L142 | 1845 | Marsh

Title: "Literature and the Visual Arts"
Lecture  10:10A-11:00A 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. .