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Unit information: Introduction to Visual Cultures in 2021/22

Unit name Introduction to Visual Cultures
Unit code MODL10018
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. O'Rawe
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Modern Languages
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

The unit introduces students to the study of visual culture in its manifold forms. Students will become familiar with relevant theories of visuality in a historical framework and will study how these theories intersect with – and are informed by – other fields such as gender studies, postcolonial thought, film studies, performance studies, and digital cultural studies.

The unit will be organized into three broad clusters, each lasting 3-4 weeks and each led by the same lecturer. The range of areas from which these clusters could be drawn includes (based on the expertise of current SML staff):

  • film
  • photography
  • graphic novel
  • book culture and digital texts
  • street art
  • performance art
  • painting.

It is anticipated that the film cluster will be included for every cohort. In each cluster, students will learn how to ‘read’ the specific type of visual image they are analysing. They will be introduced to appropriate theoretical material, and then shown how to focus on individual texts, several of which they will analyse comparatively (these might be from different periods and cultures). For example, in the film cluster students will learn to analyse film form, and then study core theoretical approaches to film, such as gender, genre, stardom, and the industrial structures of cinema. Other clusters will adopt complementary approaches, with the aim of providing students with a toolkit for the analysis of a variety of visual forms and products.

Throughout the unit, transnational links will be made between forms and texts, and students will also be encouraged to think critically about the relationship between ‘visuality’ and ‘textuality’ in the context of the broader aims of the BA in Comparative Literatures and Cultures.

Intended Learning Outcomes

By the end of this unit, students will be able to:

  1. Identify up-to-date theories of visual culture, acquiring new theoretical tools which will allow for the in-depth study of a range of visual ‘texts’.
  2. Develop a thorough knowledge of selected representative texts and images.
  3. Perform independent, original, critical analyses of different texts and images, drawing upon relevant scholarship.
  4. Demonstrate a capacity for the selection and synthesis of relevant material.
  5. Determine connections between different types of visual text and media across cultures and historical periods.
  6. Present written work to a high standard in accordance with the conventions of scholarship.

Teaching Information

  • One two-hour interactive lecture per week
  • Single-honour students will have an additional fortnightly one-hour tutorial on material related to the unit, but not assessed
  • One two-hour seminar per week, including presentations, class discussions and small group work

Assessment Information

There will be two forms of assessment:

  • 1 x commentary on a specific image or visual text (1000 words): 30%, testing ILOs 1-4 and 6
  • 1 x essay (2000 words): 70%, testing ILOS 1-6.

The second essay is designed to encourage students to develop skills at longer essay writing in preparation for work at second-year level. The first essay will be on one text only, the second a comparative examination of two texts.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. MODL10018).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.