ARAB 403
Beyond the Letter: Visual Culture in the Arabic-Speaking World Fall 2023
Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
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Class Details

Whereas poetry has been historically celebrated as the defining form of an “authentic” Arab culture from the pre-Islamic world to the present, visual culture, such as paintings, sculptures, installations, videoart, and photography, among others, has been relegated to the contemporary, the modern, the Westernized, and thereof, a representation of a less “authentic” Arab culture. In this course, we will challenge this false dichotomy by examining a variety visual culture artifacts from the Arabic-speaking world. Although the scope of our discussion will be limited to works from the 19th century to the present, our questions will investigate the deep roots of visual art in the Arabic-speaking world. We will also examine the work of poets-painters, such as Jabra Ibrahim Jabra and Etel Adnan that expanded from Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq to the United States, the manifestos of the Arab Surrealist Movement in Cairo in the 1930s, the Baghdad Modern Art Group in the 1950s and more recent works by individual artists navigating post-modern aesthetics, and dystopian futures, including Radia Bent Lhoucine, Amina Zoubair, Sophia Al-Maria and Juamana Manna, among others. In discussing these works, we will reflect on political and social events that shaped the production of visual culture in the Arabic-speaking world from the Gulf to the Maghreb. In addition to reading artists statements, exhibition reviews, art magazines and museum brochures that speak to the alphabet of visual culture, we will listen to interviews and watch short clips. In the process, we will active advanced grammar and vocabulary skills and employ paralinguistic analysis. The course is taught in Arabic.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 10
Expected: 7
Class#: 1175
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: Active in-class participation; active participation in discussion forums on GLOW; weekly writing assignments of 2-3pages; two in-class presentations; a final 10-pages essay.
Prerequisites: ARAB 302
Enrollment Preferences: ARBIC
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
WS Notes: Students will write 2-3 pages weekly and will produce a 10-pages essay at the end of the course. They will also provide written feedback to in-class presentations and online discussions. The writing assignments will involve working with several drafts, revisions, and regular annotations of artwork.
DPE Notes: This course is motivated by addressing the power dynamics between art forms in the Arabic-speaking world (poetry versus visual culture). It also explores the intersection of gender, ethnicity, and access to different expressions and venues of art and art production.

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