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Final revised syllabus for 350 Photo, a reading course in art issues, taught first semester 1997 at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign by Fred Camper.


January 27: Introductory class; instructor presentation on art and art viewing.

February 3: "Selected Writings" by Dziga Vertov, in P. Adams Sitney, editor, "The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice," pp. 1-13.

Screening at 5:30 PM in 66 Library of "Man with a Movie Camera" (1929) by Dziga Vertov; class discussion to follow in usual room.

February 10: Readings: "The Ontology of the Photographic Image," by André Bazin, from "What is Cinema?," v. 1, trans. Hugh Gray, pp. 9-16;

"An Aesthetic of Reality: Cinematic Realism and the Italian School of the Liberation," by André Bazin, from "What is Cinema," v. 2, trans. Hugh Gray.

Screening at 5:15 PM in 66 Library of "Paisan" (1946), by Roberto Rossellini; class discussion to follow in usual room.

February 17: Reading: "The Theory of Metrical Film," by Peter Kubelka, in P. Adams Sitney, editor, "The Avant-Garde Film: A Reader of Theory and Practice," pp. 139-159.

Three Kubelka films, "Adebar," "Schwechater," and "Unsere Afrikareise," will be screened in class.

February 24: Reading: "The Art Motive in Photography," by Paul Strand, in Vicki Goldberg, editor, "Photography in Print" pp. 276-287; "Leaflet, Written for the Los Angeles Museum," by Edward Weston, in Vicki Goldberg, editor, "Photography in Print," pp. 315-318;

"The Assignment I'll Never Forget," by Dorothea Lange,in Beaumont Newhall, ed., "Photography: Essays and Images," pp. 262-265;

"The Drama of Objects," by Aaron Siskind (distributed in class)

March 3: "What are Masterpieces?" by Gertrude Stein;

"Tender Buttons" by Gertrude Stein.

March 10: "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," by Laura Mulvey, in Patricia Erens, ed., "Issues in Feminist Film Criticism," pp. 28-40

The film "The Scarlet Empress" will be screened in class.

March 17: "Understanding Comics" by Scott McCloud

March 31: "Avant-Garde and Kitsch" by Clement Greenberg.

" Towards a New Laocoon" by Clement Greenberg.

(These are the original versions of these essays, available in his collected essaysand criticism, not the revised versions that appear in "Art and Culture.")

April 7: "What is Postmodernism?" by Charles Jencks, pp. 6--27.

"Photography After Art Photography," by Abigail Solomon-Godeau, c. 1984, in "Art After Modernism: Rethinking Representation," ed. Brian Wallis (1984), pp. 74-85.

April 14: "Reading American Photographs: Images as History, Mathew Brady to Walker Evans," by Alan Trachtenberg (1989), pp. 71-118.

"The Photographic History of the Civil War," ed. Francis Trevelyan Miller (1911), Volume 3, pp. 21-39. [Note: This is not in the course packet because I wanted you to have the opportunity to look at the whole set. The first four volumes of this ten volume work are on reserve for this course at the Undergraduate Library. Later volumes are part of the circulating collection. The original 1911 set is also available at the Rare Book Room, 346 Library. You might want to at least leaf through other volumes to get a sense of what the whole work is like.]

"Chicago: Growth of a Metropolis," ed. Harold M. Mayer and Richard C. Wade, pp. 34-57. [Note: this is also not in the course packet, for the same reason as above. One copy is on reserve for this course in the Map Room, 418 Library. Another copy should be available at the Photo checkout window on the third floor of Art and Design by April 1.]

April 21: "Nature" (1836) by Ralph Waldo Emerson, available in most anthologies of Emerson's writing.

"A Sand County Almanac," by Aldo Leopold (1949), pp. 188-203. [Note: Your course packet will include more pages than this, pp. 188-226. To keep this week's reading manageable I'm only requiring the first three pages of the second essay in this packet, but I wanted you to have all of it to read it if you wish.]

