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COM4550 - Eyewitness: Reportage, Representation and War

12 points, SCA Band 1, 0.250 EFTSL

Postgraduate Faculty of Arts

Leader: TBA


Not offered in 2007


This unit sets out to offers a critical historical analysis of so-called factual, documentary representations of war in words and images. It examines how and by whom conflicts have been represented from the mid-C19th to the present day; how the physical and technical constraints within which reporters and photographers operate effect the nature of their reports and images; how their reports are censored,, by whom, in accordance with whose guidelines and with what ends. It examines how these reports and images are transmitted from the battlefield and how the mediating technologies through which these accounts are disseminated influence the nature and inflect the form of the reports and pictures which constitute the war report.


By the conclusion of the unit students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate a clear understanding of the historical development of nominally factual, documentary forms of war reporting and their key technological developments and innovations.
  2. Identify, explain and offer a sophisticated critique of the processes forms, effects and purposes of the major forms of censorship, which have determined the representations of war from the mid C19th to the present day.
  3. Present a sophisticated reading of individual reports and images from specific conflicts drawing on appropriate theoretical resources, accounting for the influences of physical and technical constraints, mode of transmission, information management regimes and intended deployment in the shaping of the final report/image.
  4. Demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of how the differing media which have been employed to disseminate accounts of war - newspapers, photography, newsreel, radio, television, video, internet streaming - have influenced, inflected and structured content at differing historical junctures.
  5. Drawing on appropriate theoretical and critical sources, account for and explain the processes by which Governments, military and the media inflect the reception of images and reports of war in order to achieve specific political or cultural effects.
  6. Identify and offer an informed critique of the processes by which the preferred readings promoted by Government, the military and the media have been challenged, subverted or questioned in contrary readings of key media texts.
  7. Demonstrate how war reporters/photographers have featured in fiction and film and to explain how these representations offer an array of alternative opinions on how and why specific conflicts have been represented in particular ways.


Essay (3000 words) : 30%
Visual Text analysis (3000 words) : 30%
Examination (2 hours) : 30%
Seminar participation : 10%

Contact hours

One two hour seminar per week for 12 weeks


An approved First Year sequence