The Look of America (T7002E)
15 credits, Level 4
This module takes as its premise the notion that ever since the explosion of mass media and mass society in the industrial age, the United States has taken an increasingly dominant place in the global visual imagination. This process reached its peak at the beginning of the 20th century, America henceforth generating for the world innumerable iconic and hegemonic visual representations of its own cultural narratives.
The task of the module will be to investigate and deconstruct some of the products of this visual field, along with the ideologies and narratives that sustain and refract them. Hence we begin by introducting you to visual theory, especially as it applies to the American context, and provide you with the critical tools necessary for the module. We then locate the period under scrutiny (1860-2001) within a broader visual and cultural prehistory, illuminating the roots of the modern world and its visual scene. After this, the module concentrates more particularly on the culture of the late-19th and 20th centuries.
Following a more or less thematic pattern, the module examines the issues that emerge over the course of the 20th century, referring forwards and backwards in order to generate connections where appropriate (for example, linking the Farm Security Administration projects to Matthew Brady's Civil War photographs). The intention here is to introduce you to aspects of visual culture and its criticism, as well as to defamiliarise and explore some of the more familiar American iconography surrounding us.
Teaching and assessment
We’re currently reviewing teaching and assessment of our modules in light of the COVID-19 situation. We’ll publish the latest information as soon as possible.
Contact hours and workload
This module is approximately 150 hours of work. This breaks down into about 22 hours of contact time and about 128 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.
This module is running in the academic year 2020/21. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.