CLIT2001: Comparative Studies of Literary and Visual Narratives (Spring 2022)

Spring 2022| 6 Credits| Dr. Dylan Suher

Are there ideas or feelings that an image can communicate that the written word cannot (or vice versa)? How does form and context affect meaning? This course will examine a wide range of written, audiovisual, and digital/interactive texts (Javanese shadow plays, recordings of Barbadian poets, a city built by a Chinese artist in the virtual world of Second Life) in an effort to explore the power and limits of media. We will begin with the fundamental elements of visual and written texts—the word, the image, the structures of filmic and literary narrative—to deepen our understanding of how these elements convey meaning. While it is important to grasp how the word, the image, and the montage might function in and of itself, we never encounter these elements in the abstract, but instead printed on the page or projected on the cinema screen, circulated as files or broadcast over the airwaves. The middle two modules of this course will therefore focus on these issues of medium and mediation: the capacities and demands of the photographic and filmic image; the effect achieved by narratives spanning multiple texts and media; what happens to a text when it is broadcast or pirated. The last module will be aimed at taking apart the idea that a reader/viewer is helpless before these media technologies. We will think about what happens when the reader is a fan, when they read against the grain, or when they interact with the text. The theory we will read in this course will include both classics of the Euroamerican canon and voices outside of the US and Europe, e.g. Jacques Derrida, Susan Sontag, and Stuart Hall but also Ōtsuka Eiji, Dai Jinhua, and Lu Xun. Our goal is not to identify the One True Universal Law that determines what image and text mean, but to explore how the immense diversity of practices around the world radically reshape those concepts or even wholly efface the boundaries that define them.