30516 - Semiotics of the Visible (LM)

Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2018/2019

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course the student will be able to use the methodological instruments needed for the description and the interpretation of the visual text in general, and specifically those pertaining to the issues dealt with in the course. He or she will be able to read and interpret the work of art in itself and in relation to its reception.

Course contents

The past and contemporaneity can construct a line of continuity that is often expressed in the dialogical form. Connecting constellations of images that, in spite of the different media that characterise them, come into synergy between them to give rise to new and unexpected semantic configurations. One of the aims of the course is to see how certain artistic productions are capable of weaving a fruitful dialogue with the past. Besides the classical examples such as the Compianto sul Cristo morto by Nicolò dell’Arca which finds correspondence in a work of complete contemporaneity, la Pietà du Kosovo by Pascal Convert, suffice to recall the shift from figurativeness to the total abstraction that is observed, in particular, in the Rothko Chapel in Houston, where the American artist’s modus operandi proposes a relationship with the observer that is akin to that which Beato Angelico had experienced – in the 15th century – in the cells of the convent of Saint Mark’s in Florence, are a few of the examples that will be analysed during the course. But also the English artist Mat Collishaw, whose works draw considerable inspiration from the works of the past.


Required texts:

Horst Bredekamp, Immagini che ci guardano, Raffaello Cortina, Milano 2015.

Lucia Corrain, Il velo dell'arte. Una rete di immagini tra passato e contemporaneità, La casa Usher, Lucca 2015.

Victor Stoichita, Effetto Sherlock. Occhi che osservano, occhi che spiano, occhi che indagano. Storia dello sguardo da Manet a Hitchcock, Il Saggiatore, Milano 2017.

Two texts selected from the following list:

Louis Marin, Opacità della pittura, La casa Usher, Firenze 2012.

Louis Marin, Della rappresentazione, Mimesis, Milano 2014.

Victor Stoichita, L’invenzione del quadro, Il Saggiatore, Milano 2013.

W.J.T. Mitchell, Scienza delle immagini. Iconologia, cultura visuale ed estetica dei media, Johan & Levi, Milano 2017.

Teaching methods

Lectures, laboratory activities, presentations by other invited scholars.

Assessment methods

For attending students

The attending students will take two specific partial exams: the first in which they have to prepare the three books of section 1, which will take place in the second half of the course; the second – in the form of a talk – about twenty days after the end of the course itself. In order to be able to access the second test it is necessary to have passed the first test: the three compulsory texts of part 1 make up the basis for honing the other part of the exam. Indeed, the second test consists of an oral discussion, opportunely accompanied by images and by a bibliography, which the student will choose and agree upon with the lecturer. The last four lessons of the course will have a laboratory format: the students will be assisted by the lecturer in the honing of the talk and the bibliography. Each student will present his/her talk in a congress that the lecturer will organise specially for the participants: the task of the student-congress members is also to provide before the end of the lesson the title and the abstract of the talk.

For non-attending students

The non-attending students will take a single oral test concerning both parts of the syllabus.

The oral test – both for non-attending students and attending students – consists of a conversation whose aim is to evaluate the critical skills developed by the student who will have to prove that he or she possesses an appropriate knowledge of the books detailed in the syllabus.

1. The test in which the student shows he/she is able to analyse the texts deeply and is able to insert them in an organic vision of the themes studied. The expressive mastery used during the oral exam will also be fundamental.

2. A mostly mnemonic knowledge, the capacity of analysis which is not too profound and a correct language but not always appropriate of the texts to be studied will lead to satisfactory evaluations.

3. An approximate knowledge, superficial understanding, scares capacity of analysis and expressiveness that is not always appropriate will lead to an evaluation which is little more than satisfactory.

4. Learning gaps, unsuitable language, lack of orientation within the bibliographic materials to be studied in the syllabus will lead to a negative evaluation.

Teaching tools

Powerpoint and other hypermedia projections.

Links to further information


Office hours

See the website of Lucia Corrain