The Look of America (T7002)

15 credits, Level 4

Spring teaching

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 twentieth century, and since then America has generated for the world innumerable iconic and hegemonic visual representations of its own cultural narratives.

The task of this module will be to explore and deconstruct some of these visual representations, along with the ideologies and narratives that sustain and refract them. You will begin with an introduction to visual theory, especially as it applies to the American context, and acquire the critical tools necessary for the module. You will then locate the period under scrutiny within a broader visual and cultural 'prehistory', illuminating the roots of the modern world and its visual scene.

After this, you will concentrate on the culture of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Taking a thematic approach, you will examine the issues that emerge over the module of the twentieth century, referring forwards and backwards in order to generate connections where appropriate. 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.


50%: Lecture
50%: Seminar


100%: Examination (Computer-based examination)

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.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to feedback, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let you know of any material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.