ENGL 759K:

Word and Image

Spring 2002


About the Course


Contact Information:


4109 Susquehanna Hall

301-405-3816 (office)

301-314-7539 (fax)

301-495-1095 (home)





Office hours: Tuesday and Thursday 3:30-4:30, and by appointment.


Email is usually the best way to reach me.




This seminar might be subtitled "The Persistence of Vision." Though the conventional wisdom is that literary studies is all about texts, in practice texts often turn out to be as much about images as words. Cultural studies, textual studies, and media studies all demand that the literary scholar learn to engage with images and visual events. We will therefore explore, as closely and carefully as we can, the boundaries between textuality and what one recent critic has termed "graphicality."


Students can expect to read widely in the various critical and theoretical discourses on word/image relationships, including work originating in such disparate fields as critical theory, art history and image theory, popular culture, comparative media, the history of the book, cognitive science, and graphic/information design. Our goal will be both to come to terms with the positions of key thinkers and writers in these fields, and to experiment with applying some practical strategies for "reading" visual texts. Along the way we will take a look at the graphical productions of several major literary figures, including Blake, Mark Danielewski’s House of Leaves, and selected avant garde experimentalists (Kenneth Patchen, Jean-Michel Basquiat, and Johanna Drucker are all likely candidates). Students will learn to use these figures as points of departure for thinking about word/image relationships in their own fields of interest. We will also discuss the technology of the image, and distinguish between such techniques as illumination, etching, engraving, lithography, and photography. The seminar will end with extended attention to visual production in new and emerging digital media.


Requirements and Grading:


·        A seminar paper of publishable quality (20+ pages) on a topic of your choosing, or an electronic project of equivalent “length” and substance [55%]. You should meet with me at least once to discuss your paper or project, which will be due the last day of class.

·        One presentation [25%] and two response papers [10% each]. Once during the semester you will each be responsible for a semi-formal presentation of about 15 minutes on the week’s reading, coupled with discussion leading. You will also write two response papers (these should be typed, about 2-3 pages in length) on the readings during any other two weeks of your own choosing. You should bring your response papers to class (I may ask you to read or summarize them) and then turn them in to me.

·        Active preparation and class participation. Active preparation means not only doing the reading, but also coming to class with specific questions and passages to discuss.

·        Regular attendance. Weekly attendance is expected and required. I will confer with anyone who seems to be having trouble meeting the attendance requirement, and reserve the right to ask such persons to drop the course.


Participation and attendance are not “graded,” but I will use them to adjust final course grades if either proves conspicuously unsatisfactory.




Auditors are welcome, but are expected to conform to the attendance policy above, to come to class prepared, and to write three (not two) response papers. Auditors are not required to give a presentation or write the final paper. Please register the course if at all possible.


Electronic Resources:


The course reflector address is: <engl759k-0101-spr02@coursemail.umd.edu>. Subscription is mandatory. I will use the list for announcements, and you may also use it for discussions of the readings, as an extension of our classroom time. Please get into the habit of checking your mail at least once a day; you will be responsible for the content of any email message 24 hours after it has been posted.


An electronic copy of this syllabus and other resources is available at: <http://www.glue.umd.edu/~mgk/courses/spring2002/759/>.