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It's the Freakiest Show: David Bowie's Intertextual Imagination
David Bowie’s career began in the early 60s with a mix of folk, rock, and psychedelia; he then helped define an era with his performance of a gender bending, glam rock alien prior to engaging with German expressionism and minimalist electronic music; in the ‘80s, he brought a generation to the dance floor with chart topping hits before turning to drum ‘n bass and industrial music for inspiration; he finished his life as an enigmatic but engaged artist releasing poignant albums until his death. Through these many transitions, Bowie had a constant – he was a voracious reader – a practice that informed his work throughout his life.
In this class students will explore the place of literature in the work of musician, actor, and visual artist David Bowie. They will consider how Bowie's work embodies, questions, critiques, and engages with “the literary.” This course will focus on the relationship between Bowie's artistic output and work by other artists, both canonical and Avant Garde such as Andy Warhol, Iggy Pop, W.B. Yeats, T.S. Elliot, and William Burroughs. It will involve close readings of song lyrics and comparative reading of albums with literary forms such as the novel, poetry, and critical essay. We will also consider how Bowie's music was fueled by and in turn inspires new relationships between music, literature, cinema, and theater.
Bowie’s work easily adapts from text to other media including film, painting, and theater. Thus, the story of your research will be no exception: in communicating your findings, you will consider how different modes—writing about your work and presenting it orally—give you varied opportunities and means to persuade.
Throughout, students will engage with and apply theories of writing, reading, and authorship and will explore questions of time, place, style, gender, and mortality. In addition to written analytical work, students will produce their own creative projects (poem, short story, song, album cover, etc.) in relation to something they find interesting or inspiring in Bowie’s ouvre. Students will compose in varied modes (speaking, writing, video), in varied situations, and for varied audiences. Doing so, will enable you to explore the interplay between written, oral, and visual forms of communication, learn skills and strategies of oral delivery, and craft messages for both academic and public audiences.
This course fulfills the second-level Writing and Rhetoric Requirement (Write-2) and emphasizes oral and multimedia presentation.