Art 231 & Humanities 233, Investigating Identity: the Self and the Selfie

Taught in collaboration by Profs. Liesl Allingham and Pradip Malde

The contemporary understanding of the self as overlapping and intersecting social identities may not be true. This course questions assumptions about identity by tracing constructions of the self through textual and visual material. Students investigate texts, works of art, and other lens-based images that consider autobiography, memoir, portraiture, and self-portraiture. GE: G2 and G3. The courses will fulfill requirements in the Humanities minor.

The study of the self is challenging and often highlights ethical issues further complicated by the processes of critical thinking, of making, and of being in varying environments. Students should expect to be challenged by the course’s content: along with the demands of connecting the philosophic and psychological with the day-to-day and broader environmental and social matters, the class also studies and looks at emotionally difficult material, some of it of a private nature. All such work touches on the human condition, and the social and physical environments that shape our condition. Our study includes personal narratives, and consequently requires attention and sensitivity to the subject/object relationship. To prepare for such challenges, students study exemplary works, put into practice core theoretical, visual and technical processes, improve listening and communication skills that are so important in building meaningful relationships, collaborate with peers and beyond, learn to work empathetically, and express understandings of particular issues in relation to systemic patterns.

Primary course objectives

The first objective of this course is for you to arrive at a greater understanding of different concepts of the self and identity, both visually and theoretically. This will be done through discussions of the assigned readings, familiarity with the language of photography, and how they relate to your experience as a “self”. The second objective of this course is for you to produce a collection of textual and photographic work that frames your sense of self—one that places an expression of your self in direct dialogue with concepts of the self and identity, and for which you have an articulate, reflective essay outlining your choices.

What this course will do for you

We anticipate that you will: (1) Gain an understanding of central processes, concepts and theoretical considerations of self and identity; (2) Examine the merits and demerits of different methodologies that are used to express and clarify complicated and abstract ideas (i.e., understand what is gained from introspection, theory-building, observation, experimentation, creation); (3) Develop expertise in a specific domain of interest related to self and identity; (4) Improve your scholarly writing skills; (5) Acquire a deep understanding of photographic literacy; and (6) Become comfortable utilizing new technologies to present your work and engage with a broader community of thinkers and producers.


Please go to each assignment page for more details. Assignments and Projects will make the following proportions of the final grade:

Attendance and Participation: 15%

9-panel Self Portrait: 10%

Secret Assignments: 20%

(Group) Unit Summary: 5%

Unit Reflection: 30%

Capstone Project and Book: 15%

Final:  5%