70076 - Geography and Visual Communication (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page

  • Teacher Stefania Bonfiglioli

  • Credits 6

  • SSD M-GGR/01

  • Teaching Mode Traditional lectures

  • Language Italian

  • Campus of Bologna

  • Degree Programme Second cycle degree programme (LM) in Geography and Territorial Processes (cod. 0971)

  • Teaching resources on Virtuale


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course introduces the main subjects of visual geography and the main critical theories of cartography, especially focusing on the representation of European political space. At the end of the course students acquire analytical knowledge of the relationship between cartographic image, communication and circulation of geographical thought in our times.

Course contents

Speaking of geography and visual communication means speaking of the primary role which geography has played in the tradition of the so-called Western culture, as culture founded on image, and continues to play – can and must play – in the contemporary culture of representation: this is the idea on which this course is founded.  

The first aim of the course is to explain how, in the modern age, geography – through its models: the first wall atlases, globes, the landscape –, became visual communication, and, as such, was able to convey and create not only strategies but also phantasy, theatre, wonder, even scandals. The course will show that, since the beginning of the modern era, geography has played a primary role in building a thought on image and a kind of imagination which are still part of our contemporary culture.

The second aim is to explain and discuss how today’s geography becomes visual communication and what this visual communication should convey to show itself to be incisive, and influence today’s imagination, also through phantasy, wonder, etc. The lectures will propose the analysis of some texts taken from contemporary languages: above all, those of movies, advertising, visual art, and newspapers/infographics. This analysis/interpretation of the geographic side of these texts will be discussed, and also built, with students, during several lectures focused on geographical imagination and creativity.

These two aims, and the relationship between them, will involve some reflections on the way in which today’s geographers may be interpreters not only of the culture of representation, but also of that of the non-representational.

Particular attention will be paid on the contemporary tension between image and processes/becoming/mobilities, rather, more specifically, on the contemporary tension between cartographic imagination of the world, inherited from modernity, and non-representational or more-than-representational theories.

It is clear that the interpretative approach proposed here may be grasped only in virtue of constant attendance of the course.



Non-attending students have to study three books, choosing them among the texts listed here below. On the alternative programme for attending students, see below (“Assessment methods”).


  • Bonfiglioli S., La geografia di Egnazio Danti. Il sapere corografico a Bologna nell’età della Controriforma, Bologna, Pàtron, 2012. 

  • Farinelli F., I segni del mondo. Immagine cartografica e discorso geografico in età moderna, 1992 (Firenze, la Nuova Italia) or 2009 (Acqui Terme, Academia Universa).
  • Harvey D., La crisi della modernità, Milano, il Saggiatore or Milano, Net. 
  • Massey D., For Space, London, Sage, 2005.
  • Thrift N., Spatial Formations, London, Sage, 1996.
  • Thrift N., Non-Representational Theory: Space, Politics, Affect. London, Routledge, 2008.

Teaching methods

Some lectures, mainly the introductory ones and those concerning the first aim described above (see “Course contents”), will be traditional lectures giving room for discussion.

Concerning the second aim described above, many lectures will aim at involving students in the analysis and interpretation of some geographic texts, especially taken from contemporary languages.

Furthermore, the class discussion will continue on the online space of the course (Virtuale platform) by means of the resources/activities made available by the teacher. On the IOL platform the teacher will upload the slides and the teaching material and, moreover, will organize some activities in order, for instance, to let the students ask for some additional explanations on the contents of the lectures and/or the texts – explanations which will be provided during the following lectures.


Assessment methods

The exam will be oral both for non-attending and attending students.



Non-attending students are required to study three books for the exam, choosing them among those listed above (see "Readings/Bibliography"). Their oral exam will consist of answering some questions about the contents – concepts, themes, topics of single chapters, the meaning of images if present – of the three chosen books.



Attending students may choose to prepare the same programme as non-attending students; alternatively, they may choose the following programme reserved for attending students.

Attending students may alternatively prepare for the exam an oral analysis/interpretation of a geographical text, or a text of geographical interest, chosen by them, and taken from advertising, movies, newspapers/infographics, cartography, art, etc., i.e., from one of the languages deepened during the course. Choosing the text will not be difficult at all for attending students; on the contrary, this choice will be perfectly in line with attendance of the course, given that several examples of texts and analyses/interpretations will be proposed and discussed during the lectures. To sum up, attending students may prepare for the exam the analysis of a geographical text, adding to it, and basing it on:

a) the knowledge of the topics tackled by the teacher during the course;

b) the reading of four articles or book chapters among those indicated by the teacher on the basis of their connection with each of the topics or languages tackled. The book chapters will be taken both from the texts listed above (entry “Readings/Bibliography”) and from several other texts.

Attending students who choose the alternative programme have to tell the teacher which geographical text they want to analyse at least three weeks before the day of the assessment, so that they can establish together with her also the four essays (articles or book chapters) to study, selecting them from the essays which are most strictly linked to the kind of geographic text they have chosen.


EVALUATION CRITERIA (applying to the examination of both non-attending and attending students)

The evaluation will take into consideration:

1) the level of knowledge of the contents: how well they have been deepened and critically understood;

2) how rich and correct the discursive articulation of the contents is;

3) the use of appropriate terminology.

The evaluation of each of the three criteria will contribute to determine the final grade, which will be assigned according to the following evaluation scale:

. 18-21, if the performance is, on the whole, sufficient;

. 22-24, if the performance is, on the whole, satisfactory;

. 25-27, if the performance is, on the whole, good;

. 28-30, if the performance is, on the whole, very good;

. 30 cum laude, if the performance is, on the whole, excellent.

Teaching tools

Slides, images, videos, websites.

The online space of the course (Virtuale platform) will be a very useful tool not only to upload the slides and teaching material, but also to continue class discussion via the online activities organized by the teacher, in the ways described above (entry “Teaching methods”).

Office hours

See the website of Stefania Bonfiglioli