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Durham University

Postgraduate Module Handbook 2021/2022

Archive Module Description

This page is for the academic year 2021-22. The current handbook year is 2022-23
No such Code for pgprog: MA in Visual Arts and Culture

Department: Modern Languages and Cultures

MELA45460: Dissertation in Visual Arts and Culture

Type Tied Level 4 Credits 60 Availability Available in 2021/22
Tied to MA in Visual Arts and Culture


  • Visual Arts and Culture: Theory and Practice (MELA4**60)


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To allow students to explore in considerable detail an aspect of visual art and culture.
  • To enable students to conduct extensive individual research.
  • To produce a piece of well-presented scholarly writing that demonstrates familiarity with relevant theoretical frameworks and the ability to apply them to the study of an appropriate object of study.


  • The precise content of the dissertation will depend on the students' particular preferences, and will be agreed in conjunction with the supervisor.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Critical understanding of key theories of visual art and culture
  • Knowledge of visual objects of different types, from a range of historical periods and geographical locations
  • Knowledge of image-making practices
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Ability to engage critically with theories of visual art and culture
  • Ability to describe and analyse a wide range of visual objects, attending to their formal specificity and particular socio-historical provenance
  • Ability to draw upon theories of visual art and culture to analyse visual objects, while also deriving theoretical insights from close analysis of visual objects
  • Competence in critical visual literacy
  • Competence in handling visual material of different kinds
Key Skills:
  • Ability to engage in close reading of a wide range of challenging texts
  • Developing independent research skills
  • Ability to synthesize complex material from a wide range of sources in order to communicate effectively in a range of forms
  • Competence in information technology skills at an appropriate level to support MA learning and research
  • Demonstrate professional conduct

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • The project will be discussed with the relevant supervisor before the dissertation commences, to ensure that the project is of sufficient scope and is realistic within the time-frame of a master's programme. The core module Visual Arts and Culture: Theory and Practice will provide guidance, and will partially be assessed on the basis of the students' dissertation project proposal.
  • Regular supervision by a scholar actively engaged in research connected to alterity studies will ensure that the plan of study is adhered to, whilst allowing scope for independent research. Students will be required to submit draft chapters as the dissertation progresses, and oral feedback will be given on these, Each supervision will conclude with agreed action points, to be carried out by the student in advance of the next supervision
  • Key research skills such as the bibliographical skills necessary for the research and presentation of academic research papers will be covered in the core module Visual Arts and Culture: Theory and Practice.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Tutorials 3 variable 2 hours 6
Student Preparation and Background Reading 594
Total 600

Summative Assessment

Component: Dissertation Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Dissertation 12,000 - 15,000 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

Regular discussion of work in progress, on the basis either oral reports, or of short written assignments agreed between the supervisor and the student.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University