COOL CLASSES: “Introduction to Visual Studies”

This new course (taught by the new director of the visual studies program) introduces students to key issues in this interdisciplinary field.

Class name: “Introduction to Visual Studies

Taught by:  Assistant Professor of Visual Studies Christina Knight


Here’s what Knight had to say about her class:

This class begins with the premise that visual images pervade contemporary life: they circulate in art and movies, on Instagram and Snapchat, and in the many ways that we learn about current events and participate in consumer culture. In the course students will examine the ways that images produce cultural meaning: for instance, how does the proliferation of images on the internet shape the way we think about global connectivity? Or how is our access to those images shaped by what country we hail from or our class position?

Sometimes understanding how images work requires closer looking. To that end, we will take trips to galleries both in Philadelphia and on campus to look at art up close and think about how artists convey meaning through their mediums. We will also get to hear from an app developer and activist about how technology can be used as a tool in understanding and critiquing everything from drone strikes to police brutality.

Overall, with “Intro to Visual Studies,” I wanted to create a space of real interdisciplinarity. Many fields—including history, cultural studies, and gender and sexuality studies—address the visual. Bringing them together can help us map out a picture of the world that is truly nuanced and complex—one that centers critical questions rather than answers.

Perhaps most importantly, I decided to teach the class as a seminar in the hopes that the students and I can learn from each other about how the visual affects our lives. My ultimate hope is that by the end of the course, we will have developed strategies for being more thoughtful, critical viewers in our daily lives.



See what other courses Independent College Programs is offering this semester.

Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech

Cool Classes is a series that highlights interesting, unusual, and unique courses that enrich the Haverford experience.