HMNT 4993 Literature, Photography, and the Uncanny
4 semester hours
This course explores the intimate connection between writing and photography, looking at the ways in which writers mobilize photography in different literary forms from the short story to detective fiction. If today we understand the photograph as a privileged source of evidence, our selection of texts challenges the comfortable maxim that “seeing is believing.” Pairing texts on photographic practice and theories of photography such as Henry Fox Talbot’s The Pencil of Nature with fiction that draws on the emergent technology of photography such as George Eliot’s The Lifted Veil, we’ll investigate how literature borrows from the language of photography in complex ways–not simply as a shorthand for presenting the “real” but as a means of questioning representation and documentation itself. Through historical and theoretical approaches to photography and fiction, we’ll focus on texts from the 1830s to 1930s, examining different methods of approaching the word-image divide. We’ll also look at twentieth and twenty-first century deployments of photography in the book, concentrating on W.G. Sebald’s The Rings of Saturn. What do these hybrid books tell us about writing and photography?
Junior or senior standing, or consent of instructor required.