The Face in Culture, Literature, and History I

The face is the cornerstone of the speaking, thinking, and emoting human. It encapsulates an individual's sensory connection to the environment (through seeing, smelling, tasting, hearing, and touching), and is at the intersection of vital physiological processes and sociocultural practices. Through the face, its expressive capacity and the manner in which it is cared for, we attempt to understand what another person is thinking and feeling, and we succeed and fail at this effort to varying degrees and for a multiplicity of reasons. This seminar is dedicated to investigating the complexity of the human face and its extraordinary importance in the physiological, cultural and interactional life of humans. The practice of wearing masks, recently implemented because of the COVID-19 pandemic, intertwines all three parameters. Through paying attention to how literature (rhetorical manuals, narratives, and drama), visual arts (iconography and cinema) and critical fields of inquiry such as anthropology and sociology grapple with this subject, we will attempt in this seminar to gain a deeper understanding of the work the face performs in a variety of instances.