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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of History, Classics and Archaeology : Postgraduate (History, Classics and Archaeology)

Postgraduate Course: A Cultural History of Photography (PGHC11488)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of History, Classics and Archaeology CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 11 (Postgraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryWe live in a world saturated by images, yet many still regard a photograph as a mere illustration to history, rather than history itself. Examining the active role that the photograph has played in shaping the world since the nineteenth century allows us to understand our own responses to images, and the enduring power of the camera today.
Course description This course considers the photograph and its various histories - as technological marvel, as artistic medium, as social text, as documentary evidence, and as cultural practice - from its prehistory to the present day. Our seminars are structured around key themes such as gender, crime, science, death, power, and empire, and each week students are asked to examine certain photographs within their various social and cultural contexts. An emphasis on the photograph as a material object that can be bought, sold, collected, inscribed, displayed, archived, or discarded is a key feature of the course, and in this context we pay particular attention to the digitisation of photography and its implications both for historians and for society.

Content warning: this course deals with subject matter, including images of dead and dying human subjects, which some students may find difficult.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Co-requisites
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Additional Costs Purchase of Mary Warner Marien, Photography: A Cultural History, Fourth Edition (London, 2014) is strongly recommended. The Third edition (2010) is also acceptable. New and used copies range from 11 to 35 on Amazon.
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2019/20, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  11
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 80 %, Practical Exam 20 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Oral presentation (10%)
Contribution to seminars (10%)
1 x 4000-word essay (80%)
Feedback Students will receive feedback on their coursework, and will have the opportunity to discuss that feedback further with the Course Organiser during his published office hours for this course or by appointment.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate a detailed and critical command of the body of knowledge relating to the histories of photography;
  2. demonstrate an ability to read, analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship on the histories and theories of photography;
  3. demonstrate an ability to analyse critically both textual and visual primary source materials;
  4. demonstrate an ability to develop and sustain scholarly arguments in oral and written form, by formulating appropriate questions and utilising relevant evidence;
  5. demonstrate independence of mind and initiative; intellectual integrity and maturity.
Reading List
Mary Warner Marien, Photography: A Cultural History, Fourth Edition (London, 2014).

Penny Tinkler, Using Photographs in Social and Historical Research (London, 2013).

Gillian Rose, Visual Methodologies: An Introduction to the Interpretation of Visual Materials (London, 2001).

Richard Howells & Robert W. Matson (eds), Using Visual Evidence (London, 2009).

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (London, 1981).

Susan Sontag, On Photography (London, 1977).

John Berger, Understanding a Photograph (London, 2013).

Liz Wells (ed.), The Photography Reader (London, 2003).

John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (Minnesota, 1993).

Elizabeth Edwards & Janice Hart (eds), Photographs, Objects, Histories: On the Materiality of Images (London, 2004).

Peter Burke, Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence (London, 2001).
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Stephen McDowall
Tel: (0131 6)50 3754
Course secretaryMrs Lindsay Scott
Tel: (0131 6)50 9948
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