Seeing and Knowing


It is common to speak of knowledge in the language of sight, such as with terms and phrases like “insight,” “mental vision,” or “the eyes of the mind.” From Plato through the Enlightenment to the present, sight is likened to mental awakening, even if Plato’s actual point is to suggest that the full nature of reality cannot be grasped via any of the ordinary senses. But seeing and knowing are often treated as separate activities, with visual images used to clarify the distinct and superior objective of grasping insights ultimately conveyed through the written or spoken word.

This course is premised on the idea that visual literacy is a process of knowing in its own right and explores the visual image not simply as a way to bring messages to life, but a mode to convey and explain reality. It asks how and why visual representations convey meaning and/or understanding, and how they intersect with more conventional notions of literacy. What happens to this distinction, for example, when a graphic novel or a concrete poem operate simultaneously as writing and image/object? This course engages the field of the visual through critical readings of texts in a variety of media and disciplines, with an eye to assessing how meaning is represented, expressed, and altered by images.

Please see this PDF document for the reading/lecture schedule. (The “TBA” for one of the weeks in Term 2 will change! That is due to a book that is unavailable because it is out of print). This is a new version as of Sept. 5, 2015.

Seeing & Knowing Lecture schedule 2015-2016 (PDF)

Here is a sheet with just the schedule for Term 1, that also has information about tutorials each week.

Seeing & Knowing Term 1 2015 lecture schedule (PDF)

Here is an updated schedule for Term 2, 2016

Seeing and Knowing Term 2 (2016) lecture/reading shedule (PDF)

Please see here for a book list with the editions that will be used. Note that one book is out of print and we had to take it off the list. The following PDF has been revised to reflect that.

Seeing & Knowing 2015-2016 books (revised Sept. 1) (PDF)

There is a PDF copy of the reading from Freud’s Interpretation of Dreams on this password-protected page (have to use a password for it because of copyright restrictions): Password-protected texts for Seeing and Knowing

The password was sent out via email to all registered students in Arts One.

Plato, Republic

Sophocles, Oedipus the King

William Shakespeare, The Tempest and Peter Greenaway, Prospero’s Books (film)

Thomas Hobbes, Leviathan

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, A Discourse on Inequality

William Blake, Songs of Innocence and Experience

Gerard Manley Hopkins, Selected Poems

The 19th century German Novelle: Heinrich von Kleist, The Earthquake in Chile and E.T.A. Hoffmann, “The Sandman”

Sigmund Freud, The Uncanny and selections from Interpretation of Dreams

Arthur Schnitzler, Lieutenant Gustl

Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Idiot

Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness

Films: Wiene, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; Grune, Die Strasse; Riefenstahl, Triumph of the Will 

Angela Carter, The Bloody Chamber

Poetry package: David Dabydeen, Slave Song, Stephanie Strickland, The Ballad of Sand and Soot, & section on concrete poems and visual poetry

Michel Foucault, selection on the “Panopticon” from Discipline and Punish

John Berger, Ways of Seeing

(TBA: we’re working on a text to replace the one that is out of print)

Laura Mulvey, “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” and Alfred Hitchcock, Vertigo (film)

Toni Morrison, Jazz

Paul Auster, City of Glass (novella) and Paul Karasik & David Mazzuchelli, City of Glass (graphic novel adaptation)

Osamu Tezuka, Buddha Part I (graphic novel)

W.G. Sebald, Austerlitz

(There won’t be any information there until the course has started!)