ENGL428Y - Seminar in Language and Literature: Literature and Visual Culture

In one of several manifestoes outlining the Imagist movement in modern poetry, Ezra Pound announced the formal and thematic need for modernists to “make it new.” Such a proclamation implicitly stipulated that what was “new” in British and American literary modernism revolved around what was understood to be new about images and, more broadly, the visual. This seminar will examine how writers from roughly the 1890s through the 1950s looked repeatedly to visual culture in order to ask questions about the nature of what it means to be and to know, particularly in modern days, and in modern ways. First, we’ll think about why the image might have been such a fertile site for these literary considerations by studying the cultural history of image-text relations and the science and philosophy of visual perception over the last two centuries. Then, within this context, we’ll examine literary modernism's formal and thematic adaptation of various visual media like painting; visual technologies like film or photography; and visual discourses like dream analysis. We'll also examine where and how visual experience surfaces in modernist texts--for instance, in accounts of spectacle or performance; in encounters with specters, visions, and hallucinations; or even in aspects of literary form itself, like narrative focalization.

Repeatable to 9 credits if content differs. Course intended primarily for students in English Honors Program. English majors with strong academic records may also apply. Permission from the Director of Honors required.


Junior standing. For ENGL majors only.