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2019/20 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

FREN3093 Iconic Images

20 creditsClass Size: 15

Module manager: Nigel Saint

Taught: Semesters 1 & 2 View Timetable

Year running 2019/20

Pre-requisite qualifications

Successful completion of Level 2 French or equivalent level of French, at discretion of the module leader

Module replaces

• FREN3480 Twentieth Century Literature and the Visual Arts • FREN3585 Camera Lucida: Theory, Practice and Writing of Photography • FREN3840 The Sublime and the Abject in French Literature

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

This module seeks to enhance students’ appreciation and interpretation of visual images (like photos, paintings or adverts), which they could apply in a wide variety of contexts. We will be looking at what it means to call an image ‘iconic’ and at the ways in which such images relate to key aspects of French and Francophone culture. No prior knowledge of art history will be needed, simply an interest in responding to the questions that visual images ask of their viewers. These questions concern political authority, religious conflict, portraits, otherness, gender and desire, among many topics. The module tutors will discuss established historical icons, cultural representations and recent images in circulation in a range of media and platforms. The themes offered each year will vary, but the module will always be focused on the ways in which images become iconic and on how they maintain or disrupt their conventional interpretation.


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

To recognise the importance of the study of visual images across different languages and disciplines.
To locate and explain the role of visual culture within a broad analysis of historical paradigms and shifts within the selected periods for study.
To develop students’ ability to discuss, analyse and interpret visual images in diverse forms, genres and contexts.
To enhance students’ knowledge and critical appreciation of how images are made and disseminated in France and internationally.
To familiarise students with the theoretical and historical issues associated with the relationship between image and text in French and Francophone culture.
To enable students to work productively and creatively with visual images both in groups and individually.
To promote students' appreciation of the advantages of creative group work and its benefit for guided autonomous learning.
To support students’ engagement with visual images and visual culture in their work for other modules and for their FYPs in any discipline.

Learning outcomes
The students will be able to identify and analyse the plurality of potential meanings and functions of iconic images.
They will develop an informed understanding of the historical, political and cultural contexts relevant to the study of visual images in French and Francophone environments.
They will demonstrate the ability to provide research-based critical perspectives on selected images, whether sourced from fine art, photography, advertising, exhibitions or social media.
They will investigate and evaluate the notion of iconic images and highlight their mainstream and potentially disruptive functions.
They will acquire the necessary skills to manipulate computer-generated images and make montages of images individually and in groups.
They will have experience of collaborative group work.
They will develop their feedback skills through their comments on the other collaborative and self-directed projects.

Skills outcomes
Intercultural Skills
Research Skills
Analytical Skills
Employability Skills


The syllabus will be based around three or four themes in any given year. Students will be informed of which themes will be taught in any given year before module enrolment. Indicative themes include: ‘Reading Medieval Images’, ‘Photographic Iconicity’, ‘Contemporary Art’ and ‘Iconic stars’. ‘Reading Medieval Images’ considers artists’ illustrations for selected medieval romances. The relationship between images and narrative will be explored in detail and an introduction to secular and religious iconographical analysis provided. ‘Photographic Iconicity’ presents three case studies: the ‘found’ portrait in Anne-Marie Garat’s Photos de familles (1994); the staged photograph in Mohammed Bourouissa’s Périphérique (2005-2007); and the anti-iconic image in Raymond Depardon’s Errance (2000). ‘Contemporary Art’ features photography, installation and film: religious conflict, iconoclasm and afterlives in Pascal Convert’s sculptures, installations and films, for example Pietà du Kosovo (2000), Falaise de Bamiyan (2016) and Les Enfants de Bamiyan (2016); marginality and social conflict in Mathieu Pernot’s photographic projects such as Implosions (2000-08), L’Asile des photographies (2013) and Le Feu (2013); marginality, gender and collaborative image-making in JR’s projects Les Bosquets (2004), Women are Heroes (2008) and Visages, Villages (2017). ‘Iconic stars’ focuses on a selection of iconic French stars who frame the image of France abroad and form part of its soft power: Brigitte Bardot (as an actress, model, singer and activist), Roland Barthes (as a critic and writer, and as a theoretician of the image), and Michel Houellebecq (as a writer, photographer, actor, singer and public figure).

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Class tests, exams and assessment12.002.00
Group learning12.002.00
Private study hours168.00
Total Contact hours32.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Reading and looking lists, which will be divided into ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’, will be issued to students prior to the start of the module. Students will be expected to read and look at the primary material designated for each topic before it is covered in class (c. 86 hours). They will also be expected to read and look at some starred secondary material, which will be provided in electronic form where possible, in preparation for seminars (normally 3 hours per contact hour = c. 48 hours). Further independent study will be required in preparation for their group presentation (c. 8 hours), for their formative commentary (c. 6 hours) and for their summative assessment (c. 20 hours).

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Each student will take part in an assessed group presentation of a group image project during the second semester. There will also be a formative commentary on selected images (1000 words), for which full written feedback will be provided. Students will also be offered individual meetings regarding their summative research project.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Project1 x Visual Research Project (2-4000 words depending on significance given to an image album/montage)80.00
Group Project1 x Project presented in groups, 20-30 minutes each within the 2-hr session; all group members receive the same mark20.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Resit = 1 x Visual Research Project with same specification. Resit = 1 x Group Project - 1,000 word commentary on 2 images with reference to at least 4 critical sources.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 30/04/2019


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