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Visualizing Conflict in the Twentieth Century


Periods of conflict call upon forms of representation to perform a number of tasks, this course will examine some of the uses to which the visual has been put during the wars that marked the twentieth century - and their repercussions in our own time. The course will involve weekly presentations and discussions of set texts examining a number of significant case studies from across the twentieth century.

We will look at the claims to truth made by photography at the time of the end of the Second World War, the effects of physical displacement on artists producing work in periods of exile. We will look at the way the visual arts were retooled for nationalistic purposes in France during World War One and the debates surrounding the memorials constructed for those who died during that conflict.

The American-Vietnam war will be approached through the art made in the context of the protests in America against the conflict, we will look at work made by the Art Workers Coalition, Nancy Spero, and Martha Rosler.


Preliminary reading

  • Amelia Jones, Irrational Modernism: A Neurasthenic History of New York Dada, MIT Press, 2004.
  • Juliet Mitchell, Mad Men and Medusas: Reclaiming Hysteria and the Effect of Sibling Relationships on the Human Condition, Penguin, 2000.
  • Eric Hobsbawm, Age of Extremes: The Short Twentieth Century: 1914-1991, Penguin, 1994.
  • Francis Frascina, Art, Politics and Dissent: Aspects of the Art Left in the 1960s, Manchester University Press, 1999.
  • Beatriz Colomina, Domesticity at War, MIT Press, 2007.
  • Susan Sontag, Regarding the Pain of Others, Penguin, 2004.
  • Kenneth Silver, Esprit de Corps: Art of the Parisian Avant-Garde and the First World War, 1914-1925, Thames and Hudson, 1989.
  • Marita Sturken, Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering, California, 1997.
  • Virginia Woolf, Three Guineas, Bloomsbury, 1938 - reprinted with A Room of Ones Own by both Penguin and Oxford Classics.
Search and Destroy, 1967 gouache and ink on paper 24 x 36in, Nancy Spero

Module information

  • Module title
    Visualizing Conflict in the Twentieth Century
  • Module number
  • Convenor
    Leonie O'Dwyer

For postgraduates