The Poetics of Witnessing
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Level: Undergraduate, Graduate
Division: The New School for Public Engagement
School: Milano School of International Affairs, Management, and Urban Policy
Department: Milano General Curriculum
Course Number: NINT 5334
Course Format: Seminar
Location: NYC campus
Permission Required: No
  • International Affairs
  • Media & Culture
  • Film & Video History, Theory & Criticism
Today, many documentarians consider themselves working within a well-defined human rights framework where images and film are used to raise awareness and critical consciousness about social injustice. On the far edge of this movement, however, there are photographers and filmmakers whose work calls attention to the traditional documentary ethics of bearing witness but whose images and modes of representation blur the lines between fact and fiction. This body of work is more open-ended to interpretation and multiple readings than traditional documentary representation. And while their themes are just as serious as straight documentarians, their work engages different audiences in a variety of venues. Beginning with a theoretical base of Roland Barthes's Camera Lucida and Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others, the course will study several underlying themes in visual poetics such loss, memory, longing, nostalgia, melancholy, the ephemeral nature of time. We will also study how poetical images move between the moral community and the ethical community.
Course Open to: Degree Students with Restrictions