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Durham University

Visual Culture

The MA in Visual Culture at Durham is a distinctive interdisciplinary course that invites students to develop their knowledge and understanding of the visual arts and of visual culture. To study visual arts and culture is a way of paying attention to phenomena that are literally everywhere. The concept of 'visual culture' acknowledges the pervasive nature of visual phenomena, and signals openness towards both the breadth of objects and images, and the range of theoretical and methodological perspectives needed to understand them adequately. Drawing upon research strengths across the departments that contribute to the course, the MA in Visual Culture encourages you to take a broad view of geographical and chronological scope, while allowing you to engage with a wide range of visual phenomena, including fine art, film, photography, architecture, and scientific and medical imaging practices.

Entry requirements

MA: Students will normally be required to have an Honours Degree, usually at 2:1 level or higher or GPA average of 3.2 from a recognised national or international university in an arts, humanities or social science subject. The course assumes no prior knowledge of visual arts and culture, but previous interest or experience of visual culture would be an advantage. Two positive academic or equivalent professional references. Relevant professional practice in a field of visual arts and culture to be evaluated on an individual basis, may be considered in lieu of formal academic qualifications in some cases.

Course modules

The course consists of one core module, two optional modules and a dissertation. The core module sets out the intellectual framework for the course, offering a broad overview of key conceptual debates in the field of Visual Culture, together with training in analysis of visual objects of different kinds, an advanced introduction to understanding museum practice, and key research skills in visual arts and culture. The optional modules provide further specialised areas of study in related topics of interest to individual students, and the 12,000-15,000 word dissertation involves detailed study of a particular aspect of a topic related to the broad area of visual culture. Optional modules; Previously, optional modules have included: Critical Curatorship; History, Knowledge and Visual Culture; Representing Otherness; Negotiating the Human; Digital Imaging; Cultural Heritage, Communities and Identities; Current Issues in Aesthetics and Theory of Art; Ethics of Cultural Heritage; Monumental architecture of the Roman Empire in the Antonine and Severan periods; Art in Ecological Perspective; Texts and Cultures I: Visual and Verbal Cultures (Early Modern); Energy, Society and Energy Practices; German Reading Skills for Research; French Reading Skills for Research.

Assessment methods

The MA in Visual Culture is designed to allow you maximum scope to explore and develop your own fields of interest, in line with the programmne's generous understanding of the visual. The core module is based on interactive, student-centred seminars and skills-development workshops. The module is thus fully integrated: research skills and subject knowledge are developed in tandem and in dialogue with each other. In advance of seminars, you will follow a programme of guided reading that will acquaint you with some of the most important approaches to visual culture. The module also includes field trips to major museums and galleries, which will give you the chance to think about the ways in which visual culture is displayed, learn about museums and galleries as a research resource, and meet senior curatorial staff. In your assessments, you have the opportunity to use the approaches explored in the seminars in order to explore an aspect or aspects of visual culture that particularly appeal to you. You can select a book to review for the Book Review exercise, an exhibition to analyse for your Fieldwork Report, and an object on which to write your Critical Commentary. When it comes to the research essay, the scope is wide: possibilities include but are not limited to: a specific image or artefact, a movement or trend, a body of theory, a particular collection, social uses of the visual, a particular medium, or an individual artist. Supervision is available in an extensive range of subject areas. The optional modules on the programme involve diverse modes of teaching and learning, from lectures and seminars to placement learning. In the dissertation module, you will be paired with a supervisor and will work independently, with supervisory support, to produce an extended piece of research which, once again, can be closely tailored to your own interests.


Qualification Study mode Start month Fee Course duration
MA Full-time October 2019 - 1 Years
MA Part-time October 2019 - 2 Years

Campus details

Campus name Town Postcode Region Main campus Campus Partner
Durham University DH1 3LG North East

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