Spring Semester 2010 | Wednesdays 3:50-6:50 p.m. | Harriman 218 (Solzberg Library)

   Office: Harriman Hall 203 - Office Telephone: (631) 632-7592; <>

   Office Hours: Wednesdays - 2:00 - 3:30 and by appointment

   Hugh J. Silverman, Professor of Philosophy, and Comparative Literary and Cultural Studies



 How can postmodern theories address the relationship between texts and images?  When postmodern theorists and philosophers write about paintings, or other images, they are sometimes fascinated with the inscription of text in the visual image, or text accompanying an image, or the incorporation of writing as an image in a painting, photograph, film, or on a body.  The postmodern theoretical or philosophical text that comments upon or explores the meaning, signs, or implications of the relationship between texts and visual images raises important questions about the status and role of writing, inscription, textuality, even the body. 

Haas Haus (Hans Hollein)  Vienna City Centre


This course will explore various postmodern theories as they link to phenomenological, semiological, hermeneutic, deconstructive, and other contemporary continental philosophies and theories, with emphasis on their account of the relationships between texts and images.


We shall consider mostly paintings and drawings, but also films and photographs.  Readings will be selected from the writings of Roland Barthes on Cy Twombly, Michel Foucault on Velasquez and Rene Magritte, Louis Marin on Carravaggio and Nicholas Poussin , Jacques Derrida on Vincent Van Gogh and Valerio Adami, Jean-Francois Lyotard on  Barnett Newman, Gilles Deleuze on Francis Bacon, Jean-Luc Nancy on Christian Painting and Artemisia Genitileschi, and Peter Greenaway on his own films (especially The Pillow Book).


PURPOSE:   Designed as an introduction to contemporary postmodern theories of the arts, and how to think the arts and culture, society, and politics today in the context of various different postmodernisms.



·         Each student is expected to attend class regularly. There will be four 10-15 minute unannounced quizzes at the beginning of class (only three will count but students must take all the quizzes in order to have the lowest scores dropped). 

·         There will be a take-home mid-term and a final exam covering the whole semester.

·         Each student is to write one paper (about 5-7 pages in length).  The paper should show how two different postmodern theories can be applied to the reading of a literary, pictorial, musical, or dramatic text, a film, a photograph, etc. The task will be to show how the two different postmodern theories come into agreement or disagreement on how to understand or read the text  in question, and correspondingly what are the differences between the theories themselves.

·         Each member of the class will prepare a protocol for one of the seminar sessions.  The person responsible for a particular week will write up an account of what transpired in class the previous week and will make a copy available to each of the members of the seminar prior to the beginning of class. The protocol for a particular week will be discussed at the outset of the seminar.  This will give everyone an opportunity to review what transpired in the previous session and to raise any lingering issues or topics that were not sufficiently treated when first presented. It will also be a lasting document for the course participants.


GRADING:  The mid-term, the paper, and the final exam will each count 25%. The 3 quiz scores will be 15%.  The additional 10% will result from the quality (not quantity) of class participation, attendance, and the protocol.   Each student will be expected to read the material assigned for the indicated date and come prepared to discuss the texts in class.




   DATE              TOPIC / FIGURE                                                                       READING                                                                                                    PROTOCOL   


Feb 2

Introduction:            Postmodern Theory

                                   Avant-Garde / Postmodern

                                   Text / Image in the Postmodern

Feb 9

Roland Barthes


The Responsibility of Forms  (1964-79)

“Rhetoric of the Image” (1964), “Is Painting a Language?” (1969), Cy Twombly: Works on Paper” (1979), “The Wisdom of Art” (1979).



Feb 16

Roland Barthes


The Responsibility of Forms

“Rhetoric of the Image” (1964), “Is Painting a Language?” (1969),

Cy Twombly: Works on Paper” (1979), “The Wisdom of Art” (1979).



Feb 23

Michel Foucault (1926-80)

 “The Prose of the World”

from The Order of Things (1966)

This is Not a Pipe (1968)



Mar 2

Michel Foucault

This is Not a Pipe (1968)


Mar 9

Louis Marin


To Destroy Painting (1977)


Mar 16

Jacques Derrida:

(1930-2004)                       (1930-2004)

The Truth in Painting              (1978)   

“Passe-Partout,” “+R”


Mar 23

Jacques Derrida:


The Truth in Painting              (1978)



Mar 30

Jean-François Lyotard


Postmodernism Explained (1982-85)


Apr 6

Jean-François Lyotard


The Inhuman           (1980-89)

“The Avant-Garde and the Sublime” (1983-85)

“Newman: The Instant” (1985)



Apr 13*               

Jean-François Lyotard


The Inhuman           (1980-89)

 “Representation, Presentation, Unrepresentable” (1988),  “After the Sublime, the State of Aesthetics” (1987)



Apr 20




Apr 27

Gilles Deleuze


Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981)


May 4

Gilles Deleuze


Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981)


May 11

Jean-Luc Nancy (1940 -)

The Ground of the Image (2003)




Barthes   The Responsibility of Forms ( 1982)

Foucault  This is not a Pipe (1968 )

Marin      To Destroy Painting (1977)

Derrida    The Truth in Painting (1978)

Lyotard    Postmodernism Explained  (1982-85)

Lyotard    The Inhuman (1980-89)

Deleuze   Francis Bacon: The Logic of Sensation (1981)

Nancy      The Ground of the Image (2003)

Greenaway  “The Pillow Book”

Recommended readings:

Hugh J. Silverman, Textualities: Between Hermeneutics and Deconstruction (Routledge)

Hans Bertens and Joseph Natoli (eds), Postmodernism: Key Figures (Blackwell)

Hugh J. Silverman (ed):

·         Postmodernism—Philosophy and the Arts (Routledge)

·         Derrida and Deconstruction            (Routledge)

·         Cultural Semiosis            (Routledge)

·         Lyotard: Philosophy, Politics and the Sublime  (Routledge)





Americans with Disabilities Act:

If you have a physical, psychological, medical or learning disability that may impact your course work, please contact Disability Support Services, ECC (Educational Communications Center) Building, room128, (631) 632-6748. They will determine with you what accommodations, if any, are necessary and appropriate. All information and documentation is confidential.


Academic Integrity:

Each student must pursue his or her academic goals honestly and be personally accountable for all submitted work. Representing another person’s work as your own is always wrong. Faculty are required to report any suspected instances of academic dishonesty to the Academic Judiciary.  Faculty in the Health Sciences Center (School of Health Technology & Management, Nursing, Social Welfare, Dental Medicine) and School of Medicine are required to follow their school-specific procedures.  For more comprehensive information on academic integrity, including categories of academic dishonesty, please refer to the academic judiciary website at


Critical Incident Management:

Stony Brook University expects students to respect the rights, privileges, and property of other people. Faculty are required to report to the Office of Judicial Affairs any disruptive behavior that interrupts their ability to teach, compromises the safety of the learning environment, or inhibits students’ ability to learn.  Faculty in the HSC Schools and the School of Medicine are required to follow their school-specific procedures.