Narrative Silences: Literature, Film, and Book Arts

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Fall 2017
Winter 2018
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

book arts, literature, creative writing
writing, comparative literature, film and visual culture

"Every word", in the world of one of Samuel Beckett's characters, "is an unnecessary stain on silence and nothingness." In this program, we'll encounter silence in a variety of practices: literature, film, and book arts. Students will practice creative writing and create their own artful books in response to program content and as their own play with the formal and intellectual uses of silence as a theme in narrative arts. We'll spend fall quarter developing a sense of the uses of silence in art from various artists, times, and places. Students will develop creative writing and book arts skills on studio days, while discussions, lecture, essay projects, and workshops will hone our critical and interpretive work with texts, films, objects, writing, and images.  In the winter, as we deepen our inquiry through seminar, we'll strengthen the emphasis on student creative practice in a chosen medium—either creative writing or book arts. Students will also complete substantial critical essays on a chosen work, artist, or theme. 

The overarching emphasis of the program is on careful work with aesthetic objects through informed interpretive work, creative practice, and scholarly writing. Silence is the impossible background of life's foreground, the quiet invisibility behind art's clamoring and brightness; for some, it's an inviting negation or undoing of form that might hide some neutral point from which the "something instead of nothing" of existence might be re-thought. For others, it’s a means to explore the limits of language and power, an invitation to rethink what is meant by agency and voice, to expose if not estrange from, various forms of cultural, linguistic, and political silencing. Similarly, silence can manifest as resistance, a withholding or inactivity or profound disengagement from overwhelming systems, a defiant "I prefer not to." Artistic works— visual, audio, or verbal—that deal metaphorically or directly with silence are never, in fact, silent, but surround, evoke, or confront silence's creative power, sometimes by leaving the audience in the silence of the incomprehensible.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in: art, literature, writing, film studies

Online learning:
  • Enhanced Online Learning - This offering requires access to web-based tools, but use of these tools does not displace any face-to-face instruction.

Scheduled for: Day

Located in: Olympia

Final schedule and room assignment:


Advertised schedule:

First class meeting: Monday, September 25 at 10am (Sem II B1107)