Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module VISU1012: Introduction to Visual Culture Studies

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Visual)

VISU1012: Introduction to Visual Culture Studies

Type Open Level 1 Credits 40 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap 30 Location Durham


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • The module aims to introduce students to the central issues in visual culture, film studies, and the history of art, paying particular attention to the relationship between these three linked fields of enquiry. Central to the philosophy of the module is an emphasis on global visual cultures and the role translation plays in the study of transnational phenomena.


  • The module uses theoretical and historical readings alongside a rich diversity of primary materials in order to investigate the key issues in the study of the visual.
  • Topics to be studied will typically include: • Studying visual culture, art, and film in a global context • The nature of visual perception • The nature and languages of visual culture • Vision, power, and modernity • Gender • Race • Globalisation and diaspora • Technologies of visualisation • Memory, temporality and the visual

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module students should:
  • Understand the nature of visual perception.
  • Understand the media and technologies that have shaped visual experience historically and continue to shape it today.
  • Understand the dominant approaches to the study of the visual that have shaped, and continue to shape, current debates in the field.
  • Be familiar with a wide range of visual artefacts from the medieval to the contemporary period, and from a wide range of geographical contexts.
  • Have both theoretical and practical knowledge of the modes of analysis appropriate to different forms of visual culture, including the role of translation in visual culture research.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On completion of this module students will have developed:
  • Synthetic skills: the ability to survey and distil arguments from a range of historical and theoretical sources.
  • Analytic skills: the ability to critically evaluate theoretical and historical approaches to the visual.
  • Interpretative skills: the ability to apply the aforementioned skills in interpretations of a diversity of visual artefacts from a variety of historical periods.
  • Visually-specific presentation skills: the ability to deploy visual material effectively as part of written assessments.
Key Skills:
  • On completion of this module students will have developed:
  • independent research
  • organisation
  • time management
  • writing skills
  • presentation skills
  • IT skills.

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

  • Interactive seminars will allow students to develop their synthetic and analytical skills by means of discussion, peer feedback, questions, and ideas-testing. By giving formative presentations, students will take responsibility at an early stage for their own and the group’s learning, as well as developing skills that will be tested summatively. The small-group tutorials will support students as they develop research questions and design their research essay projects.
  • The critical commentary will allow students to demonstrate their interpretative skills, but will also draw on synthetic and analytic skills as they situate their chosen visual artefact within a boarder context.
  • The presentation will further develop interpretative, analytic and synthetic skills, alongside presentation skills and the effective use of images, e.g. through Powerpoint, in the development of an argument.
  • The research essay will allow students scope to develop their own research question and design a project in order to answer it, thereby fostering and ethos of independent research at an early stage in the programme.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lecture-seminar 20 Weekly 2 hours 40
Seminar 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Research essay preparation tutorial (groups of 4-5) 1 1 hour 1
Preparation and reading 339
Total 400

Summative Assessment

Component: Critical Commentary Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Critical Commentary 1500 words 100% Yes
Component: Presentation Component Weighting: 25%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Presentation 10 minutes 100% Yes
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 50%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Essay 3000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Seminar presentations.

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