Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module VISU3141: Special Subject: Photography and Modernity Between The Wars (20 credits)

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures (Visual)

VISU3141: Special Subject: Photography and Modernity Between The Wars (20 credits)

Type Open Level 3 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2022/23 Module Cap None. Location Durham


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Excluded Combination of Modules

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  • To develop advanced understanding of photography, modernity, and the relationship between them in the interwar period across a range of national contexts
  • To develop students’ ability to analyse individual images and groups of images


  • Indicative topics covered will include:
  • Photomontage and the avant-garde: Dada, Surrealism and beyond
  • Photoreportage and the rise of the illustrated press
  • Photography and social reform: the European worker photography movement, and New Deal documentary in the USA
  • Modernity and gender: women both sides of the camera
  • Photography and the aftermath of war
  • Politics and propaganda
  • Art photography and exhibitions

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • On completion of this module students should:
  • have a comprehensive understanding of the photographic culture of the inter-war period in Germany, France, Britain and the USA
  • have a secure grasp of photography history and theory
  • understand the fundamental features of Western modernity
Subject-specific Skills:
  • On completion of this module students will develop:
  • an ability to demonstrate knowledge of a range of image types and critical approaches
  • the ability to analyse images
  • an ability to articulate knowledge and understanding of concepts and theories relating to visual studies
  • the ability to both use and critique theoretical approaches in the process of image analysis
  • the ability to relate a specific form of cultural production (photography) to the broader socio-historical environment of inter-war modernity
  • command of a broad range of vocabulary and an appropriate critical terminology
  • awareness of photography as a medium through which values may be affirmed and contested
Key Skills:
  • visual and verbal analysis
  • critical analysis and reasoning
  • independent research
  • academic writing, including argumentation and structure, presentation, referencing, and bibliographic skills
  • personal organisation and time management
  • presentation skills and the ability to deal with questions from an audience
  • skills in leading a discussion
  • IT skills: word-processing; online databases and other web-based resources; powerpoint

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

  • This module will be taught weekly.
  • Weekly seminars (2 hours) will facilitate in-depth and sustained discussion of the module’s key topics, developing students’ grasp of historical and theoretical material as well as practising image-analysis on a weekly basis. Seminar will be interactive, so students will also develop their verbal communication skills, and skills in critical reasoning. As the module progresses, students will take responsibility for presenting topics and leading the discussion.
  • Small-group tutorials (1 x 1 hour, in groups of 4) will allow students to explore and develop their research questions and plans, responding to questions from the group and giving and receiving peer feedback.
  • The assessment will allow students to develop their skills in academic writing, as well as demonstrating directly or indirectly all other skills and knowledge that the module seeks to develop.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminar 10 weekly 120 minutes 20
Group Tutorial 1 1 x term 60 minutes 1
Preparation and Reading 179
Total SLAT hours 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Critical commentary Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Critical commentary 1500 words 100% No
Component: Research Essay Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Research Essay 3500 words 100% No

Formative Assessment:

Through presentations and contributions to class discussion, students will receive regular feedback from both teaching staff and their peers as part and parcel of the module’s pedagogy.

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