April 28: "Through Navajo Eyes: An Exploration in Film Communications and Anthropology," by Sol Worth and John Adair (1972), pp. 3-20, 31-35, 42-51, 142-155.

May 5: Please read all of your fellow students' Final Projects as posted to First Class.


1. Attendance at all classes, including any film and video screenings.

2. Participation in class discussion.

3. Completion of the assigned weekly readings before the relevant class.

4. Completion and submission of one short paper on each of the weekly readings up until the papers that are due March 8. From the due dates of March 17 through April 26, you must do three of the six papers. The one other stipulation is that for the three weeks between papers due March 15 up until the papers due April 5, you must write at least one paper; that's to protect you from being stuck with doing three papers in a row at the end of the semester. For the weeks between March 17 and April 26 that you don't submit papers, you must submit questions (see item 5 below). If you prefer to submit more papers than required, those will be read and graded and factored into your final grade in a way that can only raise it or leave it unchanged, not reduce it. Thus if you miss one of the earlier papers doing an extra later one will help compensate.

The papers should be 200-1000 words. Each paper must be based on a careful reading of the assigned text(s) for that week, but does not require the reading of other texts. In weeks when there is more than one essay to read, it's fine to concentrate on only one, if one interests you more; you should, though, write at least a sentence or two on the other essays to show that you have read them. If you wish to read other texts, by or about the author of the assigned text or the issues it raises, that's great, but please be sure to attribute any arguments you borrow or any direct quotes. Deliberately borrowing from other writers without citing them is plagiarism.

More to the point, these papers are meant to be your personal reactions to the assigned readings. You should describe what you liked or found important about the reading, or disagree with points made therein, or describe why you didn't like the text. You should try to argue as carefully and logically as you can, but feel free to be personal, to relate the reading to your own views and ideas. Each weekly essay could be somewhere between a paper and a diary entry, but it should be more than a gut reaction. Ask yourself a question such as, "What are the consequences of the position this writer takes for art making?" Try to explain what you mean clearly, with examples when possible. More on what's expected of the papers can be found under GRADING.

These papers are to be filed using the email software First Class by Saturday at 7:00 PM just before the Monday on which reading will be discussed in class. This is meant to be a firm deadline; I, and your fellow students, need time to read them before the Monday class.

You are permitted one paper one week late without penalty. After than, two papers may be up to two weeks late if you send me an email with a valid, though undocumented, excuse, such as illness, personal emergency, or computer failure. After these three latenesses, documentation is needed.

Without a valid excuse, the grades for late papers will be reduced as follows:

A paper filed after 7:00 PM on Saturday will be reduced by 2/3 of a full grade:

A - becomes a B; C+ becomes a C -. However, in some cases you may have later than 7; I usually won't do the grade reducing until I've already begun posting the papers with my comments. But, don't take a chance.

A paper filed after 5:30 PM on the Monday we are to discuss it will be reduced by 1 and 1/3 grade: A- becomes a C +; C + becomes a D.

Papers more than two weeks late will receive no credit without documentation for the lateness.

In the event of some problem with "First Class," please email the paper to me directly.

5. In weeks you don't do a paper, you must post a minimum of one question per essay for class discussion the coming Monday, by the same deadline that the paper is due. This deadline, unlike the paper deadline, will be rigid: If you haven't posted questions by 7 PM Saturday, you have to write a paper.

These questions should either be about things you don't understand in the reading, citing specific passages, or about issues that the text raises that you would like to see us discuss. A question could take the form of a simple disagreement with one of the writer's points, followed by "Who do you agree with?" It could expand on one of the writer's points, and then ask "Do you agree?" Or it could be a question about a particular part of the essay, or about the essay as a whole. The question can be a simple sentence. I'll set it up so that no one can read each others' questions until after 7 PM Saturday, which would mean that if two students have posted the same questions no one will be penalized.

The questions will not be graded, but you have to do one (or more, when there's multiple texts) when you don't do a paper.

