"Techniques of the Observer"

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Course Readings

2.1.11. For Thursday, please read Emerson’s “Nature” (1836) –paying particular attention to the “transparent eyeball” section in the introduction, as well as the chapter on “language”– and “Circles” (1841). You can access them here. Rather than giving you a link to an online text, it’s best if we can all follow along with the same page numbers…so, I’ve scanned my personal copy of Emerson’s Essays and Lectures to share with you.

for 2.8.11: Emerson, “Experience” (1844) and “Goethe, or the Writer” (1850), 19th Century Visual Culture Reader, chpts 2, 3, 15, and Jonathan Crary, “Modernizing Vision” (an essay and conversation)

You can find the JMW Turner write-up here. To view his paintings, go to the “Image” page on the blog.

As it says on the syllabus, please print any online texts and have them with you in class on the day they will be discussed. It might even be a good idea to create your own “reader” by compiling on the online readings in one place (ex: an accordian folder or three-ring binder).  

For 2.10.11: Donald Hoffman, Visual Intelligence: How We Create What We See, chapters 1 and 2

 for 2.15.11: Along with the selected poems–listed on the syllabus–about the eye and “seeing” in The Poems of Emily Dickinson, please read Oliver Wendell Holmes’ 1859 account of the steroscope’s impact on American culture in the middle of the 19th century, entitled “The Steroscope and the Stereograph.” For useful background on the stereoscope (especially if you weren’t in the “stereoscope” group during class on Thursday) see this helpful site, which contains illustrations of how the device works: http://cnx.org/content/m13784/latest/

for 2.17.11: James Richardson, “The Dream of Reading” (Yale Review, 2008): “The Dream of Reading”.  Please print this and bring it to class along with your 1-(full) page close reading of a Dickinson poem. See the latest post on the home page for more on this (scroll down to the bottom). It would also be a good idea to print the close reading handout that is embedded that most recent post, too.

for 2.22.11: Walt Whitman, excerpts from Specimen Days, a series of entries about Whitman’s experiences as a journalist, caretaker, and, more generally, an observer during the Civil War. Please read from “Opening of the Succession War” through “The Real War Will Never Get in the Books” (pp. 21-80**this is a slight change from what’s on the syllabus–slightly less reading, not more):    http://www.whitmanarchive.org/published/other/CompleteProse.html

Also, please read Alan Trachtenberg’s “Albums of War: On Reading Civil War Photographs.”

Your second blog post is due on Tuesday. In it, try comparing Whitman’s account of the war with the account presented in the photos in Trachtenberg’s chapter. What is Trachtenberg’s argument about Brady and Gardner’s civil war photographs and their captions?

For 2.24.11: Democratic Vistas (pages 203-258 in the Collect, part of Whitman’s Complete Prose Works (1892)): http://www.whitmanarchive.org/published/other/CompleteProse.html. Also, look at the changing self-portraits Whitman selects as frontispieces for his more than half-dozen different U.S. editions of Leaves of Grasshttp://whitmanarchive.org/published/LG/index.html. Go to “page images” and click through until you arrive at the self-portrait for each edition.

For 3.8.11: A very brief introduction to the life of William James, James, “Stream of Thought” (in Volume I of The Principles of Psychology (1890)), James, “The Reality of Perception” (in Volume II of The Principles of Psychology), and Rita Carter, “Exploring Consciousness”

Your third blog post is due on Tuesday. In this post, you might consider the following: 1) How does Rita Carter’s discussion of consciousness in 2002 compare with William James’s in 1890? What similar features of consciousness do both theories seem to be identifying? and 2) What role does visual perception play in consciousness more broadly?

for 3.10.11: “The Reality of the Unseen,” Lecture 3 in The Varieties of Religious Experience: http://etext.virginia.edu/etcbin/toccer-new2?id=JamVari.sgm&images=images/modeng&data=/texts/english/modeng/parsed&tag=public&part=3&division=div1 

(If you have not already read the very brief introduction to James and his work from Tuesday, please do so.)

for 3.15.11: Please see the syllabus for the full set of readings for Tuesday. The online readings include Eadweard Muybridge’s Preface to Animals in Motion (1898) and the first chapter of Rebecca Solnit’s River of Shadows: Eadweard Muybridge and the Technological Wild West, “The Annihilation of Time and Space”

Unfortunately, the images have not scanned well–yet those are obviously important. I’ve posted links to Muybridge’s work on the “Images” page. Please take a look! I’ll also pass around a copy of Animals in Motion in class on Tuesday.

for 3.22.11: James, “The Art of Fiction” — Also, here is a helpful set of notes created by another professor and scholar, Donna Campbell, on the major claims of James’s essay and why they are important in a broader discussion happening at the end of the 19th century about what a work of fiction should be and how it should be judged. You might think about Henry James’s claims in relation to William James’ ideas about the stream of thought, which, as his younger brother does with the novel, he categorizes as a process of selection and execution. As the page numbers Campbell refers to are for a different version of the text than the online text you’re using, you should think in terms of reading the notes and the full text side by side. After you’ve read “The Art of Fiction,” turn to these two prefaces in which James explains he inspiration for and interest in the plots he’s created in The Ambassadors (1903) and The Golden Bowl (1904). Both, especially the GB preface, build on topics that are raised in “The Art of Fiction;” the preface to The Ambassadors will be especially useful to read now so that you have some sense of the story before we read the novel in two weeks. I have not included an excerpt from James’ autobiography in the readings. What is here is enough!

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  • Jackie Weber

    Professor, It’s not letting us (or at least Liza and myself) access the link because we are not registered users to the website.

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