ENG 165 | The Visible Made Verbal: Audio Description across the Arts

2019 Spring

Georgina Kleege & Ariel Baker-Gibbs

Audio Description is a set of practices that seeks to make visual media — the fine arts, theatrical performance, dance, film and video — accessible to people who are blind and visually impaired. Although Audio Description has been around at least since the 1980s it has received little critical scrutiny. Rules and standards have been codified over the years which are often based on a very reductive notion of what blind people can understand about the visible world. 

This course will address the question: is it possible to describe visual media to people who cannot see? But ultimately it will lead to broader questions: are descriptions of visual media written for blind people fundamentally different from descriptions produced for a general audience? How might Audio Description enhance aesthetic experience for everyone?

The course will give students interested in writing about art, theatrical performance, dance, film, and video the opportunity to explore what amounts to an unacknowledged new interpretative literary genre. Students will produce three short writing exercises, such as response pieces to readings or screenings. Students will then design and execute a project to work on for the rest of the semester. Drafts will be rigorously workshopped during class time and the instructors will provide one-to-one feedback in writing and conferences.