Introducing Visual Culture (AHV1001)

StaffDr Joao Florencio - Convenor
Credit Value30
ECTS Value15
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

Visual Culture will be a new subject for almost all students at University level, and this module aims to:

  • Introduce you to Visual Culture as a new field of enquiry
  • Provide a basis for successful progress, embedding a good understanding of the critical thinking associated with it and sharpening any distinctions to be drawn between Visual Culture and related fields of enquiry
  • Trace the intellectual roots of Visual Culture as a mode of enquiry
  • Map the concerns that typify its approach to the study of visuality and indicate its possible future direction
  • Encourage students to accept the dynamism and continued development of the subject in their own approach to the study of visuality
  • Assist thinking about vision, about cultures of vision and visuality and about visual objects and practices, both (pre-)historic and contemporary
  • Acquaints students with the varied visual, archival and literary resources used in the study of visual culture and provides practical instruction in their use
  • Examine how Visual Culture has attempted to open up new ways of thinking about vision, visuality, images, representation, culture, and agency

Some key questions we will be dealing with are: What new things does Visual Culture have to say about pictures, images, and representation? What are the relationships between Art History, Visual Culture, and aesthetics? What models of culture does Visual Culture mobilize, implicitly or explicitly? How did Visual Culture emerge from British Cultural Studies and American Material Culture? How do different interpretive and disciplinary frameworks, such as anthropology or archaeology, engage with Visual Culture? How does Visual Culture deal with issues of agency, and related notions of embodiment, virtuality, and materiality? What relationship does Visual Culture have to theories of vision? How can we foster a practice of Visual Culture that is not restricted to the contemporary world, but can also account for earlier historical periods (prehistoric, ancient, medieval, early modern)? Is Visual Culture interested in history at all? How does Visual Culture relate to issues of aesthetics? Does Visual Culture attempt to break down the boundaries between “acts” of vision, seeing, and perception and the “objects” of those acts of vision, seeing, and perception or does it reaffirm them? What future directions might Visual Culture imagine?

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Describe and evaluate some of the dominant concepts, methods and debates informing Visual Culture as a mode of enquiry
  • 2. Apply a variety of methodologies and theoretical approaches to the interpretation of visual artefacts and practices in an informed way
  • 3. Demonstrate knowledge of visual culture and visuality in different historical periods
  • 4. Undertake independent research on a visual artefact or practice

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Research, present and evaluate relevant descriptive and analytic material with increased independence?
  • 6. Use specialist terminology effectively and make proficient use of the relevant literature

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Through writing and project assessments, demonstrate good research and bibliographic skills, an informed capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose.
  • 8. Through research for projects and essays, demonstrate good proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.
  • 9. Through project work, demonstrate the ability to work collaboratively orally and/or in written form, and in teams towards the development, research, organisation, and expression of ideas under pressure of time

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • What is visual culture?
  • Issues of representation
  • Visual culture and art history
  • Anthropology and archaeology of the visual
  • Embodiment and the virtual
  • Opportunities week
  • Sensing and perception
  • Photography
  • Text and image
  • Visualising information
  • Historicity
  • Towards a future visual culture

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
Scheduled learning and teaching activities11Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities22Seminars - these will be led by the tutor. You will need to prepare for each seminar and to present on a given topic on at least one occasion
Scheduled learning and teaching activities10Workshops - 2 hours every other week
Scheduled learning and teaching activities12Tutorial guidance for reading, research and essay preparation
Guided independent study245Private Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Critical analysis500 words1-8Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Oral presentation5-10 minutes1-9Peer-assessment recorded on feedback sheet with tutorial follow-up

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
Essay652000 words1-8Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Individual portfolio35750 word analysis of visual object and 750 word reflective learning journal1-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Essay2000 word essay1-8Referral/Deferral period
Individual portfolioIndividual portfolio (750 word analysis of visual object and 750 word reflective learning journal)1-9Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Mieke Bal ‘Visual Essentialism and the Object of Visual Culture’, Journal of Visual Culture 2, no. 1, 2003 pp. 5–32. [see also ‘Responses to Mieke Bal’s “Visual Essentialism and the Object of Visual Culture.” ’ Journal of Visual Culture 2, no. 2, 2003, pp. 229–68.
  • Malcolm Barnard, Art, Design and Visual Culture: An Introduction, 1998.
  • Malcolm Barbard, Approaches to Understanding Visual Culture , 2001
  • Hans Belting, An Anthropology of Images: Picture, Medium, Body, 2011
  • Hans Belting, Likeness and Presence: A History of the Image before the Era of Art, 1997
  • Norman Bryson, Michael Ann Holly, and Keith Moxey, (eds) Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations, 1994
  • Whitney Davis, A General Theory of Visual Culture, 2011
  • Richard Howells Visual Culture, 2003.
  • Nicholas Mirzoeff (ed.), The Visual Culture Reader ,1998
  • Nicholas Mirzoeff, An Introduction to Visual Culture , 1999
  • Matthew Rampley (ed.) Exploring Visual Culture: Definitions, Concepts, Contexts, 2005
  • Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture , 2001
  • John A. Walker, and Sarah Chaplin Visual Culture: An Introduction, 1997.

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Key words search

Visual Culture; Media; Art History