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Department of the History of Art and Archaeology

Representing Conflict: A Cross-Cultural and Inter Disciplinary Approach

Course Code:
15PARH039
Unit value:
0.5
Taught in:
Term 2
This course will examine how conflict and violence have been understood and represented thorough time and in different visual cultures and what role and function such representations have had in these societies. The discussion will consider how the visuality of violence is produced in different media – paintings, film, photography, theatre, poetry, performance – drawing on a range of examples from across the multiple cultural and philosophical perspectives that have existed on this issue.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the course

Students will compare and contrast historical and present-day conflicts, situating them within the contemporary philosophical dialogue about cross-culturalism and conflict. The course will thus address the criticism that art history ought to contribute to such discussions. As well as providing tools for an increased visual awareness and sharing in the contemporary critical and ethical dialogue about cruelty and violence, the course also considers the relationship between images and disciplines such as history, politics, philosophy and anthropology, examining the chosen visual examples in relation to some specific discourses of conflict: religious and ontological, psychoanalytical, political and ideological, taking into consideration its gendered aspects and examining its variations in relation to technological changes. The course aims to facilitate dialogue across regions and disciplines and to question the issue of “high” and “low” art, the concept of “visual culture” and the relationship between the visual, the written and the media.

Scope and syllabus

The examples chosen for discussion will range from traditional media like painting and sculpture to installations, photography and film. By comparing the verbal-visual strategies employed in the construction of the works discussed the course will question issues such as:

  • the role of the individual and of society; 
  • the importance of memory in the genesis and visual construction of conflict; 
  • the ethical overtones associated with both violence and its representations; 
  • the power of rhetorical persuasion inherent to visual signs;
  • the role of the human body and human emotions in the perception and representation of such events;
  • the possibilities for dialogism in visual culture; 
  • the importance of the gender;
  • the presence or absence of subjective elements in these representations and the psychoanalytical overtones associated with this kind of imagery; 
  • the aestheticization of cruelty.

Method of assessment

1 essay of 2,000 words worth 40%, 1 essay of 3,000 words worth 50, seminar presentation 10%