HAA 276 - The Graphic Method: Recording the Body in Line, Film, and Flame





Jennifer Roberts

Thursdays, 3:00 pm - 5:45 pm


Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century and coalescing in the work of French polymath Étienne-Jules Marey, scientists worked systematically to develop methods of detecting and recording the elusive, invisible motions of living bodies. Hoping to penetrate the ephemeral secrets of vitality itself, they devised instruments that allowed the body to “write” its own signatures directly, usually as waveforms or photographic traces in time. The “Graphic Method” (the term was coined by Marey) is best known within art history for its central role in the development of chronophotography and cinema in the work of Marey and Eadweard Muybridge. But it had a much wider range of applications and implications: for example, it was synonymous with the development of dynamic medical imaging (the cardiograph was Marey’s invention) and sound recording (the phonograph is a graphic trace of a sound wave). By the early twentieth century, the graphic method seemed to have disturbed every existing model of time, form, and expression in the humanities and sciences. And it had a long and continuing impact on modern and contemporary art. This course is designed for graduate students and advanced undergraduates. It will begin with a close look at Marey’s work, then move to a thematic format. The course readings and discussions will focus primarily on the period from 1870-1920, but student research projects may address more recent works of art and visual culture.