Cultural Studies II: Visual Cultures
Full course description
This course will explore the variety of visual cultures and the theoretical insights garnered by the study of this interdisciplinary field. Straddling cultural studies, art history, museum studies, media studies, performance studies, literary studies, and science studies, the field of visual culture at its most expansive combines theories and methods from across the academy. We will investigate visual cultures from these exciting and challenging (inter)disciplinary perspectives.
The course presents visual culture as a ubiquitous facet of modern life that perhaps more than any other component shapes and informs our understanding of self, society, and the world. Hence, it demands our careful attention and critical parsing of its workings at all levels of daily life. Our foray into the field will include examining the benefits of this inclusive mode of analysis, for instance in the range of objects available for study, as well as the drawbacks, particularly in terms of methodological rigor and the overinvestment in ocularcentric forms of knowledge. The student will be invited to scrutinize their disciplinary assumptions, to develop their toolbox of concepts, and to analyse objects that are rarely considered inside the university.
Starting with an introduction to visual culture, we’ll investigate the terms vision, visuality, and image in conjunction with varying conceptualizations of culture. Each subsequent unit will deal with a “site” of visual culture that offers an object of study, a theoretical problem, and an interdisciplinary opportunity. We will study visual cultures from high to low, and examine how these forms are quickly transforming and breaking barriers of category and genre. The principle sites of inquiry traverse fashion, gaming, museum exhibitions, medical imaging, comics, and cinema. The methods from visual culture studies we will experiment with include cultural materialism, psychoanalysis, semiotics, poststructuralism, narratology, phenomenology, affect theory, feminism and cultural analysis.
- To understand the way in which visual culture is conceptualized in relation to its disciplinary, historical, and theoretical context.
- To evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different theories of visual culture.
- To select the appropriate theor(ies) and methodological tool(s) for analysis that best suits the material and argument.
- To communicate the way in which different approaches to visual culture mobilize disciplinary points of view using specialized terms.
- To demonstrate awareness of the larger social, political, and sexual issues involved in the academic study of visual culture as it relates to the body/subjectivity.
- To recognize the interdisciplinary nature of visual culture in its historical and contemporary overlap with scientific, artistic, and economic imaginaries.
At least one Humanities course.
- Nicholas Mirzoeff (2009). An Introduction to Visual Culture (second edition). London, Routledge.
- Nicholas Mirzoeff (2012). The Visual Culture Reader (second edition). London, Routledge.