Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2016-2017 (archived)


Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (German)


Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2016/17 Module Cap 45 Location Durham


  • Grade A in a foreign European language at A level or an equivalent qualification


  • Modern Languages, Combined Honours and all Joint and 'with' programmes: German Language 1A (post-A level) (GERM1011) or German Langauge 1B (ab initio) (GERM1112). Other: see Chairman/Chairwoman of the Board of Studies in MLAC or his/her representative.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • The turbulent past of German-speaking Europe has always generated a wide range of responses and interpretations, and continues to do so.
  • This module focuses on visual and material culture, setting out to examine the relationship that visual art, film, photography, memorial art, architecture, and other related media have to the past. What do pictures tell us about the past? Why should we employ visual and material culture to shed light on the past? How does visual culture reflect, illuminate, and interpret key events of the German past – such as the various revolutions of the modern era, the World Wars, the Weimar republic, the catastrophe of National Socialism and the Holocaust, division and reunification, the fall of the Berlin wall? How are the legacies of the past represented and worked through in films, images, monuments, memorials? How do cultural artefacts shape the perception and understanding of the past?
  • In attending to these questions, this course reflects on both the visualization of history and the history of visual culture in the German-speaking countries.


  • Areas and topics covered will vary from year to year, but will normally include a range of visual and material objects, including film, photography, painting, public art, buildings, signs and archives.
  • The module will provide students with a broad overview of approaches to German visual culture in its historical context, and will lay the skills foundation necessary to undertake research-led activities at second and final year level.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • .Students will develop:
  • • An understanding of the relationship between visual culture and its historical context
  • Specific and critical knowledge of selected films, images, monuments, buildings, and other relevant artefacts
  • An understanding of how visual and material culture responds to, and shapes perception of, historical and political issues
  • An understanding of key concepts and debates – such as those around memory and memorialisation, spectatorship and power, representation and visibility – within the study of visual and material culture.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students should have improved:
  • Critical analysis of films, photographs, paintings, monuments, and/or related cultural artefacts
  • Ability to draw meaningful links between different periods in German cultural history
  • Ability to situate the study of visual and material culture in relation to broader historical and cultural issues.
Key Skills:
  • By the end of this module, students should have improved:
  • Critical and analytical thinking
  • Ability to analyse, interpret, and contextualise complex visual materials
  • Essay-writing, commentary and oral communication skills
  • Structuring of arguments
  • Independent learning and research
  • Ability to discuss topical or general issues with fluency

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

  • Teaching will take the form of 20 weekly lectures across terms 1 and 2, with a feedback and revision session in term 3, plus a fortnightly seminar.
  • Lectures will familiarise students with the relevant socio-historical context and introduce the key theoretical and critical issues of the materials under discussion.
  • By preparing for the fortnightly seminar, which will alternate guided discussions with formative group presentations, students will develop skills in independent learning, rapid critical reading, synthesis, analytical thinking, and the presentation of coherent argument.
  • Through exposure to key texts in German, students will thus also increase their proficiency in the target language.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture 21 Weekly 1 Hour 21
Seminars 10 Fortnightly 1 Hour 10
Preparation and Reading 169
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Commentary Component Weighting: 20%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Commentary 1000 words 100% Yes
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 1500 words 100% Yes
Component: Written Examination Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Written examination 2 hours 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Regular programme of viewing and reading, alternating close analysis of key visual materials from the German-speaking countries with wider contextual / background reading in both English and German; one class presentation per student per term; active participation in class discussion, based on weekly set tasks.

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