Winter 2019 HC 222H: Alternate Realities and Alternate Selves: Dream Images in Photography and Film

Winter Term, 2018-2019

Professor: Dawn Marlan

4.00 credits

  • CRN 23353: Tuesday & Thursday, 14:00 – 15:20 @ CHA 301
  • CRN 23355: Tuesday & Thursday, 16:00 – 17:20 @ CHA 301

Photographer Cindy Sherman appears as a fake starlet in familiar shots from films that never existed. Victor Diop poses as various, famous diasporic Africans, while simultaneously drawing attention to his “deception.” In the film, Last Year at Marienbad, a man tries to convince a woman with no memory of him that they fell in love the previous year, and in Exterminating Angel, dinner guests are inexplicably unable to leave despite the lack of physical barriers. What these texts share in common is the intellectual uncertainty they produce in the viewer, a confusion about what is real and what is imagined. All of them represent a desire to escape the limitations of identity, selfhood, or the horrors of an unjust world. 

In this course, we will examine various ways of understanding how unconscious desires, anxieties, and ideologies are manifested in the visual realm taking Freud’s theory of “wish fulfillment” and Benjamin’s “optical unconscious” as our points of departure. Focusing on photography and film art, we will explore the ways in which artists dream alternate realities as they register intolerable social, political, and psychic conditions, imagining alternate modes of possibility by challenging traditional, realist narrative structures.