French Visual History (MLF1121)

StaffProfessor David Jones - Lecturer
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

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 the Château of Versailles and the absolutist monarchy of Louis XIV caricatures of the Revolutionary era, Paris as an artistic capital in the nineteenth century; street art from May 1968 and the major buildings and structures commissioned by president François Mitterrand in the late twentieth century.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 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

  • 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

  • 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?
• Ancien Régime to Revolution
• Paris in the 19th century
• Modern visual cultures

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

  • 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)
  • Berger, Robert W., Versailles: The Château of Louis XIV, College Art Association by Pennsylvania State University Press, 1985 [available as an electronic resource through Exeter University Library].
  • T.J. Clark, The Painting of Modern Life: Paris in the Art of Manet and his Followers (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1984).
  • Dunlop, Ian, Versailles (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1956).
  • Marin, Louis, Le Portrait du roi (Paris: Minuit, 1981).
  • Pierre Nora, Les Lieux de mémoire (Gallimard, 1984)
  • Yaari, Rethinking the French City: Architecture, Dwelling, and Display After 1968 (Rodopi, 2008)

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Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

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Last revision date


Key words search

French, Visual Culture, Art History