Selfies Old and New: The Self-Portrait in Visual Art & Poetry

Course Code: 
ENLT 2555
Lisa Spaar

We live in an age of easy and ubiquitous self-portrayal.  Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, YouTube, and other digital and cellular "galleries" allow a protean array of venues in which to post, curate, manipulate, and remove visual images and verbal profiles of "the self ' with what seems like a faster than real-time alacrity.  This proliferation of self-portraiture is so rampant that it's possible for viewers and readers to become inured to its magic, craft, and power. Since antiquity, literary and visual artists have depicted themselves in their productions, a fascination that has continued unabated into the twenty-first century, spurred by advances in photography, imaging, digitalization, communication, information systems, and the widespread availability of the Internet.  In this course we will look at the "selfie" from antiquity to the present, in poetry (from Sappho to Charles Wright and Kendrik Lamar) and visual art (from early Egyptian art through Rembrandt, Diirer, Vigee-Lebrun, Kahlo, Van Gogh, Picasso, Munch, _Sherman, Bacon, Morimura, and others). We will visit the Fralin Museum of Art and Local art galleries, make forays into the Studio Art and Drama departments, be visited by poets, artists and others, and in general explore what we can learn from our human fascination with self-portrayal and our compulsion to turn it into art.