courses > 2014 fall

Elective Courses

CINE 263 - Invisible Subjects in 20th Century Art and Literature

ENGL 263 | ARTH 301
401 | SEM | | MW 2-3:30pm | FBH 323

This course will examine the concept of invisibility as a critical lens for understanding contemporary social, cultural and political life. We will begin by exploring the rhetoric of invisibility in classical antiquity, and the moral questions posed in works such as Plato's Republic. We will also examine invisibility in the context of social and economic inequality by examining the unequal division of property, wealth, and power today among the homeless and the hyper-wealthy, through the work of scholars such as Philippe Bourgeois and Elijah Anderson. Next, we will turn to works of science fiction and film such as H.G. Wells’ novella The Invisible Man, as well as contemporary visual culture, such as the work of David Stephens, a blind artist based in Philadelphia who will visit our class. The resonances of invisibility in the digital age and the challenges posed by both mass surveillance and social media will also be discussed. Finally, we will explore the feeling and status of racial invisibility in society in the work of novelists and social critics such as Ralph Ellison, James Baldwin, and Anne Anlin Cheng. We will examine how invisibility is imposed upon minority individuals and cultures, through the work of scholars such as Edward Said and Arielle Azoulay and performance artists such as DAM, a Palestinian rap group. Throughout, we will give particular focus to how “invisible subjects” in contemporary art, literature, and film actively reflect on and negotiate their invisibility, and the unique abilities and perspectives invisibility affords. Though invisibility is a complex process that is strictly speaking, difficult to visualize and overcome, we will closely examine how these “invisible characters” interact with the visible world that they resist, embrace, and rewrite.