Technologies of Capture: Photography and Nineteenth Century Literature (Q3192)

30 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

Today we all use photographs in our day-to-day lives. When photography was invented in 1839, however, its status and future was far from clear-cut.

On this module, we’ll consider literary texts along with the many different (even opposing) associations of what was sometimes called 'the black art from France'.

We’ll study works by important Victorian writers who may include Emily Brontë, Wilkie Collins, Charles Dickens, and Arthur Conan Doyle. We’ll also pay close attention to great nineteenth-century photographs, from Julia Margaret Cameron’s dreamy pictures of Arthurian legend, to Lewis Carroll’s many famous images of children, to Hugh Welch Diamond’s psychiatric portraits.

Learn how the presence of the camera radically affected major social, aesthetic and philosophical categories in a period of great change.

Key discussion topics include magic and the supernatural, fidelity and science, childhood, crime, and classification.

We don’t ask for any prior experience of photography or other visual media, simply a readiness to engage with images in addition to literary texts.


33%: Practical (Workshop)
67%: Seminar


100%: Coursework (Essay)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 33 hours of contact time and about 267 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 COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: