BA Film Studies and Arabic / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Visual Culture in Modern Spain: Film, Painting and Photography

Course unit fact file
Unit code SPLA20062
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Available on: All programmes with Spanish / Cultures and Societies.

The course will be taught in English, but primary sources will be in Spanish (with English translations available for students on programmes that do not include Spanish). 


  • To enhance students' knowledge of key areas of visual cultural production in modern Spain;
  • To develop student' understanding of the roles of visual culture in actively shaping wider social debates and processes in modern Spain;
  • To increase students' understanding of and sensitivity towards social diversity in its different historical manifestations;
  • To give students and understanding of current theoretical approaches to issues such as identity, race, gender, class, authenticity, nostalgia and heritage, as applied to specific vidual genres and cultures from Spain.

Learning outcomes


    Knowledge and understanding

    At the end of the course students will be able to:

    • Critically evaluate the role of visual culture in shaping important social and political developments in modern Spain;
    • Recognise the main artists, works and genres that have contributed most significantly to shaping visual culture in modern Spain;
    • Understand the difference between the different techniques of visual representation and technologies of visual reproduction developed in modern Spain;
    • Understand the relevance of social change in different stages of Spanish history since the 19th century;
    • Demonstrate an increased ability to analyse works of Spanish visual culture, including film, painting, posters and photography, and to report accurately about interpretations of those works both verbally and in written and audio-visual forms;
    • Demonstrate increased intercultural awareness and understanding as well as increased competence and knowledge of the Spanish language, where relevant.

    Intellectual skills

    At the end of the course students will have enhanced their ability to:

    • Analyse the ways in which social change is represented by and shaped through visual cultural products;
    • Understand the development of key visual media and visual regimes of representation in modern Spain and beyond;
    • Articulate reasoned arguments about painting, art, and film in relation to notions of nationhood, race, ethnicity and gender.

    Practical skills

    At the end of the course students will have enhanced their ability to:

    • Carry out visual analysis of films, paintings, posters and photographs;
    • Plan, structure and create a written essay and a visual essay on visual culture in relation to wider social, political and cultural issues in modern Spain;
    • Develop clear interpretations of visual cultural products and support these interpretations with references to critical literature.

    Transferable skills and personal qualities

    At the end of the course students will have improved the following skills:

    • Their ability to engage in independent and critical thinking;
    • Their written and digital communication skills;
    • Their ability to critically engage with different primary and secondary sources, historical periods and cultural theories;
    • Their ability to conduct visual analysis and to formulate arguments that are informed by critical literature.

    Employability skills

    Analytical skills
    This course will also be helpful for students considering a career in Spain or other parts of the Spanish-speaking world, as well as for those considering any other career where profound knowledge of the Spanish language and a strong sense of intercultural awareness are needed. Students will also hone their visual and digital skills by analysing a series of works of visual art and reporting about those analysis during class discussions and in a written and video essays.
    Written communication
    These skills will also be useful in commercial contexts, where strong visual communication skills (e.g. the production of engaging and comprehensive video presentations) are often needed. Finally, the theoretical components of the course unit will be helpful for students interested in pursuing an academic career.
    Students on this course will gain a detailed understanding of visual culture in its relations with key social, cultural and political developments in modern Spain. These skills are particularly relevant for students considering a career that involves engagement with political affairs, journalism, historical research and careers in the culture industry (film and literature festivals, art exhibitions).

    Assessment methods

    Assessment task Formative or Summative Weighting within unit (if summative)
    Mid-term written essay Formative and Summative 40%
    Final video essay (individual) Summative 60%


    Resit Assessment

    Assessment task
    Written essay


    Feedback methods

    Feedback method Formative or Summative
    Oral feedback during seminar discussions Formative
    Written feedback on written essay and video essay Formative and summative
    Additional one-to-one feedback (during the consultation hour or by making an appointment) Formative


    Recommended reading

    Balfour, Sebastian and Alejandro Quiroga, The Reinvention of Spain: Nation and Identity since Democracy (Oxford: Oxford Scholarship Online, 2002).

    Casanova, Julián and Carlos Gil Andrés, Twentieth Century Spain: A History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

    Graham, Helen and Jo Labanyi, Spanish Cultural Studies: An introduction. The Struggle for Modernity (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).

    Faber, Sebastiaan, Memory Battles of the Spanish Civil War: History, Fiction, Photography (Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press, 2018).

    Labanyi, Jo (ed.), Constructing Identity in Contemporary Spain: Theoretical Debates and Cultural Practice (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002).

    Larson, Susan, and Eva María Woods (eds.), Visualizing Spanish Modernity (London/New York: Routledge, 2020).

    Vázquez, Oscar E. Inventing the Art Collection: Patrons, Markets, and the State in Nineteenth-Century Spain (University Park: Penn State Press, 2010).

    Zamora, Andrés, Featuring Post-National Spain: Film Essays (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2016).

    Study hours

    Scheduled activity hours
    Lectures 11
    Seminars 22
    Independent study hours
    Independent study 167

    Teaching staff

    Staff member Role
    Samuel Llano Unit coordinator

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