R1B - 001 | CCN: 29850

The Craft of Writing

Public Images: Photography as Political and Social Action

Instructor: Marcos Cisneros & Nathan Atkinson

4 Units

On the day of Donald Trump’s inauguration the National Park service released an aerial photo of the crowd gathered for the event. The photo showed low turnout relative to the inauguration of the previous president, Barack Obama, but Trump’s Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters that it depicted “the largest audience to witness an inauguration, ever.” Spicer’s claim set off a controversy over the reliability of photographic evidence and the significance of crowd sizes. Moreover, and more pertinently to this course, Spicer’s claim raised questions about the role of photography in public life.

 

In this course, we will examine the relationship between photographic and political representation. Throughout, we will ask the following questions: How does photography shape our understanding what it means to be a citizen? What role does photography play in the process of public formation? Does photography necessarily objectify that which it pictures, and if so, what are the implications for activism? And to what extent does political visibility follow from photographic visibility? To answer these questions, we will read, discuss, and write on scholarship from a variety of disciplines including visual studies, political philosophy, and most prominently rhetorical theory.

 

The purpose of this course is to build on the reading, writing and research skills learned in R1A. As the second course in the series, this course emphasizes the skills needed for researching and writing and revising a longer, 10 to 12-page undergraduate term paper. Toward this end, the syllabus includes units on selecting a research topic, finding sources, developing a review of literature, and formulating an original argument that provides readers with a perspective that goes beyond the conventional wisdom on the topic.