From our non-verbal cues in daily conversation to our postures, gaits, facial expressions, and movements, gesture plays a significant role in our daily communications with one another. Whether we are using sign language or watching the unfolding of a graceful développé in ballet, we are tuned in to the ways in which our gestures communicate meaning. The study of gesture is a multidisciplinary effort, as scholars draw on fields as diverse as psychoanalysis, performance studies, dance, neuroscience, anthropology, linguistics, behavioral science, and literary analysis. This course will examine the interpenetrations of gesture with both speech and thought in a series of cultural artifacts, ranging from the silent film comedy of Buster Keaton in The General (1926) and the fiction of Nathanael West and Zadie Smith, to the YouTube videos of Chris Crocker ("Leave Britney Alone!") and the documentaries Paris is Burning (1990) and Rize (2005). What does it mean to study gesture in an interdisciplinary way? What questions do theorists of gesture ask of the literary and cultural artifacts they study? How do gestures amplify our understanding of each other and of literary characters and documentary subjects? Rooted in close reading and analysis, this class will ask students to consider how our movements create meaning and what those meanings suggest about our culture(s) and the other cultures under consideration in the course.
Satisfies a Liberal Studies requirement.