ARTHIST 114G Reading Images

ARTHIST 114G | B&E, EDUSW, EMHSS, LC | Not available in 2017 | City Campus | 15 points


This course is about how to look at and really see visual images and objects; about how  to observe, analyse, interpret and understand both art and non-art images and objects, such as photographs, paintings, graphic images, cartoons, comics, advertisements, buildings, monuments and sculptures, as well as film, television, digital and internet images, maps, landscapes and postage stamps.

A high level of visual literacy is increasingly necessary today in order to navigate our way through the world of images, at times a flood of images in which it is easy to drown. It is not just that visual images are central to everyday life. It is rather that they are increasingly predominant, even dominating, in social and cultural life and communications.

To misunderstand them is to be severely disadvantaged.

Learning outcomes

In this course students will learn how visual images and objects in various media are constructed, how they generate ideas and emotions, how they "work" on their consumers (that is, "us"), as well as how they can be interpreted and understood.

The course develops invaluable skills in observing, analysing and interpreting.

Topics covered

The course involves close and intensive study of particular images and objects in various media. As much as possible the images and objects selected for study are compelling and memorable in themselves, besides exemplifying the mechanics and meaning production of particular media and types of images and objects.

Images and objects are studied in terms of their structural, formal, thematic and iconographic (meaning-producing) features. They are also placed in the social and cultural contexts in which they were produced and used in order to more fully understand how the production of meanings are context-specific.

The various ways the one image or object can be, or has been, interpreted and understood are studied, while the limits of verbal interpretation of images are also considered.

A range of questions are addressed:

  • Is seeing learned?
  • Can an image or object be read in the same way as a verbal text?
  • Why is it so important to be an active viewer?
  • How and why can we learn so much about seeing and understanding images and objects generally from the close study of art, whether made by Rembrandt, Monet, Picasso, Mondrian, Francis Bacon, Damian Hirst, or Robert Crumb?

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