6. Before each class, please read as many of other students' papers as possible. I won't require that everyone read all the papers every week; I do require that everyone read many of the papers each week. This should help stimulate discussion.

7. In addition to the ten papers above (none is due, obviously, the first week), two additional projects are required. (There will be no exams in the course.) One additional paper, a "dictionary" paper, is due on one of the first six reading assignments, for the weeks of February 3 through March 10, with the same deadline as the papers in item (4) above. In other words, one week, between weeks two and seven of this class, you will write two papers.

The idea behind the "dictionary" paper is this. You are likely to find some words in the readings that are unfamiliar to you. In all cases, you should look these up in a dictionary. But often a typical dictionary is inadequate. The word in question may be being given an unconventional usage; its meaning in the text may be a bit obscure. Choose one word from any of the readings and look the word up in the complete, multi-volume Oxford English Dictionary (second edition). You should read all the definitions, the etymology, and all the citations (quotations showing how the word was used by other writers) -- in other words, the complete entry for the word. Then choose the definitions and citations (you can also refer to etymology) that seem to best illuminate the way the word is being used in the text, and write a brief paper (this could be as short as 100 words or less), citing the relevant definition and quoting at least one of the citations and explaining how these clarified the meaning of the word for you.

These papers will be graded only pass-fail; that is, a successful paper is necessary to get credit for the course, but will otherwise not affect your grade.

8. A final project is due Saturday, May 3, at 7:00 PM, filed by First Class, or, if for some reason you wish to submit it in a different format (for example, with graphics), in person to me in class on Monday, April 28, or by mail to my PO Box by Friday, May 2 (to be sure of its arrival you will have to send it by overnight mail).

This project should be a short essay on your own work as an artist. If manifesto or polemical in style, it could be as short as 300 words; try to keep its length to 1000-1500 words. In it, you should try to articulate what it is you are doing, and/or hope to do, and why. The readings during the semester should give you some alternative models for how to write about art making. You can refer to specific photographs or art projects you have made, or the writing can be more general and have no examples.

In this regard, you have the option of bringing your art work to class on May 5 and doing short presentations on your work and its relation to your final paper. There likely won't be time for everyone to do this, so as you know you are going to do this for sure, send me an email to that effect, and the receipt of the email will determine the order of the presentations. I don't want to penalize anyone for not doing this, or for trying it and doing a not so great job of it, so one or the other of those won't reduce your grade, but doing a good job of it could potentially raise the "class participation" portion of your grade.

If for some reason you are uncomfortable in doing this, you can try a harder assignment: write a polemical or theoretical argument in favor of an art that does not exist yet. For this, you will have to describe as clearly as you can the kind of work you are calling for.

A third possibility, which requires advance approval from me, is a presentation on another artist whose work you find of interest.


I would prefer, especially in art related courses, to not have to give grades other than pass or fail. Since, however, I do, I intend to take grading relatively seriously. It is not my intention to be "tougher" than usual. On the other hand, I will try to grade according to the care, effort, intelligence, and creativity put into each assignment. Don't worry about "including" all of those each week -- an intelligent but not necessarily "creative" paper would be OK. (However please do try not to be very creative and totally stupid!) How well you argue your position, and how interesting your position is, will be the main factors in grading. Extremely good writing or very poor writing will also have an effect. This isn't a grammar and spelling class, but consistently bad grammar and spelling reduce the elegance of your argument, and could lower your grade. Each paper will be returned with a grade, which will be averaged according to a simple formula (A+ = +12; D- = +1) to determine an overall "paper" grade. The final project will be graded separately. The final grade for the course will be an average of paper grade (weighted 60%), class participation (weighted 20%) and the final project (weighted 20%). However class absences will detract disproportionately from the final grade, and all papers must be completed. No incompletes will be given except in extraordinary circumstances.

Exceptions to the above will be made in the event of documented medical emergencies, documented extreme personal emergencies, or sudden conversions to alternative religions. (And that last clause, beginning "sudden," is an attempt at a joke!)

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