Art of the selfie

Though she had never taken one of her own, Professor of Art History Evelyn Staudinger was intrigued when she read a study about the huge number of “selfies”—social media slang for self-portrait—that eighteen to 24-year-olds take these days.

That curiosity helped inspire her new First-Year Seminar, “The Selfie and More, Much More,” which explores famous “selfies” of artists such as Goya and Rembrandt as well as the concept of identity.

“[The class] is about self portraiture and portraiture, but it’s also about how we portray ourselves, how we identify ourselves, and the amount of information that we put out there about ourselves,” said Staudinger, who also holds the Jane E. Ruby Chair in Humanities and Social Sciences.

The class explored those topics through sociological and anthropological readings and looked at a range of artwork through the ages. They also talked about how people are viewed on the Internet and how much information can be gathered about a person just from a self-portrait.

In addition to teaching the students new terms and concepts, Staudinger asked the class to come up with vocabulary terms they felt she should know. Among their choices: on fleek and word.

“One of the most exciting things for me in teaching is not just what can I impart to students but also what can I learn from them,” Staudinger said.

That also meant joining her students in front of the camera.

“The first thing I had to do was to go out and buy this selfie stick, and the second thing we had to do was as a class take a selfie,” she said.

A conversation with… is a video series highlighting the teaching and scholarship of Wheaton College faculty members.