Visual Studies Courses


Spring Quarter

Dept Course No and Title Instructor
This course examines canonical texts and explores current directions in Visual Studies. Students will develop the critical skills necessary to appreciate how the approaches that define Visual Studies complicate traditional models of defining and analyzing visual images. Course texts provide an introduction to theories about Visual Studies and methodologies of how to apply those theories to the visual world.
This seminar is an introduction to the theory of photography with a focus on the way the medium’s ethical potential has been probed, questioned, and adulated over the course of its relatively short existence. While we will concentrate on canonical texts and recent scholarship, episodes from the historical avant-garde will also make an appearance, and our objects of study will range from vernacular photography to large-scale art photography to photojournalism, and, whenever appropriate, photography’s intermedial relatives.  Some of the questions considered by the seminar will include: What ethical purchase, if any, is possible in the face of photography’s superabundant proliferation since its inception? Can photography offer political agency to the spectator or the subject? How do error and chance, photography’s innate qualities, play into this? If photography’s “burden of depiction” is the cornerstone of its (positive or negative) relationship to ethics, what happens with the arrival of the digital?

In tandem with recent texts on the materiality of the photograph and the photographic archive, this seminar will also involve work with photographs and photographic books in the UCI Library Special Collections. Throughout, we will push the texts we read against photographic objects, thinking theory with and through looking.
“What then is time? If no one asks me, I know what it is. If I wish to explain it to him who asks, I do not know.” This seminar investigates the impact of power on human understandings and experiences of time and memory as they play out in and through visual, built and natural environments. It asks: how do we think (or feel) through time by thinking through the environment, and how do those in power manipulate this for their own ends? While it grows from an archaeological perspective, debates on this problems have developed in a wide variety of disciplines, from theoretical physics to cognitive science. The seminar will provide a platform for students from a variety of backgrounds to put their own research interests into dialog with these conversations, both contemporary and premodern. Problems include the role of the visual, material and spatial in the extended mind/cognition, inculcation of- or resistances to- ideological formulations in human experience, and the creation, and the maintenance and manipulation of time in personal and collective memory.
This past year anthropologists Collins, Durington, and Gill published an important call to arms in their manifesto "Multimodality: An Invitation." The call coincided with the inauguration of a multimodal section in the journal of American Anthropology – but in no way does this imply that this process or practice is a new one. Anthropologists have been doing multi-modal anthropology since Franz Boas began working with wax cylinder recording and his star student Zora Neale Hurston started experimenting with text. Anthropology has always been an inter-disciplinary field lending its methods to fields as diverse as Science and Technology Studies and Studio Art, and being influenced by these fields in turn. This course will explore the history and contemporary practices of multimodal anthropology, from sound to sensory studies, (to give a small example), allowing students to engage their research data while experimenting with new forms. It will allow a space for process, the time and the permission to play, to move material in and out of various forms until it finds its home, which may entail a form or function wholly unexpected even by its own author. The course encourages multi-disciplinary and to that end is open and encourages graduate students in any field to join us.
This course explores the art, architecture and archaeology of Sasanian Iran. “The Empire of the Iranians” ruled by the Sasanian dynasty was the last great Iranian empire before the coming of Islam. This course will provide students a foundational overview of Sasanian art and architecture as well as explore the impact of Sasanian art and architecture on the wider world of late antiquity including the arts and archaeology of late Kushan and Sasanian-period Central and South Asia and Sogdiana, Topics include the impact of Parthian art/architecture, the transformation of the ancient tradition of Iranian rock reliefs, the Achaemenid legacy, the development of Persian palace and garden architecture, fire temples and sacred spaces, urbanism, painting, glyptic, silver and luxury wares, the Persian legacy in Islam, Medieval Europe and China after the fall of the empire.