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Study information

French Visual History

Module titleFrench Visual History
Module codeMLF1121
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Alexandra Courtois de Vicose (Convenor)

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module introduces you to key elements of French visual history, using art, architecture and other artefacts as a means of discovering the social, political and aesthetic history of France. It assumes no prior knowledge of the subject – merely an enthusiasm for the visual. You will become familiar with French cultural history from the  nineteenth century to the present, looking at artefacts in the context in which they were produced and assessing their significance. You will explore a range of procedures by which meaning is created visually and will assess the extent to which visual history can be challenged and rewritten.

Module aims - intentions of the module

Through this module you will develop critical tools for analysing images in France in different historical periods. You will engage with a range of perspectives about the role of the visual in different cultural and historical contexts. Topics addressed may include Paris and modernity; the grands projets; street art from May 68; and cultural memory in France.

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Appreciate and explain some of the dominant concepts, methods and debates informing the study of visual history
  • 2. Analyse coherently the form and content of particular artworks and visual culture representations over different historical periods and cultural contexts

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 3. Research, present and evaluate relevant visual materials from contrasting contexts
  • 4. Interrogate texts, artworks, images and representations, and relate them to the cultural contexts in which they operate

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Construct a coherent, substantiated, written argument in clear and correct prose, demonstrating appropriate research and bibliographic skills
  • 6. Demonstrate effective oral presentation skills, working effectively with others to engage an audience

Syllabus plan

The module consists of a series of lecture and seminars. You will be introduced to a range of visual artefacts and the historical and cultural contexts in which they originated, as well as critical tools for assessing the place of the visual in French culture. The artefacts studied range from 17th century to the present day and include key examples of architecture, fine art, prints, posters and graffiti.

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that it will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • What are French visual histories? 
  • Paris and modernity 
  • Modern visual cultures
  • Cultural memory in France

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching10Lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching5Seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching1Tutorial
Guided independent study 134Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay500 words1-6Oral and written feedback

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002000 words1-5Written feedback

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-5Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

  • Colin Jones, Cambridge Illustrated History of France (Cambridge University Press, 1994).
  • Anthony Sutcliffe, Paris: An Architectural History (1993)

Plus selected readings from texts listed below. These will be listed week-by-week on ELE.

Further reading

  • Roland Barthes, Mythologies (1957)
  • Francis Frascina..[et al.]. Modernity and Modernism: French Painting in the Nineteenth Century  (1993).
  • David Pinkney, Napoleon III and the Rebuilding of Paris
  • Andrew Ayers, The Architecture of Paris (Edition Axel Menges, 2003)
  • Walter Benjamin, The Arcades Project (1999)
  • T.J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).
  • Pierre Nora, Les Lieux de mémoire (Gallimard, 1984)
  • Yaari, Rethinking the French City: Architecture, Dwelling, and Display After 1968 (Rodopi, 2008)

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

French, Visual Culture, Art History

Credit value15
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date