Module Information

Module Identifier
Module Title
Dark Materials: Race, Magic, Deception and the Photographic Trace
Academic Year
Semester 2
Other Staff

Course Delivery

Delivery Type Delivery length / details
Lecture 11 x 1 Hour Lectures


Assessment Type Assessment length / details Proportion
Semester Assessment essay  2500 word essay  100%
Supplementary Assessment essay  As above, different essay questions 

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module students should be able to:

Demonstrate an understanding of the alternative (and esoteric) influences on the history of photograpy discussed in the course.

Evidence a basic knowledge of some of the key principles that have formed the basis of a belief in the veracity of photography since its invention and the counter-arguments to such a reading.

Frame an argument and formulate an essay in response to questions about photographers and photographs covered in the module syllabus.


This is a level one module to be offered to single and joint honours Fine Art and Art History students. It augments the current choice of art history modules at Part 1 and is designed to offer a new area of study that complements others taught in the School of Art. The historical period and context of this module draws on the co-ordinator's art historical research and background as a photographer. The module will also offer a historical context for the significant number of students in the department who opt for photography.

Brief description

Through case studies, this module explores an alternative history of photography that involves the occult, pseudo-science, and political manipulation. Adopting a revisionist approach to received wisdom, it examines the power that the photographic image has and continues to wield.


10 lectures

  1. Magic, Alchemy and Optics
  2. The Photographic Trace
  3. Mapping the World, Mapping the 'Other'
  4. Victorian Underworld: Through a Lens Darkly
  5. Mediums, Ghosts and the Undead
  6. 'Photosmagoria': Photography, Science and the Occult
  7. Examining artworks from the School of Art Collection
  8. The Hitler Avatar: Propaganda, Esoterics and the Photographic Fetish
  9. Shades of Doubt: The Holocaust Industry and the Photographic Icon
  10. A film showing and discussion

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number
Communication Taught and interactive (lectures & seminars) and through academic writing
Improving own Learning and Performance Students will have the chance to reflect on their learning and performance through essay feedback.
Information Technology Word processing, dealing with digital images and use of Blackboard and other e-learning interfaces.
Personal Development and Career planning Time management and self-directed research.
Problem solving
Research skills The essay requires the student to effectively carry out research using the Hugh Owen Library and possibly the National Library.
Subject Specific Skills Visual analysis and textual analysis.
Team work


This module is at CQFW Level 4