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2014 PIIRS Global Seminars

A Land of Light and Shadows: Modern Greek Literature and Photography

Athens, Greece, June 16 - July 25, 2014

Pile of bousouki in Athens, Greece  Paradise  Acropolis theater  Greek tavern, Athens, Greece  Parthenon Without Scaffolds  The Theater of Herod Atticus

"A Land of Light and Shadows: Modern Greek Literature and Photography," will be held in Athens, Greece, from June 16 – July 25, 2014. The course is taught by Eduardo Cadava, professor of English.

Since its advent in the19th century, photography has been a privileged figure in literature's efforts to reflect upon its own modes of representation. This seminar will trace the history of the rapport between literature and photography by looking closely at a number of literary and theoretical texts that differently address questions central to both literature and photography: the nature of representation, reproduction, memory, history, perception, and knowledge.Beginning with texts by Nadar and Charles Baudelaire, and with Jacques Derrida’s beautiful meditation on Jean-François Bonhomme’s photographs of Athens, the seminar will attempt to delineate this constellation of questions and then, using this set of questions as a kind of frame or lens, it will trace the ways in which Greek photographers; the modern Greek poets George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis, Andreas Embirícos, and Yannis Ritsos; and the Canadian poet Anne Carson reflect on the relation between Greece and photography. The course is interested in the ways in which these photographers and writers repeatedly evoke the language of photography to talk about the nature of memory and perception and to suggest that photography provides an entire vocabulary for what Marcel Proust called "the optics of the mind": the flashes of insight and intuition, the light and shadows that enable and interrupt perception, the workings of memory as it tries to seize or fix an image, and in general the various ways in which we perceive or represent the world around us.

Greece is a uniquely rich site for these explorations. It is perhaps one of the most visited and photographed countries in the world. The word “photography” is an entirely Greek word, literally referring to the “writing of light,” and the singular light and landscape that characterize Greece make it a spectacular place for thinking about what it means to create with light. If all photography belongs to the sun, we could even say that it must belong to Greece. Visiting Delphi, the site of the Oracle of Apollo, the god of the Sun, Mycenae, the mythical birthplace of Greek literature, and the island of Crete, where Greek history and geology encounter each other, students will be able to see the light and landscape that inspired these extraordinary literary texts and indeed without which they could not be what they are. Students will also visit several of the many exquisite photography collections in Athens, including those in the Benaki Museum and in the George Seferis photographic archive, and  will have the opportunity to access these collections for their own research. Excursions include visits to the Acropolis, the Cycladic and Archaeological Museums, the Kerameikos Cemetery, and a number of other sites that are referenced in the materials discussed in class. Students also will have opportunities to interact with renowned Greek photographers and to enroll in weekly photography  workshops. There will also be daily instruction in modern Greek.
The course fulfills the Literature and the Arts (LA) requirement and counts as an elective for the Certificate in Hellenic Studies. It is open to freshmen, sophomores, and juniors. Admission is by application and interview.
Throughout the Aspire campaign, which ended June 30, 2012, a number of alumni and friends generously supported the PIIRS Global Seminars.

The 2014 PIIRS Global Seminar in Greece is cosponsored with the Seeger Center for Hellenic Studies.

November 20, 2013
219 Aaron Burr Hall
5:30-7 p.m.
Pizza will be served

February 10, 2014
5 p.m.

February 2014
Information Session
Interviews Begin

March 2014
Acceptance Deadline


Pre-Departure Orientation Meeting


Kathleen Allen, Administrator
PIIRS Global Seminar in Greece
210B Aaron Burr Hall