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"Reading" Culture: How to Read Images: Visual Culture and Visual Literacy

History 2006 - Fall 2019

The poor are the "unseen" multitudes, the Ku Klux Klan is the "Invisible Empire," W.E.B. Du Bois's African American culture exists "behind the veil," gay men and women come in and out of "the closet," terrorists lie hidden in "sleeper cells"-these are just a few of the common visual metaphors used to describe the complex forces and subjects that make up U.S. culture. Despite its status as metaphor, however, visuality shapes our relationship to American society in very real ways. To become visible in the eyes of the state is to access citizenship, to become a full member of the social world. In this course, we will encounter a variety of cultural texts that figure identity through visibility. From narratives of haunting in U.S. culture to spectacular displays of national identity and accounts of minority groups insisting on the right to be seen, we will look to the moments in American culture when the question of visibility has been most crucial. The course is arranged thematically and will feature both primary texts as well as classic and contemporary work in the field of American Studies. Possible topics include: the theory and practice of Holy Land tourism in the nineteenth century; antebellum hoax culture; the relationship between lynching and mass media; documentary accounts of natural disasters from the San Francisco earthquake to Hurricane Katrina; queer representation in popular media; the rise and fall of the Vine app; the rhetoric of terrorist "sleeper cells"; oppositional mythologies of the "white working class" and "undocumented" immigrants. The semester will culminate with a discussion of the globalization of American Studies alongside a serial viewing of the first season of the acclaimed drama series, Homeland (2011). American Culture Studies (AMCS) is a multidisciplinary program that provides both a broader context for study in different fields and a deeper understanding of American culture in all of its complexities.
Course Attributes: EN HBU HumAS HUMFA HUMAR HUM

Section 01

"Reading" Culture: How to Read Images: Visual Culture and Visual Literacy
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