Engl 009H “Portraits of the Artist” — an introduction to literary and cultural studies for first-year students.

Prof. Peter Schmidt

Fall 2018, MWF 8:30 – 9:20am, LPAC 201 (our seminar room)

 English 009H: “Portraits of the Artist.”

We will study a variety of works portraying artists in different cultures and contexts and media, seeking a critical understanding of the different ways in which artists in many different cultures have interacted with their societies. Here are some of the readings/viewings for Fall 2018:

  • Plato’s “Parable of the Cave”;
  • Scheherazade as story-teller (a brief Arabian Nights sampling, using a fine new translation in which this famous heroine is called Shadrazad);
  • Edwidge Danticat’s portrait of the artist in her essay “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work”;
  • An introduction to the art of Mary Lee Bendolph and the Gee’s Bend African American quilting tradition in Alabama (special materials arranged by the Department of Art and the List Gallery)
  • Mozart (as portrayed in the Oscar-winning movie Amadeus);
  • Two witty short plays by the comedian Steve Martin—Patter for the Floating Lady and Picasso at the Lapin Agile;
  • The documentary Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision, plus (for comparison/contrast) two pieces on the rise of Awkwafina
  • Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being (2013);
  • Tony Kushner’s epic play Angels in America Parts I and II
  • Sandra Cisneros’ portrait of the artist as a young woman, “Little Miracles, Kept Promises”
  • Listen to and discuss the song “Breathe,” from Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony award-winning musical In the Heights (2008). YouTube.
  • … and concluding with some awesome recent music videos by Donald Glover (Childish Gambino’s This Is America) and Janelle Monáe, Dirty Computer.


Also to be assigned are selected background and critical materials, including the Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat’s essay “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work.”

Considerable time will be devoted to improving each student’s analytical writing and discussion skills. The class typically a wide variety of students, with potential natural science and social science majors definitely represented, as well as those leaning towards a major in the humanities.

Open only to first-year students. Writing course. 1 credit.




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