Something to See: War and Visual Media (EAF3515)

StaffDr Debra Ramsay - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level6
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

This module will provide you with an understanding of the role played by media industries and technologies in not just the representation of warfare, but also in way wars are fought and experienced. It will enable you to recognise and evaluate conventions of representation across various media forms and technologies. The nature of the topic involves engaging with approaches in media studies, history, sociology and visual culture, and the module will therefore advance skills in critical analysis by requiring you to synthesize interdisciplinary perspectives. Ultimately, the module aims to provide you with the skills to deconstruct strategies of visual representation, and with the tools to decode media discourse in general.   

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Develop an understanding the key debates relating to the dynamics between war and media both historically and in contemporary conflicts.
  • 2. Apply a range of inter-disciplinary approaches and methods drawn from media studies, history and the social sciences to the analysis of media discourse on war.
  • 3. Demonstrate a historically-based, critical understanding of the impact of digital media and technologies, particularly digital games, on the way current wars are understood and waged.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Demonstrate advanced skills in the research and evaluation of a range of visual media texts, technologies and industries.
  • 5. Utilize a range of primary and secondary material to construct arguments relating to media production and/or content and/or industries.
  • 6. Differentiate between media as history and media history, with an understanding of some of the key issues with historiography.
  • 7. Exhibit an awareness of the relationship between media, culture and politics on a national and international level.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 8. Engage confidently in oral and written communication in seminar work and in written assignments, with an ability to present coherent, balanced arguments.
  • 9. Navigate and effectively synthesize a range of primary and secondary research materials – academic sources, press articles, individual memoirs, ephemera and social media, for example – to inform debate and analysis in written and oral work.
  • 10. Demonstrate technological proficiency by producing and submitting podcasts and/or blogs and/or video essays.
  • 11. In written work, demonstrate advanced competencies in referencing and bibliographic conventions, as well as an ability to write clearly and correctly.

Syllabus plan

Each Block 2-3 weeks.


Block 1 Photography: Power of the Still

This section examines the work of the first war photographers in the Crimean War (1853-1856) and the American Civil War. By looking at the work of, amongst others, Matthew Brady and Alexander Gardner, it identifies the foundations of the aesthetic visual construction of the industrial battlefield and of the soldier, and goes on to explore how these evolve in the photographs of World War I and World War II. Here we’ll examine the rise of the war correspondent and the photojournal, as well as the notion of the iconic photograph. Part of this block will also involve a visit to the Bill Douglas Museum, and an examination of early photographs and technologies associated with war photography.


Block 2 Film: Secret Attractions

This section begins with the earliest records of conflict on film – such as the Greco-Turkish War (1897) and the Spanish-American War (1898), and explores the profound connections between fictional and non-fictional representations of war.  The significance of cinematic spectacle and its relationship to particular moments in the history of the cinema industry is a central theme in this section. It identifies the strategies of representation that shape the visual construction of war in the films of World War I and II, and their relationship to political and ideological contexts, with a specific focus on ‘anti-war’ film and on the use of film as propaganda. It moves on to examine the continuities and differences in war’s visual construction in Western and Non-Western films of current conflicts.


Block 3 Television: War in the Living Room

In this section, we examine television, the medium credited with bringing war ‘into the living room’. As the first ‘television’ war, an examination of the US intervention in Vietnam War (1965-1973) opens this block. This section continues the theme of war as spectacle, and examines the role and purpose of spectacle in the television industry by looking at the notion of event television. Event television is balanced against the rise of the 24 hour news cycle and the accessibility of non-western news channels, and what both signify for the reporting and the understanding of current conflicts.


Block 4: Digital Wars

Digital media are deeply imbricated in the way current wars – variously described as ‘diffused war’, ‘everywhere war’ and ‘asymetrical conflict’, all concepts covered in this section - are waged and represented. This section examines these imbrications, and reflects on what they might mean for the future wars. Digital games feature predominantly here, and this section also considers the implications for the understanding of war when it is translated via a visual technology that introduces the notion of play.

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled11Weekly 1 hr lecture/workshop
Scheduled22Weekly 2 hr seminar
Scheduled44Film screenings
Guided Independent33Study group preparation and meetings
Guided Independent60Seminar preparation (individual)
Guided Independent15Web based activity, including blogs/podcasts
Guided Independent115Reading, research and essay prep

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Long Blog OR Video Essay OR Essay301,500 Words OR 10 minutes1,2,4,5,7,8,9,10Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutor follow up
Group Presentation 2020 minutes1,2,4,5,6,7,8,9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutor follow up
Essay503,000 Words1, 2, 3,4,5, 6,7, 8, 9,11Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutor follow up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Blog OR Video AssessmentEssay 1,500 words1,2,4,5,7,8,9,10Referral/deferral period
Group PresentationEssay 1,500 words1,2,3,4,5,6,7, 8,9,11Referral/deferral period
EssayEssay 3,000 words1, 2, 3,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9,11Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Core Viewing:

J’Accuse (dir. Abel Gance, 1919)

All Quiet on the Western Front (dir. Lewis Milestone, 1930)

The Longest Day (dirs. Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki, 1962)

Saving Private Ryan (dir. Steven Spielberg, 1998)

9th Company (dir. Fedor Bondarchuk, 2005)

Lone Survivor (dir. Peter Berg, 2013)

Kajaki (dir. Paul Katis, 2014)

Restreppo (dirs. Tim Hetherington, Sebastian Junger, 2010)

Band of Brothers (HBO, Playtone, DreamWorks SKG, 2001)

Generation Kill (HBO, 2008)

Our War (BBC3, 2011)

Call of Duty: Black Ops (Activision, 2012) 

Medal of Honor (Electronic Arts, 2010)


Basic reading:


Burgoyne, Robert. The Hollywood Historical Film. Oxford, Blackwell Publishing, 2008. Print.


Edgerton, Gary R. and Peter Rollins, eds. Television Histories: Shaping Collective Memory in the Media Age. Kentucky: The University press of Kentucky, 2001. Press.




Hoskins, Andrew and Ben O’Loughlin. War and Media. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2010. Print.




Huntemann, Nina B. and Matthew Thomas Payne, eds. Joystick Soldiers: The Politics of Play in Military Video Games. New York, NY: Routledge, 2010. Print.




Moeller, Susan D. Shooting War: Photography and the American Experience of Combat. New York: Basic Books, 1989. Print.




Westwell, Guy. War Cinema: Hollywood on the Front Line. London: Wallflower Press, 2006.




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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Web based and electronic resources:

Available as distance learning?


Last revision date