English 40-4 - Spring, 2022

Introductory Topics in Literature


Class Information

Instructor: Badley, Chip
CRN: 62144
Time: TR 4:40-6:00
Location: 125 Olson
GE Areas: Writing Experience


"Strictly speaking," writes Susan Sontag, "one never understands anything from a photograph." In this course, we will read a range of literature that explores Sontag's provocative statement. If "only that which narrates can make us understand," as Sontag argues, how does narrative shape our visual perception of the world? Our class begins in the nineteenth century soon after the daguerreotype was invented in 1839 and will investigate how photographic technologies such as daguerreotypy, photography, and the x-ray influenced the rise of realism. Guiding our discussion will be two intersecting topics: first, realist "style" that strives for verisimilitude and objectivity; and, second, realist "subjects" that originate in the everyday and quotidian. How is a novel like a photograph? How is a photograph like a staged scene? What's real about realism?

Throughout the quarter, we will study three shifting roles that photography played in the rise of realist literature: first, the daguerreotype as historical archive in Nathaniel Hawthorne's The House of the Seven Gables (1851); second, the photograph as documentary evidence in anti-slavery writings-Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom?s Cabin (1852), Frederick Douglass' "The Heroic Slave" (1852), and Dion Boucicault's The Octoroon (1859)-and Mark Twain's Pudd'nhead Wilson (1894); and third, speculative portraits of memory and haunting in Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage (1895), Henry James' "The Jolly Corner" (1908), Ruth McEnery Stuart's "The Haunted Photograph" (1911), and Roland Barthes' Camera Lucida (1980). Students can expect to learn more about realism, visual culture studies, and theories of the ordinary.


The House of the Seven Gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne
Uncle Tom's Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe
The Heroic Slave, Frederick Douglass
The Octoroon, Dion Boucicault
Pudd'nhead Wilson, Mark Twain
Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida