Thursday, September 22, 2005

Chicago Touchdown

So far it feels like a continuation of my recent work (classes start next week):

1. "The Intimate Public Sphere"
Instructor: Berlant, Lauren
Public sphere and feminist/queer theory have opened up critical strategies for thinking about the cultural politics of adaptation and transgression in the development of collective identifications. The first half of the course will track these two trajectories using US "women's culture" as its main historical scene: here, the course provides an arena for studying the aesthetic production and imagination of subjects in everyday life, the "ordinary," the capitalist and political spheres. The second half will focus on the articulation of sex and politics in everyday and mass institutions of intimacy. We will begin by reading Uncle Tom's Cabin and will move through suffrage and into modern and contemporary elaborations of this structure, focusing on melodrama and comedy. Seminar paper and presentation required.

2. "Public and Private in Modern Europe 1"
Instructor: Goldstein, Jan
This course will begin with a consideration of the very different theoretical perspectives of Habermas (Structural Transformation of the Bourgeois Public Sphere) and Foucault (Discipline and Punish, History of Sexuality, vol. 1) on the reciprocal construction of the public and private spheres, or of regimes of power and modes of selfhood, in the modern West. It will then look at a body of recent historiography, some of it directly inspired by Habermas or Foucault, that treats aspects of these same general topics in Europe in the period, roughly, 1750-1914. Topic to be considereed include the eighteenth-century cult of sensibility, the creation of a public for painting, and legislation on the family during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Empire. While the course will emphasize France, it will also include material on other European countries, especially Germany and Britain. Students taking the course as a two-quarter seminar are required to have a reading knowledge of the language of the country on which they will write their research paper; there is no foreign language requirement for students taking the course a one-quarter colloquium.

3. "History of International Cinema I: Silent Era"
Instructor: Tsivian, Yuri
This is the first part of a two-quarter course. The two parts may be taken individually, but taking them in sequence is helpful. The aim of this course is to introduce students to what was singular about the art and craft of silent film. Its general outline is chronological; we will also discuss main national schools and international trends of filmmaking.

And I'll be auditing these:

"Methods and Issues in Cinema Studies"
Instructor: Hansen, Miriam
This course offers an introduction to ways of reading, writing on, and teaching film. The focus of discussion will range from methods of close analysis and basic concepts of film form, technique and style; through industrial/critical categories of genre and authorship (studios, stars, directors); through aspects of the cinema as a social institution, psycho-sexual apparatus and cultural practice; to the relationship between filmic texts and the historical horizon of production and reception. Films discussed will include works by Griffith, Lang, Hitchcock, Deren.

"Reason and Its Histories"
Instructor: Daston, Lorraine
Description:Historicism allegedly corrodes all it touches: moral values are relativized to this time or that place; truth shrinks to a time-bound set of beliefs. Yet science, the strongest modern candidate for rationality, is dizzyingly historical. New theories and empirical finds replace old ones at breakneck speed. This course explores the implications of the history of science for ideas of reason, history, and their interaction, from the seventeenth through twentieth centuries. Readings include works by Bacon, Descartes, Condorcet, Kant, Comte, Nietzsche, Poincare, and Husserl. Undergraduates admitted with permission of instructor.

[btw (big news in a small place): I've moved (back) to Chicago. I've started the PhD program in Art History at the University of Chicago. My paid time on my ESRC grant is almost up, but I'll be working on the papers for the rest of the year. At least.]

Monday, September 05, 2005

Publics, Markets

Many people (e.g. 1, 2, 3) believe that publics work like marketplaces.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Dogs, Cats, Mappr, Hamster

I'm working on the paper which is addressed more to a sociological audience and I'm encountering a problem in the writing which is probably, actually, THE (social, cultural, photographic) problem the paper itself is trying to describe and do justice to. Right now, there is very little about my argument this is specific to photography. It could, at this point, as easily be about blogs. And that's fine, insofar as I see much in common between online photography and blogs (I see them as part of the same political moment), and insofar as I've been writing about blogs as well. But it's a shame, insofar as I believe the public for photography functions differently than the public for blogs or vlogs or links or audioscrobbler or etc. In other words, it seems like I'm losing an opportunity to talk about how publics work, specifically, in relation to photographs (something which many people have addressed, although rarely in those terms, e.g. Susan Sontag and Walter Benjamin are two famous photographic commentators whose central concerns were, in a way, the promises and risks of a photographic public).

I'm able to talk about photographs and photography as they exist discursively, in the various literatures about them. The problem is, I can't figure out how to talk about the specificity of a single photograph, in a way which accounts for its representational, pictorial, compositional or aesthetic qualities—when, and this is the key aspect, when that photograph is networked (posted online). All the models available to me seem inadequate. Which is exactly what I'm trying to write about: viz. how photographs function, once they are networked, once they go public. But, so, then, if I'm right about that, how do I deal with images? Specific, engaging, strange, ordinary, banal, everyday images. Like this one, my favourite photo on all of Flickr. Anything I think to say about a photograph seems absolutely impoverished by all the possible uses to which that photograph might be put, later, on down the line of its public existence. Like mappr. And hamster soduko. And flickr city.

Photographic analysis, pictorial analysis, as I know it, seems to rely entirely on representational accounts, accounts which in the main look backwards, into the past of a photo, and those just aren't working for me at all. They seem to close their eyes to all possible uses, relegating them to that maligned realm of mere utility. Or trying to account for them all in that magnanimous gesture of identifying a diverse, unpredictable, powerful readership and multiple interpretations. But what is IN an image, what an image is made OF, has to matter. Images of cats circulate differently—instigate different publics— than images of dogs.

[Thanks to not_susan for helping me "nut this out" or "...through." Which is it Australians? "Nut it out" or "nut it through"? The devil is in the prepositions you know.]
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