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On Writing with Photography By Karen Beckman

On Writing with Photography by Karen Beckman

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On Writing with Photography Summary

On Writing with Photography by Karen Beckman

From James Agee to W. G. Sebald, there has been an explosion of modern documentary narratives and fiction combining text and photography in complex and fascinating ways. However, these contemporary experiments are part of a tradition that stretches back to the early years of photography. Writers have been integrating photographs into their work for as long as photographs have existed, producing rich, multilayered creations; and photographers have always made images that incorporate, respond to, or function as writing. On Writing with Photography explores what happens to texts-and images-when they are brought together.

From the mid-nineteenth century to the present, this collection addresses a wide range of genres and media, including graphic novels, children's books, photo-essays, films, diaries, newspapers, and art installations. Examining the works of Herman Melville, Don DeLillo, Claude McKay, Man Ray, Dare Wright, Guy Debord, Zhang Ailing, and Roland Barthes, among others, the essays trace the relationship between photographs and "reality" and describe the imaginary worlds constructed by both, discussing how this production can turn into testimony of personal and collective history, memory and trauma, gender and sexuality, and ethnicity.

Together, these essays help explain how writers and photographers-past and present-have served as powerful creative resources for each other.

Contributors: Stuart Burrows, Brown U; Roderick Coover, Temple U; Adrian Daub, Stanford U; Marcy J. Dinius, DePaul U; Marianne Hirsch, Columbia U; Daniel H. Magilow, U of Tennessee, Knoxville; Janine Mileaf; Tyrus Miller, U of California, Santa Cruz; Leah Rosenberg, U of Florida; Xiaojue Wang, U of Pennsylvania.

About Karen Beckman

Karen Beckman is Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Professor of Cinema and Modern Media in the Department of the History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. She is author of Vanishing Women: Magic, Film, and Feminism and Crash: Cinema and the Politics of Speed and Stasis.

Liliane Weissberg is Christopher H. Browne Distinguished Professor in Arts and Sciences and Professor of German and Comparative Literature.

Table of Contents




Karen Beckman and Liliane Weissberg

1. From the Birth of Photography to the Death of the Author

Marcy J. Dinius

2. Picturing the Great Unknown: John Wesley Powell and the Divergent Paths of Art

and Science in the Representation of the Colorado River and Utah Canyonlands

Roderick Coover

3. "Watch How Dem Touris' Like Fe Look": Tourist Photography and Claude McKay's


Leah Rosenberg

4. Captured Things: Man Ray's Object Photography

Janine Mileaf

5. Photography's Linguistic Turn: On Werner Graeff's Here Comes the New


Daniel H. Magilow

6. The Power of What Is Not There: James Agee's Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

Stuart Burrows

7. Playing Doll

Liliane Weissberg

8. Situating Images: Photography, Writing, and Cinema in the Work of Guy Debord

Tyrus Miller

9. The Generation of Postmemory

Marianne Hirsch

10. Picturing the Specter of History: Zhang Ailing's Visual Practice

Xiaojue Wang

11. Sphinxes without Secrets: W. G. Sebald's Albums and the Aesthetics of

Photographic Exchange

Adrian Daub

12. Nothing to Say: The War on Terror and the Mad Photography of Roland Barthes

Karen Beckman

Additional information

On Writing with Photography by Karen Beckman
University of Minnesota Press
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