Visual Studies 1: Understanding Visual Culture

Course Level: 1 (HE4) | HE Credits: 40 | Approx. Duration: 12 months at 8hrs/week


This course is an introduction to a complex field of study. It takes you through the core theories that underpin a contemporary understanding of visual culture, looking at theories about how we look at the world and understand the visual vocabulary that describes it. The course focuses on the practical application of those theories and will provide a sound introduction to the subject in an interdisciplinary fashion. The course looks at the ideas in Structuralism, Post-Structuralism and Post Modernism. You will be introduced and guided to a clear understanding of the key texts in the study of visual culture. You will be required to research a variety of subjects and will therefore need access to the Internet as a research resource.

This unit will be removed as an elective unit from the BA Hons Music and BA Hons Creative Arts pathways from 28 February 2019.


The course aims to:

  • introduce you to visual and cultural theory
  • enable you to use cultural theories to explore visual culture in contemporary society
  • improve your research skills, become familiar with key sources and develop an understanding of critical and artistic theories
  • develop your reflective skills and your ability to document your reflections


On satisfactory completion of the unit you will be able to:

  • investigate and identify appropriate sources of information for the study of visual culture in relationship to contemporary cultural theorists
  • through investigation, develop an understanding of the critical, theoretical and artistic developments in visual culture
  • demonstrate, though your writing, research skills and an understanding of forms and modes of gathering information
  • reflect upon your own learning

Course content

  • an understanding of the parameters of visual studies
  • an introduction to the major themes that underpin the discipline (eg signs and symbols
  • experience in the application of theory to projects (Looking and subjectivity, and concepts of reality)

This course also includes a key text, included in the cost of the course: Visual Culture: The Reader edited by Jessica Evans & Stuart Hall

Unit Leader

Michael Belshaw

Unit Leader for Visual Studies 1: Understanding Visual Culture

“My teaching experience in the arts has been very diverse. I have taught most aspects of art and design from an historical and theoretical perspective (fine art, graphic design, illustration, 3-d design architecture, photography and film) across a wide variety of FE and HE institutions…”

Read the rest of Michael’s profile here