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Thompson Rivers University
Thompson Rivers University

VISA 3991: Cultural Theory and Images

This interdisciplinary, seminar course offers an in-depth study of special topics in cultural theory and images. Students examine theories of culture that inform the processes and practices of visual production, circulation and reception. Students focus on major cultural theorists, such as Gramsci, Althusser, Foucault, Williams, Hall, and Said, whose work on the intersection/interaction of power and meaning has influenced current research on representation. Students select a research problem, conduct literature research, assess sources of information, and present their findings. Students critically engage with and respond to the thoughts and opinions of others from various backgrounds, and an experienced faculty member. Learning activities are interactive and take advantage of the image-rich environment of the World Wide Web.

Learning outcomes

  • Identify and discuss major theoretical models and critical concepts in visual studies, including theories of representation, strategies of cultural production modes of interpretation, and theories of power and discourse.
  • Define and discuss many of the specialized terms that refer to representations and how they function in society, including image, ideology, truth value, interpellation, hegemony, discourse, and the other.
  • Choose theoretical concepts and vocabulary that are appropriate and/or relevant and use them to describe and discuss images.
  • Demonstrate the ability to think critically about visual and textual materials and the relationship between them. (What makes each distinctive? How do they inform each other?)
  • Raise questions and develop arguments about cultural theories that take a variety of perspectives into account, and communicate these questions and arguments in various written forms, including web discussion and written assignments.

Course topics

Unit 1: Theory, Culture, and Images

Unit 2: Thinking about Representation

Unit 3: Viewers and Meanings

Unit 4: Power, Discourse, and the Other

Required text and materials

There is no textbook for this course.


To successfully complete this course, students must achieve a passing grade of 50% or higher on the overall course, and 50% or higher on the mandatory final project.

Assignment 1 10%
Assignment 2 15%
Assignment 3 20%
Assignment 4 25%
Final Project (mandatory) 30%
Total 100%

Open Learning Faculty Member Information

An Open Learning Faculty Member is available to assist students. Students will receive the necessary contact information at the start of the course.

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