Course Description: Of the three kinds of signs (icon, index, symbol), the symbol most clearly separates humans from other animals. Through symboling we construct our social and natural worlds. Why and how this construction process occurs is the overarching thematic question of the course, but it must be approached indirectly. This course intends to investigate more directly, and in seminar mode, the symbolic languages of the body (its parts, products, ornaments, clothes, gestures, and postures, and housing), as well as the languages of space, time, sound, and script). These topics will be discussed particularly as they are interwoven into the major related human concerns of cosmology, religion, and power. The language(s) of iconography, dealing with graphic representations of things and ideas by non-script means, will be dealt with as a parallel concern that can convey information of historical import without the use of writing. Notions of context and universality in symbolism and iconography will be interrogated through specific examples.
No exams: Readings will be assigned as homework for seminar discussion and several short written projects will be required.
Textbooks: packet of readings available from Longhorn Copies
Recommended supplementary reading:
Raymond Firth, Symbols: Public and Private
Francis Huxley, The Way of the Sacred
A. Berger, Signs in Contemporary Culture