The Course


Athanasius Kircher, Aeolian harp, from Phonurgia nova, p. 144 (1673). Courtesy of Stanford University.

Breathing Matters: Poetics and Politics of Air

Winter 2016, Wednesdays 3-6p, Gray Center Lab in Midway Studios, 929 E. 60th St.

Offered through the Department of English / ENGL 35110 & 25110

Cross-listed with the Department of Visual Arts / ARTV 30020 & 20020

Instructors: Jennifer Scappettone and Caroline Bergvall, with the participation of Judd Morrissey

The participants in this collaboratively led teaching laboratory will be asked to re-examine the notion of “inspiration” in its aesthetic and historical senses, revisiting textual and arts practices based on tropes of channeling, dreamwork, revelation and possession as well as current practices based on performative, coded, embodied and/or eco-conscious notions of circulation, interconnection, transformation and receptivity (and their occlusion: choking, expulsing, forced absorption). We will explore the interdependence of inhalation and exhalation as a guide to art methods built on conscious mind-body traditions, on poetics of critical voicing and unvoicing, and on analog and digital mechanisms for receiving, translating, and transmitting im/pulses and data. We will delve into the workings of air as an animating element that bridges and binds individuals to both internal and external forces. We will explore the long history of engagement with this element as it has been used to signify and enhance the circulation and interception of signs, dreams, and voices in literature, performance, audiovisual and electronic media, sculptural and architectural sites. We will examine the modern and contemporary politicization of air as a commons, and will apply forensic research and sensing technologies to the analysis and critique of industrial and post-industrial landscapes. The imagination of air itself becomes relevant to thinking about utopian or dystopian collectivities. Students will have the chance to respond to each set of materials with their own collaboratively produced works, which will be offered up for group discussion. We welcome students from the literary and visual arts, performance studies, film and media studies, as well as those with an interest in translation, linguistics, sociology, and anthropology. Sporadic excursions and film screenings will form part of the course, and students should be prepared to make time for them.

To join the course, please submit a brief statement of interest to Leslie Danzig, Gray Center Curator.

The Instructors

Caroline Bergvall: carolinebergvall.com

Judd Morrissey: judisdaid and atom-r.

Jennifer Scappettone:  Oikost and University of Chicago's Department of English.