305 – The Ethics of Vision

Ken Koltun-From
Haverford College
Gest 201
Office hours: Monday, 4-5
610-896-1026 (office), 610-645-8324 (home)

Seminar in Religion, Ethics and Society
Fall, 2010
Monday 1:30-4
Founders 032


This class will explore the intersections between vision and ethics in religious culture.  The course will be divided into three sections: 1) readings of theoretical material in visual studies; 2) readings of religious texts that articulate an ethics of vision; and 3) student work on research projects.


Preparation for class discussions is required and necessary. You should be fully prepared to engage the reading and visual material in class, and offer reflective comments upon the assignments and the ideas of others. A seminar at this level demands student leadership and strong presence in class discussions. To help in this preparation, one student will begin each class discussion by focusing on a particular issue, image, problem, concern, or question regarding that week’s assignment. This should be a 15 minute presentation of a provocative thesis designed to spur class discussion. I will ask each student to sign up for individual class presentations.

Student research for this seminar will consist of three related projects: 1) two five-page reflection papers to be discussed in class during the “research workshop” sessions; 2) a fifteen page final paper that relates your research area to methodological issues discussed in class; and 3) a web-page (designed with Apple iWeb) that offers a visual presentation and analysis of your research paper.  Your final paper and website will be due at the end of finals period (12:00 Noon, Friday December 17, 2010).  Late papers or websites will be marked down accordingly.


Your final grade will be based on your engagement in class discussions, your reflection papers, and the quality and cogency of your final projects. I do not evaluate each task with percentage accuracy (your final paper is not worth, say, 30% of your grade, for example), but instead examine all your work as a piece. I seek to provide a grade that fairly expresses the work and attention rendered to the class assignments, your peers in class, and your class participation.

Students who think they may need accommodations in this course because of the impact of a disability are encouraged to meet with me privately early in the semester. Students should also contact Rick Webb, Coordinator, Office of Disabilities Services (rwebb@haverford.edu, 610-896-1290) to verify their eligibility for reasonable accommodations as soon as possible. Early contact will help to avoid unnecessary inconvenience and delays.

Texts for Purchase

  • Martin Jay, Downcast Eyes
  • Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
  • Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer
  • David Morgan, The Sacred Gaze
  • Jean-Luc Marion, The Crossing of the Visible
  • Michael Wyschogrod, The Body of Faith
  • Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz, The Colors of Jews


  • 8/30 – Introduction to Class
  • 9/6 – Labor Day (reschedule class) Jay, Downcast Eyes, Introduction and Chapters 1-2
  • 9/13 – Jay, Downcast Eyes, Chapters 4, 7-8, 10
  • 9/20 – Barthes, Camera Lucida
  • 9/27 – Crary, Techniques of the Observer
  • 10/4 – Morgan, The Sacred Gaze, 1-146
  • 10/11 – Fall Break; No class
  • 10/22 – Research Workshop in Magill Library, Philips Wing (9-10:30 am)
  • 9-10 – James Gulick presentation
  • 10-10:30 – Jen Rajchel presentation
  • 10/25 – Visit to Mütter Museum (leave Haverford 2pm)
  • 11/1 – Marion, The Crossing of the Visible
  • 11/8 – Wyschogrod, The Body of Faith, Chapters 1-3
  • 11/15 – Kaye/Kantrowitz, The Colors of Jews, Chapters 1-3, 6
  • 11/22 – Research Workshop
  • 11/29 – Student Presentations
  • 12/6 – Student Presentations
  • 12/17 – Final Projects Due at Noon