Writing Visual Culture: the Image in Cultural and Critical Theory

Spring Open
Class Standing
Kathleen Eamon

We live in an image-saturated world. From advertisements to web interfaces to the shaping of our urban spaces and the presentation of own profiles, visual images permeate every aspect of our daily lives. In our visual culture, images play a central role in how we compose ourselves and communicate meaning. We read and think through images and are involved in daily forms of visual contact and exchange. By taking a critical and philosophical approach to the study of visual culture, this program asks: How do we perceive and navigate our ever-expansive visual culture? How do images and visual sign-systems make meaning? What are the histories and politics surrounding ways of seeing, our aesthetic judgments, and our taste? How have artist and scholars challenged vision and visuality? 

This program introduces students to a diverse range of visual images, from art to popular culture, as well as a diverse range of critical writing from theory to artist statements. Students will read and discuss a number of studies in visual culture to develop a critical vocabulary for writing about the power and the limits of visual images. Students will develop skills in analytic writing through weekly analysis essays. Objects of our study will include works of art, film, fashion, architecture, advertisement, and digital images. Particular attention will be given to cultural practices from outside of the English-speaking world to gain a better understanding of the histories and politics of ways of seeing, visualizing, and interpreting images. We will also attend to some key texts, concepts, and thinkers in the fields of critical theory, philosophical aesthetics, and the philosophy of art.

Students taking the program for 8-credits will attend all lectures, seminars, and complete the weekly writing assignments. Students taking the program for 16-credits will additionally complete a term project of their own design.

This fully remote program combines synchronous and asynchronous learning activities. Students are expected to have a working computer with video and audio and a reliable internet connection.

This program serves as an entry to both the Literary Arts and Studies path of study and the Humanities: Culture, Text, and Language in World Societies. For students who can demonstrate a substantial background in a given area, project work pursued at a high level might be considered intermediate or advanced in either area.


Course Reference Numbers
So - Sr (16): 30189
So - Sr (8): 30192

Academic Details



Remote (S)

See definition of Hybrid, Remote, and In-Person instruction

Schedule Details