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 Written study (500 words)  Written study responding to a specific photographic object held by the School of Art Museum  20%
Semester Assessment Illustrated essay (2,500 words)  80%
Supplementary Assessment Written study (500 words)  Written study responding to a specific photographic object held by the School of Art Museum (different object)  20%
Supplementary Assessment Illustrated essay (2,500 words)  (different question)  80%

Learning Outcomes

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

Effectively describe photographs as visual culture and analyse them formally.

Examine photographs in their historical, national and sociopolitical contexts.

Evidence an understanding of the key principles that inform a belief in the veracity of photography and the counter-arguments to such a reading.

Frame an argument and formulate written responses to questions about photographers and photographs covered by the syllabus.

Carry out art historical research; assess and cite secondary sources using MLA conventions.

Brief description

Through specific 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.


1) Magic, Alchemy and Optics
2) The Photographic Trace
3) Mapping the World, Mapping the ‘Other’
4) Victorian Underworld: Through a Lens Darkly
5) ‘Photosmagoria’: Photography, Science and the Occult
6) Examining artworks from the School of Art Museum
7) Mediums, Ghosts and the Undead
8) Essay Feedback Tutorials
9) The Hitler Avatar: Propaganda, Esoterics and the Photographic Fetish
10) Shades of Doubt: photography, documentary truth, media manipulation and historical legacies
11) Film and seminar discussion

Module Skills

Skills Type Skills details
Application of Number
Communication Lectures, seminars, note-taking, writing essays.
Improving own Learning and Performance Written reflection on progress and understanding.
Information Technology In the use of museum websites to research objects and images.
Personal Development and Career planning The module will highlight the importance of picture research, visual analysis and the development of professional writing skills. It stresses that these are necessary for the development of a career as a professional art /photo historian working in museums, art galleries and in education.
Problem solving In seminar preparation and discussion, essay research and writing.
Research skills Through research writing a response to an image and in the essay.
Subject Specific Skills Visual literacy, visual and verbal analysis; the acquisition of specialist knowledge and skills
Team work In seminar discussions employing small group work.


This module is at CQFW Level 4