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Course options

  • Qualification

    MA - Master of Arts

  • Location

    Durham University

  • Study mode

    Full time

  • Start date

    OCT

  • Duration

    1 year

Course summary

Course Summary

The MA in Visual Culture at Durham is a distinctive interdisciplinary course that invites students to develop their knowledge and understanding of the visual arts and of visual culture. To study visual arts and culture is a way of paying attention to phenomena that are everywhere. The concept of ‘visual culture’ acknowledges the pervasive nature of visual phenomena, and signals openness towards both the breadth of objects and images, and the range of theoretical and methodological perspectives needed to understand them adequately. Drawing upon research strengths across the departments that contribute to the course, the MA in Visual Culture encourages a broad geographical and chronological scope, while allowing you to engage with a wide range of visual phenomena, including fine art, film, photography, architecture, and scientific and medical imaging practices.

The importance of critical visual literacy in the contemporary world cannot be exaggerated. ‘The illiterate of the future’, wrote the Bauhaus artist and theoretician László Moholy-Nagy, ‘will be the person ignorant of the camera as well as of the pen’. This observation was made in the 1920s, when photography was first used in the periodical press and in political propaganda. The rich visual world of the early twentieth century pales in comparison with the visual saturation that now characterises everyday experience throughout the developed societies and much of the developing world. But the study of visual culture is by no means limited to the twentieth century. Turning our attention to past cultures with a particular eye to the significance of visual objects of all kinds yields new forms of knowledge and understanding.

Our course facilitates the development of critical visual literacy in three main ways. First, it attends to the specificity of visual objects, images and events, encouraging you to develop approaches that are sensitive to the individual works they encounter. Second, it investigates the nature of perception, asking how it is that we make meaning out of that which we see. Finally, it investigates how our relationships with other people, and with things, are bound up in the act of looking.

Course Learning and Teaching

The MA in Visual Culture is designed to allow you maximum scope to explore and develop your own fields of interest, in line with the courses generous understanding of the visual. The core module is based on interactive, student-centred seminars and skills-development workshops, including object handling. The module is thus fully integrated: research skills and subject knowledge are developed in tandem and in dialogue with each other. In advance of seminars, you will follow a programme of guided reading that will acquaint you with some of the most important approaches to visual culture. The module also includes field trips to major museums and galleries, which will give you the chance to think about the ways in which visual culture is displayed, learn about museums and galleries as a research resource, and meet senior curatorial staff.

In your assessments, you have the opportunity to use the approaches explored in the seminars in order to explore an aspect or aspects of visual culture that particularly appeal to you. You can select a book to review for the critical review exercise, an exhibition to analyse for your fieldwork report, and an object on which to write your object commentary. When it comes to the research essay, the scope is wide: possibilities include but are not limited to: a specific image or artefact, a movement or trend, a body of theory, a particular collection, social uses of the visual, a particular medium, or an individual artist. Supervision is available in an extensive range of subject areas.

Tuition fees

Students living in United States
(international fees)

£ 20,000per year

Tuition fees shown are for indicative purposes and may vary. Please check with the institution for most up to date details.

University information

Durham University

  • University League Table

    7th

  • Campus address

    Durham University, The Palatine Centre, Stockton Road, Durham, Durham, DH1 3LE, England

By inspiring students to do outstanding things at Durham, the university believes they will do outstanding things in the world.
Durham's famous cathedral and castle are at the heart of the city – and the heart of the university – forming a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Beyond studies, Durham offers a student experience and college life that is truly unique.

Subject rankings

  • Subject ranking

    15th out of 102 4

  • Entry standards

    / Max 212
    154 78%

    11th

    5
  • Graduate prospects

    / Max 100
    63 63%

    41st

  • Student satisfaction

    / Max 5
    4.11 82%

    26th

    26

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