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Visual Culture and Analysis




Admission requirements

  • Classes of 2013-2016: similarly-tagged 100/200-level courses or permission of the instructor.

Course description

The contemporary world is a complex visual environment, and confronts us with a wide range of visual imagery: from photography, film and advertising, to digital media, surveillance cameras and art in museums. And yet, we rarely stop and analyze these images for the messages they contain.

This course offers a set of critical tools for understanding the importance of the visual, and it will introduce students to frameworks for analyzing images and acts of looking. How do we read images? How do images communicate meaning to different viewers? Studying visual culture means studying the visual products of society, as well as the dominant ways of looking and seeing that define social identities.

The course will focus on a number of themes, including museums and street art, urban experience, vision and power, and gender and gaze. It will address problems of physical vision and socially constructed visuality, the production and consumption of images in different cultures, and how images function as signs. Through careful looking, reading, writing and discussion, students will reflect on the role of images, and their implications.

Weekly overview

Week 1: Art history and visual culture
Week 2: Vision and visuality
Week 3: High art – low art
Week 4: Spectatorship
Week 5: The gaze
Week 6: Advertising: desire and design
Week 7: Culture on display: the visual and beyond
Week 8: Reading week

Learning objectives

This course will introduce students to major themes and methodologies in visual culture studies. It aims to explore the visual over time, across cultures, and in various media, and to investigate looking practices.

Upon completion of the course, you should be able to:

  • demonstrate familiarity with key concepts in visual culture studies

  • demonstrate an increased “visual literacy” as an image consumer and producer

  • gain an appreciation for how local histories and global influences may alter
    meanings associated with visual images

  • problematize visual culture in relation to expressions of difference in society

Compulsory literature

Assigned readings will be made available on Blackboard. Students who have not previously taken courses in Visual Studies may find the following volumes helpful:

  • Rose, Gillian. 2012: Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to Researching with Visual Materials. London: Sage.

  • Sturken, Marita. 2009: Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press.