“Well – what remains to be written after that?” wrote Virginia Woolf of Marcel Proust in a 1922 letter. A century after the publication of Swann’s Way, the first volume of the monumental novel, In Search of Lost Time, Proust continues to speak to us as compellingly as ever. From the experience of train travel to the strangeness of kissing to the logic of snobbery, Proust’s novel conducts a vast phenomenology of human experience. At the same time, it’s also an unflinching chronicle of a particular era, as the glittering decadence of the belle époque gave way to the horrors to the First World War, and rapidly changing modern life came to include new inventions like the telephone, the automobile, and the aeroplane, as well as the advent of film.
In this course, we will work our way carefully through Swann’s Way, recovering Proust from the clichés and caricatures in order to discover why he continues to be important today. Considering his novel from the viewpoints of aesthetics, philosophy, and history, we will look at the thinkers and artists with whom he was engaged, as well as the social and cultural context in which he was writing. Our questions will include: how does Proust bridge realism and modernism, the nineteenth and twentieth centuries? What are his insights into problems about the nature of memory, time, and perception, as well as sexuality, desire, and social relations? What are the formal innovations of his work, and what is his legacy in literary history? What can he tell us about Paris at the turn of the twentieth century, and what can reading him tell us about our own turn of the century today?
Enroll early for a free copy of Swann’s Way (the Penguin Classics, Lydia Davis translation!)No class May 21
Far from a canon of consistent ideas, the history of psychoanalytic theory is marked by conflict, splits and vicious debates that have important clinical and historical implications. This course will survey a selection of these theoretical and clinical polemics via a reading of primary and secondary sources from classical Freudian theory, ego psychology, Kleinian, Lacanian, object relations, and contemporary relational approaches. Readings will include Freud, Anna Freud, Melanie Klein, Jacques Lacan, Donald Winnicott, and others. We will focus on key conceptual differences between these different psychoanalytic schools, with close attention to clinical technique as well as theories of mental life.
In recent decades, critical analyses of photography are increasingly concerned with questions of audience engagement and technological production. This course embarks upon a study of historical and theoretical perspectives on photography—from experiments in daguerreotype to current practices in the digital sphere, including social media—by analyzing the different forms in which photographs are distributed, circulated, and consumed. Whether seen as a machine for reproducing images, a fashionable toy for the masses, a pastime for amateurs, a generator of profit, a tool for scientific inquiry, or a device for categorizing and classifying populations, the question of circulation has haunted photography since the 19th century, constantly affecting the way that photography is understood and discussed. Leveraging this historical background, we will take our inquiry into the new millennium, challenging contemporary assumptions about its “new” media, and investigating photography as a heterogeneous, stratified phenomenon.
Our inquiry will begin with earlier forms of photographic circulation, such as the album and the carte-de-visite. We will proceed to the photobook and examine it as a site of constant negotiation between disciplines, contextualizations, practices, and viewpoints. Other topics will include considerations of the authorship of photographs and experiences of the digital image. Over the course of six weeks, we will construct a genealogical account of the current “expanded field” of photographic circulation and its connection to print and screen practices, while taking into account its multiple points of origin. Each class session will be accompanied by a set of visual readings, such as a project, a photobook, and/or a website, which will be viewed, read, and discussed in conjunction with relevant theoretical material. Readings will draw from the writings of Siegfried Kracauer, Roland Barthes, Vilém Flusser, Geoffrey Batchen, John Tagg and Lev Manovich, among others.