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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, race, 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
Information for Visiting Students
High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
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 and photographic practice;
  2. demonstrate an ability to read, analyse and reflect critically upon relevant scholarship on the histories and theories of photography and photographic practice;
  3. demonstrate an ability to analyse critically both textual and visual primary source materials;
  4. demonstrate an ability to develop and sustain scholarly arguments by formulating appropriate questions and harnessing relevant evidence, and to present those arguments in a manner befitting the discipline;
  5. demonstrate independence of mind and initiative, and intellectual integrity and maturity.
Reading List
Penny Tinkler, Using Photographs in Social and Historical Research (London: Sage, 2013).

Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography (New York: Hill and Wang, 1981).

Susan Sontag, On Photography (London: Penguin Books, 1977).

Peter Burke, Eyewitnessing: The Uses of Images as Historical Evidence (London: Reaktion, 2001).

John Tagg, The Burden of Representation: Essays on Photographies and Histories (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988).

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

James Ryan, Picturing Empire: Photography and the Visualisation of the British Empire (London: Reaktion, 1997).

Zahid R. Chaudhary, Afterimage of Empire: Photography in Nineteenth-Century India (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2012).

Anne Maxwell, Colonial Photography and Exhibitions: Representations of the 'Native' and the Making of European Identities (London: Leicester University Press, 1999).

Amy Louise Wood, Lynching and Spectacle: Witnessing Racial Violence in America, 1890-1940 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2009).

Suren Lalvani, Photography, Vision, and the Production of Modern Bodies (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996).
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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