This course is a survey of the key texts, thinkers, concepts, and theoretical approaches that influence the study of visual culture and the production of criticism. It is an opportunity for students to engage with the ideas that are deployed in these conversations, while gaining the ability to use these resources in their own work. The course is by design interdisciplinary, drawing upon the theoretical advances made in fields as diverse as philosophy, linguistics, art history, psychoanalysis, and literary studies. We also attend to how these discourses are creatively transformed by those working within feminist and/or queer theoretical frameworks. The guiding thesis of this course is that the visual is situated within larger fields of cultural production, which require carefully defined strategies to make explicit their ontological, epistemological, historical, and political assumptions.
What are "strategies" and how do they relate to cultural and visual fields? This course investigates and evaluates the evolution of strategies as increasingly central to artistic and cultural production by locating that evolution in the variety of elements that constitute readings and interpretations of contemporary society. Beginning with an understanding of original usages of strategies in military and organizational thinking, it considers the emergence of modern art production since the heralding of an artistic avant-garde (an explicitly strategic concept) of the 1870s through the formulations of subsequent strategies of modernism, ultramodernism and postmodernism that have since concretely shaped the dynamics between producers of art and their manifestations in cultural institutions and criticism. To adequately cover this range of themes, the course employs contributions from philosophy, political and economic theory, linguistics, art history, psychoanalysis, and literary criticism. Its aim is to understand how strategies work in the field of cultural production in terms of their philosophical, epistemological, psychological, and economic-political backgrounds. Students taking the course should improve their communication skills by strengthening their knowledge of relevant issues and their analysis and criticism of arguments in the primary fields of cultural production.