Istantanea: Photography and Visual Culture in Modern and Contemporary Italy - IT564

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2018-19 2019-20
Canterbury Spring
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5) DR A Sforza Tarabochia


Co-requisite: IT506 for students taking Italian Single or Joint Honours.

For those taking IT564 as a wild module, all lectures and seminars will be taught and led in English. The majority of texts will be available in English translation. However, an intermediate level of Italian is highly advisable.





This module aims at developing students' visual literacy within the context of Italian studies, by teaching the skills necessary for the reading of static visual materials, especially photography. Contextually, it aims at developing and enhancing the critical response of students to such imagery, with particular focus on their social, cultural and political context. Photography worldwide has been at the centre of daily life, artistic production and political propaganda for the last century and a half. This holds all the more true for Italy, whose contemporary history as a unified country begins almost at the same time as the popularisation of photography. This module will explore this relationship on a socio-historical basis: It will analyse, among other topics, the portrayal of the Risorgimento; Lombroso's criminological and anthropometric use of photography; pseudo-anthropological photography in colonialist exploits, racism and eugenics; Fascist propaganda; futurism and modernism; neo-realist documentary photography and its influence on photojournalism of the 1960s-70s; the paparazzi, fashion and advertisement; photography and the contemporary visual arts; digital photography and social networks. By means of a close reading of photographic and other visual materials, the students will gain a profound understanding of the practices (ideological, political, commercial, aesthetic, social) that produce such materials within the modern Italian cultural context.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

This module will consist of two contact hours per week over a course of 10 weeks.

Method of assessment

100% Coursework.

Preliminary reading

Indicative Reading:

Pellizzari, Photography in Italy. Reaktion Books: London, 2011.
Colombo, Sontag. Italy: One Hundred Years of Photography. Alinari, 1988.
Bate. Photography: Key concepts. Berg, 2009
Wells (ed.). The Photography Reader. Routledge 2002.Clarke, The Photograph. Oxford University Press: Oxford 1997.
Warner Marien, Photography: A Cultural History. Laurence King: London 2011.

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

See the library reading list for this module (Medway)

Learning outcomes

By successfully completing this module students will:
1. Acquire the technical and artistic competency to read a photograph;
2. Consolidate their visual literacy;
3. Systematically analyse photographic and visual masterpieces within their social, historical and cultural context, and as their products;
4. Learn the history of photography and further develop their understanding of visual culture (ads, propaganda, social documentary, fashion, etc.) in Italy;
5. Evince the relationship between photography, visual arts, and the dominant philosophical and political trends.

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