What aspects of your identity does your face carry or express, and how do we form attachments not only to our own face, but to other faces through photographs, paintings, avatars, even through emoji? This course explores aesthetic, philosophical, and ethical theories about human faces as markers of identity, carriers of cultural information, and objects of a variety of historically-situated reading practices.

We will take up case studies of faces in specific contexts (e.g. in portraiture, in racial science, in personal narratives). We will consider the ethical hold of the human face alongside studies of it – aesthetic, scientific, philosophical, criminlogical. We will think about how “faciality” operates in terms of race, gender, and class, as well as over and against animal life forms. We will look at specific faces that become stand-ins for ideas themselves – that is, icons. We will also think about the limits of “faciality” – i.e. at what point is a face not a face?

Throughout the course we will turn to the collections of the Princeton Art Museum to work with objects from various time periods, traditions, and mediums to consider how visual art itself thematizes and theorizes the processes through which we come to “read” faces.

Course Etiquette: All students are expected to uphold the highest levels of academic honesty and integrity. Any student who does not adhere to the University’s policy will be held responsible. Cell phones and handheld devices are not allowed during class. Please put all devices on silent before you arrive. Laptops may be used only for the purpose of taking notes or accessing online material specified by the professor. Out of respect for your instructor and fellow students, please do not check e-mail or go to any non-course website during class.

Course Requirements

1) Attendance and Participation: Students are expected to attend every class, to complete all assigned reading, and to be prepared to regularly participate in discussion. Arriving on time to class means being seated and ready to take notes before the instructor begins. More than one unexcused absence will adversely affect a student’s attendance and participation grade. In the event of an illness, students should have their doctors/health clinic/dean write/send a note.

2) Reading: Almost all our readings are available through Blackboard, through the course website, or on reserve at Firestone. You will only need to purchase one book for this course, in an effort to create and invest in ours as an equitable space for learning. The book to purchase is Ruth Ozeki’s Face: A Time Code. It will be available at Labyrinth Books, or wherever you prefer to buy your books.

3) Reading, Seeing, Writing: A Collective Journal: A main component of the class will be a collective online journal. Each week, students will use the online journal as a space to reflect with one another on the readings, images, and in-class discussions. Each week students are required to post on the online journal two different times. The posts should range in length from 300-500 words. For the first post, before class, students will write analytical meditations on the readings, including generating questions about the readings, some of which they will share in class. Students should actively respond to their classmates’ postings when appropriate. After each class, students will write a second, additional response to our discussion in class. In addition to these twice-a-week readerly reflections, students will be prompted to describe and respond to images in the online collective journal in class. This means that students should have their laptops with them for every class. The online collective journal will be evaluated for student participation every few weeks. The professor will make a grading rubric available for these posts. Students are allowed to pick one week that they do not complete this assignment.

4) Presentations: Each student will offer one 5-7 minute presentation about the readings for the week at the beginning of a class of their choosing. One presentation per student is required. We will choose these on the first day of class. For the presentation, a student does not have to talk about every reading for the week, but should try to focus their comments and provide helpful questions to start us off, perhaps bouncing off of some of their classmates’ contributions in the collective journal.

5) Final Project: As a capstone course, students will be expected not only to become proficient in the analytic tools and subject matter presented over the course of the semseter, but to extend beyond and be able to create with and apply those tools. For this class, we will be experimenting with podcasts in order to triangulate with our written (journals) and visual (museum) work, and with our in-person seminar conversations. The form of the podcast means that students will be responsible for processing and synthesizing material in order to make it both accessible and appealing or interesting to a more general audience.

Students are encouraged to create a fictional scenario in which faciality is playing a key role on campus or in society. They might choose, just to name a few possible options, a situation of national security, of identifying lost family members, of forging relationship with the natural world, of an artist’s work in questioning identity, of criminality, of mistaken identity. Students will have to think critically not only about the material they wish to present, but also the form that their podcast will take and so the appropriate conventions to which their podcast will be responding: is this a humorous podcast, is it educational, journalistic, in popular culture, politics, etc.?

Students will research and write their podcasts on their own over the course of the semester. On November 12th, students will attend an extended workshop at the Digital Media Lab in the Lewis Science Library that will help them understand how to use podcast recording software. These podcast projects will serve the dual role of critical reflection and critical creation.

Proposals for students’ final projects are due November 19th. Proposals should be no more than 2pp double-spaced, and include 1. Tentative title 2. Genre of podcast 3. Podcast concept 4. Course materials to be engaged.

Podcasts will be between seven and ten minutes in length. They should be no longer than ten minutes. Podcasts will be graded based on the level of critical engagement with the materials from the class and the level of craftsmanship displayed in its expressions, no matter the genre. A grading rubric will be made available to students in advance of their due date.

In addition, each student will submit a 3-5 pp critical essay about both the writing and creation of the podcast and its critical successes and failures as an object of intellectual and aesthetic value. The essay should engage the choices they made in light of and in conversation with our readings. This final assignment will assess students’ mastery of the multi-disciplinary material and perspectives in the course as well as their ability to think beyond the course to create an engaging and popularly accessible critical argument of their own (understanding that a story can be an argument). Students should be able to explain their choices – of genre, mode, mood, theoretical influence, etc.. Podcasts and final papers are due on Dean’s Date, January 16.

Grading: To receive full credit, all assignments must be turned in on time. Extensions will only be granted under emergency circumstances. Without an approved extension, late assignments will be marked down.

  • Class Participation: 25%
  • Journal: 20%
  • Presentation: 15%
  • Final project: 40% (5% Proposal, 25% final podcast, 10% critical reflection)