishes, Identity, Detection: The Birth of the
Photograph. This four-week unit will ground us in the methods of study
needed for the course as a whole.  It will trace an arc of development
from Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations (1861), through the
Sherlock Holmes stories of Arthur Conan Doyle of the late 1880s, to
Billy Wilder's 1950 film masterpiece Sunset Boulevard.  We will also
view clips from the 1946 David Lean version of Great Expectations, as
well as over a hundred rare and arresting nineteenth-century
daguerreotypes and photographs.
II.  Monsters, Machines, and Men: Sublime Horror and Science
Fiction.  This unit compares two texts from either end of our 200-year
period: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818) and Ridley Scott's landmark
film Blade Runner (1982).  In addition to investigating themes of
humanity and monstrosity, we will consider related questions of
narration, voice/voice-over, color v. black-and-white, etc.
III.  Representing the Moment: Impressionist Art and Modernist
Fiction.  Here we take up the parallels between Virginia Woolf's
moving semi-autobiographical novel To the Lighthouse (1927) and the
visual experimentations of artists like Claude Monet.
IV.  Laughter over the Abyss, Or, How Comedy Meets Tragedy.
This unit will explore the thematic parallels and direct relationships
between Chaplin's silent film comedy The Gold Rush (1925) and Samuel
Beckett's "absurdist" play Waiting for Godot (1952).

The paintings, photographs, and films we will study are central, not
supplementary texts.  To make the most of this class, you must make
every effort to minimize absences and to attend screenings.  All
assigned literary texts must be read before the class(es) during which
they will be discussed. One paper per unit, mandatory discussion
questions, mid-term, and (cumulative) final.