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Unit information: Representations: (Re)-making the World in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Representations: (Re)-making the World
Unit code AFAC10009
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Forbes
Open unit status Not open




School/department Arts Faculty Office
Faculty Faculty of Arts


This unit aims to introduce students to a variety of theoretical perspectives on representation in the arts and humanities and in wider society. The theoretical issues under consideration may include metaphor, allegory and figurative perspectives; 'objective' representation and questions of interpretation; realism and discourse; signification and absence; ideology; the creation of stereotypes; the creation of meaning; and the use of critical perspectives to name and/or re-make the world.

Normally, these issues will be considered within the unit under one thematic heading, which might vary from year-to-year, e.g. race, slavery, gender, the Islamic world, old age or childhood. The issues will usually be considered through 5 'case studies' of representation, which might include (as examples) a novel or memoir, a painting, a philosophical or theological essay, a film and a television programme.

In addition to the theoretical questions that are introduced, students will have an opportunity to consider practical questions arising from the unit, and particularly issues about representation within arts/culture in society and about the perspectives that are normally heard or which may go unrepresented in the academy. These perspectives will be considered in part through contributions to the teaching on the unit by external experts such as members of local community organisations and professionals from related disciplines, e.g. a novelist, a television producer, an activist or a lawyer specialising in issues related to culture.

The assessment for the unit will allow students to specialise in either the academic or practical questions raised, and will provide an opportunity to undertake group work.

The unit will normally include an introduction to relevant issues – such as managing difficult situations and health and safety – for those undertaking working in/with the community.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit, student will be able to:

  1. demonstrate an understanding of the theoretical issues underpinning how representation has been debated and articulated in different disciplines;
  2. demonstrate an awareness of how non-Western perspectives have challenged and re-framed questions about representation in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries especially;
  3. relate these theoretical groundings to practical questions about representation as they are debated and understood in non-academic settings and communities, and to questions about voices, communities or perspectives that may often go unheard in the academy;
  4. apply what they are learning in the classroom to a range of settings, including in workplaces and through engagement with non-academic perspectives.
  5. students may also have acquired skills necessary for effective team working and for working collaboratively with external organisations and complex non-academic communities.

Teaching details

The unit will normally be taught principally through one two-hour seminar per week, with an emphasis on group work. There will normally be contributions to teaching in the seminars from external participants, e.g. from representatives of local community organisations and professionals from related fields, alongside input from academic tutors. There will be an emphasis in the unit on potential for group work, including with external community partners.

Assessment Details

For this unit, students will complete one written assignment of 2,500 words (100% of the unit mark). This assignment will take the form of one of the three assessments listed below:

  • An academic essay engaging with the theoretical issues prompted by the unit and emphasising ILOs 1-2, but drawing also on knowledge and skills acquired through tasks in the unit designed to facilitate ILOs 3-4 and 5 where applicable.
  • A creative response to the themes of the unit, which may be in the form of a piece of creative writing, photographs, a short film, a piece of music, jewellery or another form to be agreed by the unit tutor (equivalent to 1500 words; emphasising ILOs 1-2, and which is accompanied by a reflective commentary of 1,000 words showing how the work responds to theoretical, practical and ethical questions prompted by the unit thus demonstrating also knowledge and skills acquired through tasks in the unit designed to facilitate ILOs 3, 4 and 5 where applicable.
  • A reflective assignment that maps the cultural contexts of an individual or organisation outside the academy. Students may work in teams to map the cultural contexts of an organisation, but each student should submit a separate assignment, and the teams should assign separate aspects of the task to each individual student. This assignment will emphasise learning outcomes 3-4 and 5 where applicable, but the student should also draw on knowledge and understanding acquired through tasks related to ILOs 1-2.

Reading and References

John Berger, Ways of Seeing (London: Penguin Classics, 2008)

Homi Bhaba, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 2004)

Stuart Hall, Cultural Studies 1983 (London and Durham: Duke University Press, 2016)

Bell Hooks, Teaching to Transgress (London: Routledge, 1994)

Bouaventura De Sousa Santos (ed.), Another Knowledge is Possible: Beyond Northern Epistemologies (London: Verso, 2007)