SCANDINAVIAN R5B, Section 2: Reading and Composition: Engaging the Document: Non-Fiction in the Arts

TuTh 8-9:30 , 121 Wheeler. Instructor: Ian Thompson

Units: 4

All Reading & Composition courses must be taken for a letter grade in order to fulfill this requirement for the Bachelor’s Degree. This course satisfies the second half or the “B” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement.

What impulse drives us to document the world around us? The urge to inform? To entertain? To agitate? To polemicize? Perhaps, even, all of these at once? This course focuses on this desire, and the manners in which the document is spun to these diverse and self-contradictory ends. In what ways is the document itself formed by its medium? What does the documentarian, whether through film, prose, or photography, hope to capture of the world?

This course investigates the means and methods of representing the world, and what it means to represent within the supposedly neutral realm of documents and facts. We will begin by exploring the photography and essays of Jacob Riis, the famous Danish-American polemicist at the dawn of the era of flash photography, into documentary films Häxan (The Witches) and the Five Obstructions, and ultimately documentary novels, namely Thorkild Hansen’s Islands of Slaves (concerning the Danish west indies) and Per Olov Enqvist’s The Book about Blanche and Marie (detailing the lives of Marie Curie and her close friend and victim of radiation poisoning Blanche Wittman). In each of these diverse works, we explore how a seemingly inert document becomes a creative medium with the very same power to compel as fiction.

Prerequisites: Successful completion of the first half or “A” portion of the Reading and Composition requirement. Students may not enroll nor attend R1B/R5B courses without completing this prerequisite.