COMLIT 190 | Media and Realism

2023 Spring | Tues, Thurs, 11 am - 12:30 pm | COURSE #19406 | UNITS: 4

Miryam Sas & Max Kaisler

Sometimes that thing called “reality” is just too much to face. Sometimes we feel overwhelmed. Other times, we struggle to represent or grasp what it is that grounds us, the earth around us, the difference between reality and fantasy, poem, or dream. A dream or a poem can seem to present a reality more true than any photograph. Or taking a photo without looking through the viewfinder can grasp a bit of the real beyond our limited view.

Artists and writers throughout the centuries across many countries have struggled to find a mode of creative production that can be commensurate with the changing face of the contemporary world. They have framed experiments in practice and in theory to grapple with what they understood as the forms of the real, both those they could see and those hidden or outside of perception. How does the idea of “realism” change over time and in different media, from literature to photography to film and digital media? What are the political stakes of defining a given perspective as “real”? In this course we learn from these artists, from the ways they expressed their understanding of the mind and the self, from the changes that happened to the ideas of the real. We give special attention to Japanese and French examples of literature, photography, and film—including animation/CGI—where the idea of the document and the trace, the remnant/fragment of the real, the relation between the real and the virtuality take central place. 

This course pursues the above questions with the aim of giving students opportunities to develop skills using writing and other media as tools of inquiry. Students enter the ongoing critical conversation on realism and media both transhistorically and cross-culturally. We look at the ongoing conversations and the socio-political meanings of these versions of the real and realism as they move and evolve across time and space.