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

Location Term Level Credits (ECTS) Current Convenor 2019-20
Canterbury Autumn
View Timetable
6 15 (7.5)







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, and social—that produce such materials within the modern Italian cultural context.


This module appears in:

Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20

Method of assessment

Essay 1 (1,000 words) – 35%
Essay 2 (2,000 words) – 65%

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading:

Bate, D. (2009). Photography: Key Concepts. Oxford & New York: Berg
Clarke, G. (1997). The Photograph. Oxford: Oxford University Press
Colombo, C. and S. Sontag. (1988). Italy: One Hundred Years of Photography. Alinari & New York: Rizzoli
Pelizzari, M.A. (2011). Photography in Italy. London: Reaktion Books
Warner Marien, M. (2011). Photography: A Cultural History. London: Laurence King
Wells, L. (ed.). (1997). The Photography Reader. London: Routledge

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

Demonstrate the technical and artistic competency to read a photograph;
Demonstrate their visual literacy;
Systematically analyse photographic and visual masterpieces within their social, historical and cultural context, and as their products;
Demonstrate comprehensive history of photography and understanding of visual culture (ads, propaganda, social documentary, fashion, etc.) in Italy;
Evince the relationship between photography, visual arts, and the dominant philosophical and political trends.

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