Istantanea: Visual Culture in Contemporary Italy - ITAL5640

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Module delivery information

This module is not currently running in 2024 to 2025.


This module aims at developing students' visual literacy within the context of Italian studies, by teaching the skills necessary for the reading of visual materials. 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.

This module will analyse the relationship between visual culture, society, politics and history. It will analyse topics such as 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 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.


Contact hours

Total Contact Hours: 20
Private Study Hours: 130
Total Study Hours: 150

Method of assessment

Main assessment methods

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

Reassessment methods

• Reassessment Instrument: 100% Coursework

Indicative reading

Indicative Reading List

Hill, S. P. and Minghelli, G. (2014). Stillness in Motion. Italy, Photography and the Meanings of Modernity. Toronto: University of Toronto Press
Mirzoeff, N. (2009). An Introduction to Visual Culture. London: Routledge
Pelizzari, M.A. (2011). Photography in Italy. London: Reaktion Books
Sturken, M. and Cartwright, L. (2009). Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture. Oxford: Oxford University Press

See the library reading list for this module (Canterbury)

Learning outcomes

The intended subject specific learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Demonstrate the technical and artistic competency to read visual material;
2 Demonstrate their visual literacy;
3 Systematically analyse visual masterpieces within their social, historical and cultural context, and as their products;
4 Demonstrate comprehensive understanding of visual culture (ads, propaganda, social documentary, fashion, etc.) in Italy;
5 Evince the relationship between visual culture and the dominant philosophical and political trends.

The intended generic learning outcomes.
On successfully completing the module students will be able to:

1 Apply the skills needed for academic study and enquiry at a high level;
2 Evaluate information critically;
3 Synthesise information from different sources to gain deep and structured understanding of the subject;
4 Make use of advanced problem-solving skills;
5 Analyse and interpret visual products in a critical manner;
6 Study and reach conclusions independently and formulate original opinions.


  1. ECTS credits are recognised throughout the EU and allow you to transfer credit easily from one university to another.
  2. The named convenor is the convenor for the current academic session.
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