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Cultural & Visual Analysis


Admission requirements

Required course(s):

Completion of What is Culture is required for CHS students and highly recommended for WP students. Please also note that Cultural & Visual Analysis was specifically designed for second-year students and their applications for this course will be given priority.


How do we read cultural products? What do paintings, photographs, films and other cultural constructs have in common, and how do they differ from each other? How do they create meaning and how can they be interpreted as part of wider public discourses? How do museums frame and influence our interpretation of the works of art that they present, and how can we read squares and the statues in them in terms of social and political dynamics? These questions, among others, are the focus of this course, which prepares students for a more advanced study of visual and cultural practices.

Our readings and discussions will concentrate on a wide range of themes, genres, contexts, agents and discourses as well as a number of specific cultural constructs, ranging from 17th-century Japanese prints to images relating to the American civil rights movement. The main focus of this course is on developing, to use John Berger’s phrase, ‘ways of seeing’ and learning the skills to analyze different cultural constructs and the different dynamics involved in their production of meaning. However, the course does have a theoretical component: we will read a number of theoretical texts and discuss which methods and strategies they offer us to analyze cultural constructs and their role in the societies that created them.

Course Objectives


  • Understand the dynamics of a cultural/visual communication model

  • Understand the role and function of visual/cultural constructs in social and political discourses,

  • Identify key concepts in cultural and visual analysis.


  • Provide a complex analysis of cultural/visual constructs,

  • Analyze critical interpretations and evaluations of cultural constructs,

  • Apply theoretical concepts and methods in the analysis of cultural/visual constructs,

  • Describe such an analysis in different genres (academic essay, exhibit description and vlog),

  • Write an effective methodology section.


Timetables for courses offered at Leiden University College in 2023-2024 will be published on this page of the e-Prospectus.

Mode of instruction

This course consists of two-hour seminars, comprising interactive lectures, discussions and practical exercises. Students are expected to come prepared to class and to participate actively in discussions.

Assessment Method

  • Participation, 15%

  • Vlog assignment, 30% (note that even though this is a team assignment, students will be graded individually)

  • Museum assignment, 20%

  • Final paper (1500 words) 35%

The fine print: please note that all assignments need to be submitted in order to pass the course and that penalties will apply to work that is handed in after the deadline. Corrupted files do not count as submissions – if I cannot open a file, the assignment will be considered as still outstanding and penalties will be applied according to the rules described in the syllabus.

Reading list

This course includes a number of readings assignments as well as several documentaries and films that students need to watch before class. A detailed list will be provided in the syllabus before the start of the course. The course will not require you to buy any books: all books and articles will be available via Leiden University Library’s digital catalogue.


Courses offered at Leiden University College (LUC) are usually only open to LUC students and LUC exchange students. Leiden University students who participate in one of the university’s Honours tracks or programmes may register for one LUC course, if availability permits. Registration is coordinated by the Education Coordinator,


Dr. Jacqueline Hylkema,