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The University of Southampton

ARTD2120 Visual Culture

Module Overview

We live in a world that is saturated by images. Images from the far reaches of space to the sub-atomic level and just about everything in between. Images seem to have a special power over our lives, playing a part in the constructions of who and what we are and the ways in which we understand the world around us. Whether we like it or not we live in a ‘visual culture’ in which virtually everything is mediated by the image. This module takes as its stating point the assumption that as future artists, designers or workers in the creative industries you will be future producers of visual culture or even visual counter-cultures. This optional core module is designed to broaden your studies and provide you with an interdisciplinary learning experience with peers from a range of art and design subjects. The module will provide you with new perspectives and introduce you to themes and practices that can be critically explored to inform your ongoing development, interests and skills.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • visual culture and its critical contexts;
  • how to identify and apply methods of critical and visual analysis.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • evaluate different critical approaches to the production and consumption of visual culture;
  • develop and research your own position in relation to current debates in visual culture.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • develop an argument informed by different perspectives using a clear, coherent structure;
  • organise time and manage deadlines;
  • demonstrate clear, effective and persuasive communication skills.


The syllabus explores key theories of visual culture through examples from film, TV, fashion, advertising, music videos, contemporary art, gaming and social media. Indicative content for this module normally includes: • Selfies: The role of the image in constructions of identity • Shock and Awe: Why are images so powerful? • Surveillance and Voyeurism: Watching and being watched, how seeing is related to power. • Reality TV: what is meant by ‘reality’ in TV? • Advertising and Propaganda: The role of the image in persuasion and manipulation • The Gaze: Looking and power in relation to race, gender and sexuality. • The Spectacle: The illusions of late Capitalism • Museums and Power: Cultures of display and knowledge.

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

Teaching methods include: • lectures; • seminars. Learning activities include: • reflection on tutor feedback; • individual presentations; • peer group learning. Relationship between the teaching, learning and assessment methods and the planned learning outcomes In this module learning and teaching activities focus on helping you to investigate, question and analyse the nature of visual culture, its theories and how this influences your own ideas and/or the discipline in which you operate. Feedback on your progress and development will be given by group discussions, seminars and presentations. Informal feedback will provide opportunities for peer group learning and self-evaluation. The formal assessment will be a 2500 word illustrated essay on an agreed topic. The use of illustrations will help you to develop visual research and analysis skills and to effectively present your critical engagement with visual cultural artefacts.

Wider reading or practice31.5
Completion of assessment task38
Follow-up work31.5
Preparation for scheduled sessions25
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

Manghani, Sunil (2013). Image Studies: Theory and Practice. 

Berger, John (1972). Ways of Seeing. 

Evans, Jessica and Hall Stuart (1999). Visual Culture : The Reader. 

Danto, Arthur C (1998). The wake of art: criticism, philosophy, and the ends of taste. 

Gray, Carole and Malins, Julian (2004). Visualising Research. A Guide for Postgraduate Students in Art and Design. 

Edwards, Steve (ed) (2012). Art and Visual Culture: 1850-2010: modernity to globalisation. 

Smith, Shawn Michelle (1999). American Archives: gender, race, and class in visual culture. 

Finkelstein, Joanne (2007). The Art of Self Invention: Image and Identity in Popular Visual Culture. 

Paul Wood & Harrison, Charles (Ed) (2002). Art in theory 1900-2000: an anthology of changing ideas. 

Mirzhoeff, Nicholas (ed) (2002). The Visual Culture Reader. 

Lymberopoulou, Angeliki (2012). Art and Visual Culture: A Reader. 

Kocur, Zoya & Leung, Simon (Eds) (2004). Theory in contemporary art: from 1985 to the present. 

Barnard, Malcolm (2001). Approaches to Understanding Visual Culture. 


Jones, Amelia(ed) (2010). The feminism and visual culture reader. 



Illustrated essay


MethodPercentage contribution
Illustrated essay 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Illustrated essay 100%


MethodPercentage contribution
Illustrated essay 100%


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:


Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase any additional texts as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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