Please note: there may be some adjustments to the teaching arrangements published in the course catalogue for 2020-21. Given current circumstances related to the Covid-19 pandemic it is anticipated that some usual arrangements for teaching on campus will be modified to ensure the safety and wellbeing of students and staff on campus; further adjustments may also be necessary, or beneficial, during the course of the academic year as national requirements relating to management of the pandemic are revised.


  • Academic Session: 2021-22
  • School: School of Culture and Creative Arts
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes
  • Available to Erasmus Students: Yes

Short Description

The course will begin by examining American photography, moving from a concentration on Stieglitz and Strand in relation to issues of machine aesthetics and photographic abstraction, to a study of Weston and the 'F/64' group's insistence on photographic 'purity'. Attention will then switch to a very different form of photographic modernism practiced by European avant-garde experimentalists such as Rodchenko, Moholy-Nagy and Man Ray.  A variety of French photographers who responded in various ways to Surrealism will also be examined; these include Brassai and Cartier-Bresson..


1 x 1hr lecture; 1 x 1hr seminar per week over 10 weeks as scheduled on MyCampus. This is one of the Honours options in History of Art and may not run every year. The options that are running this session are available on MyCampus.

Requirements of Entry

Available to all students fulfilling requirements for Honours entry into History of Art, and by arrangement to visiting students or students of other Honours programmes who qualify under the University's 25% regulation.

Excluded Courses





Examination (120 minutes duration) - 60%

Essay (2,500 words) - 30%

Seminar presentation of 10 minutes accompanied by 800 word paper or PowerPoint slides - 10%

Main Assessment In: April/May

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable

Reassessments are normally available for all courses, except those which contribute to the Honours classification. For non Honours courses, students are offered reassessment in all or any of the components of assessment if the satisfactory (threshold) grade for the overall course is not achieved at the first attempt. This is normally grade D3 for undergraduate students and grade C3 for postgraduate students. Exceptionally it may not be possible to offer reassessment of some coursework items, in which case the mark achieved at the first attempt will be counted towards the final course grade. Any such exceptions for this course are described below. 

Course Aims

This course will provide the opportunity to:

■ provide students with a broadly chronological suvey of the key practitioners, movements and institutions linked to modernist photography in the period 1900-1970.

■ develop students' critical understanding of what 'modernism' means in photographic terms, drawing on essential critical texts

■ promote skills of visual, verbal and written analysis consistent with the level of the students' academic development

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students should be able to:

■ appreciate and comment upon the relationship between key critical texts on modernism in photography and the actual work produced by leading early twentieth century modernist photographers

■ understand the developmental logic of early twentieth century photography in terms of its relationship to a variety of specific social, historical and cultural contexts

■ make intelligent historiographic judgements pertaining to the primary and secondary literature in the field

■ research and present their ideas on modernist photography coherently both orally and in written form.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.