Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2007-2008 (archived)


Department: Modern Language and Cultures


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2007/08


  • MELA 53730 (Theorising History and Historicising Theory: An Introduction to Photography Studies)


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The module allows students to explore how photography has been used over the decades to shape and construct our understanding and perception of otherness and difference – whether it be cultural, social, racial or sexual – and how that process has been analysed and theorised. In doing so, the module will draw and build on some of the key theoretical concepts encountered by students in the core module of the course, completed in the first term.


  • Seminars will begin by considering the notion of ‘otherness’ as it has emerged in cultural theory and philosophy in recent years, and introducing students to critical and theoretical work of general and particular relevance (e.g. Saïd, Edwards, Alloula, Crary, Tagg). They will then focus on the significance of the concept in relation to photography, to consider how photography has been used to represent and shape our understanding of otherness in a variety of contexts: social (the underclass, the marginal, the undesirable), cultural (the exotic or troublesome ‘other’ of colonialism), sexual (the construction of sexual and gender difference in different societies and cultures).
  • The module will draw on representative corpuses of material from a range of different cultural contexts.
  • Students will also establish their own corpus of material which will form the basis of analysis and discussion in summative assessment.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • The student will have acquired knowledge and understanding of the different ways in which otherness has been represented and constructed by means of the photographic image, and of the theoretical perspectives which have developed in recent years in order to analyse that process.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • The student will have developed skills firstly in relation to the use of, and critical engagement with, the relevant theoretical paradigms, and secondly in relation to the critical analysis of photographic images
Key Skills:
  • The student will have developed proficiency in essay writing, theoretical reflection and image analysis

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • Students will follow a rigorous programme of reading that includes work by the major theorists in the field.
  • Students will prepare specific tasks and questions in advance of each seminar, discuss issues that arise in the seminars, and work on representative examples of images.
  • Assessment will test students’ ability to assimilate, understand, and engage critically with the relevant theoretical paradigms, and to draw on those paradigms in their own reflection on photographic images.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminar 10 Weekly 2 hours 20
Reading and Preparation 280
Total SLAT hours 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5,000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

1 x 800-word methodology review 1 x 2,500-word essay

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University