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Ars Moriendi: Life and Death in Early Photography

ENGL 205.401
also offered as: ARTH 305
M 2-5:00

Susan Sontag once remarked that "We no longer study the art of dying,...but all eyes, at rest, contain that knowledge.  The body knows.  And the camera shows, inexorably." This Spiegel-Wilks Curatorial Seminar explores the invention of photography and the proliferation of techniques and processes of representing the body in the 1800s.  Offered in collaboration with the Barnes Foundation, and co-taught with Executive Director and President Thom Collins, the course will pay particular attention to the relation between photography, science and medicine, and new modes of representing life and death.  In addition to being introduced to the history of photography, students will learn about the curatorial process and contribute to a forthcoming exhibition at the Barnes Foundation, where the course will meet weekly.  Students will have the opportunity to interact with curators and scholars at the museum, and also engage Penn Medicine faculty who are pioneering new ways of imaging the body.  Our discussions will build upon seminal texts by Roland Barthes, Geoffrey Batchen, Jonathan Crary, Kaja Silverman, Susan Sontag, and others.  As part of the course, students will also conduct research and contribute curatorial writing for the exhibition.

fulfills requirements
Elective Seminar of the Standard Major
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 5: 19th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major
Pre-1900 Seminar Requirement of the Standard Major