HUM 101: Visual Culture

M/W/F – 11:30-12:20, Olin 212


Instructor: Dr. Cate Blouke          


Office: Olin 104                               

Office phone: 864-597-5047

Office hours: Thursdays 1:00-2:00, Wednesdays 1:00-2:00, & by appointment


With the rise of new media and network television, Americans are exposed to thousands upon thousands of images on a daily basis. From our Facebook streams to our television viewing choices to our personal email accounts, we are bombarded with images: of celebrities, of politicians, of consumer goods, of natural disasters, of… cats. And we must filter through it all in order to make sense of our world.

In this course we will explore the ways in which images can be read, analyzed, constructed, and manipulated. We will interrogate how images inform our reading of historical and political events, of personal identity, of public and private spaces. We will think through issues of self-presentation: how our stylistic choices convey messages to the world around us, and how we interpret the choices of others. We will look at the spaces we frequent and consider the rhetorical effects of everything from the architecture to the furniture to lighting. In short, we will investigate how the visual (non-linguistic, non-textual) world conveys its messages.

HUM 101 is considered an introduction to college writing; consequently, it is a relatively writing-intensive course. We’ll be using images as our primary objects of analysis, but we will build a solid foundation of written analysis before moving into image creation.

In this course you will learn how to:

  • Critically analyze how images change, affect, and produce debates
  • Digitally manipulate images to achieve a desired rhetorical effect
  • Engage the principles of design — effectively arranging visual and textual elements
  • Navigate a number of digital media platforms and manage digital workflow
  • Edit and proofread your own and others’ prose, cultivating a writing process
  • Reflect on your own learning process and evaluate progress

Required Texts and Materials:

Picturing Texts. Faigley, et al. New York: Norton, 2004. ISBN: 0-393-97912-1.

A USB thumb drive with 16 GB of space

Aside from the required text, I will assign a variety of excerpts from other works, newspaper articles, blogs, and essays over the course of the semester. Whenever possible, I will provide you with hard copies of these supplementary readings, and digital versions will be made available in the course Slack.

Coursework and Grading (The Learning Record):

Unlike most of the courses you’ve ever taken (or are taking this semester), your grade for this course will be based on your own assessment of your learning development. This course gives you the opportunity to self-evaluate your learning based on evidence and observations that you collect over the semester. This means both an increase in agency over your own grade as well as an increase in personal responsibility. The goal here will be to demonstrate how your learning evolves as opposed to simply demonstrating an ability to regurgitate lectures and classroom discussions. Regardless of the skill-level or knowledge with which you enter this class, you will be graded/rewarded for your demonstrable progress.

Your final grade will be determined by use of the Learning Record (LR), a system in which students are assessed holistically based on a final portfolio, rather than by assigning grades piecemeal. These portfolios present a selection of your work (both formal and informal) alongside ongoing observations about your learning. This evidence is then coupled with an analysis of your personal development (written by you) in terms of the six dimensions of learning and the specific learning objectives for this course (course strands).

The six dimensions of learning have been developed by teachers and researchers over the last several decades, and they represent what learners generally experience in any learning situation:

1) Confidence and independence

2) Knowledge and understanding

3) Skills and strategies

4) Use of prior and emerging experience

5) Reflectiveness

6) Creativity, originality, imagination

In your Learning Record and final portfolio, you must convincingly demonstrate growth in the course strands listed below by providing concrete evidence that you collect over time. In the summary, interpretation, and evaluation statements you generate, you should explain how your evidence shows learning in the course strands, using the six dimensions of learning. The course strands and the dimensions of learning can be imagined as a matrix through which you and I will interpret the evidence presented by each of your individual Learning Records.

We will discuss much of this in class (repeatedly), but I highly recommend you spend some time investigating The Learning Record website. It will ease any concerns and anxieties you may have as well as prepare you for the tasks ahead. This is an entirely transparent process/system, and the site will answer many questions that you are likely to have.

The course strands for HUM 101 are as follows:

Visual Analysis

Visual analysis includes the ability to assess the significance or meaning of the various elements related to a visual text, such as: historical and cultural contexts, style, medium, organization, design, subject, author, and audience. Student development in this learning strand should demonstrate an acquired ability to analyze the arrangement and persuasive material in an image as well as the ability to write persuasively about said analysis.

Digital Literacy

Digital literacy includes the ability to locate, manage, synthesize, analyze, and share streams of information in electronic environments; to compose multimodal texts using digital technologies; and to participate responsibly in collaborative online spaces. Student development in this area should demonstrate a critical awareness of media and an improved ability to compose and analyze multimodal texts.

Writing Process

The writing process includes all efforts that come before the writer finally sits down to compose (brainstorming, planning, note-taking, brief writing to record information or test ideas) as well as critical reconsideration and reshaping of a written product (evaluating one’s own work or another’s work, forming and executing goals for revision, re-conceptualizing a piece of writing in light of new information or new circumstances). Student development in this area should demonstrate a more complete knowledge of how effective writers compose as well as a more refined ability to plan, write, and revise.

(Optional) Collaboration, Cooperation and Support

An important part of responsible civic engagement (as well as academic success) is learning to collaborate with your peers. It’s also a classroom contribution that all too often goes unremarked or unrewarded since it’s less clearly tangible or easily measured. This course strand, therefore, is not as rigorously defined given that it can include a wide array of activities and behaviors, some of which might include (but are not limited to): working together on a group project inside or outside of class, effectively delegating/splitting up responsibilities and balancing contributions, continuing conversations beyond the classroom (via Slack especially), helping your peers by answering their questions, assisting them with technologies, and/or providing additional peer review feedback (such as looking at drafts, discussing ideas, brainstorming together, etc).

The grade criteria for evaluating your learning record are as follows:

A - Represents outstanding participation in all course activities; all assigned work completed on time, with very high quality in all work produced for the course. Evidence of significant development across the five dimensions of learning. The Learning Record at this level demonstrates activity that goes significantly beyond the required course work in one or more course strands.

B - Represents excellent participation in all course activities; all assigned work completed on time, with consistently high quality in course work. Evidence of marked development across the five dimensions of learning.

C - Represents good participation in all course activities; all assigned work completed, with generally good quality overall in course work. Evidence of some development across the five dimensions of learning.

D - Represents uneven participation in course activities; some gaps in assigned work completed, with inconsistent quality in course work. Evidence of development across the five dimensions of learning is partial or unclear.

F - Represents minimal participation in course activities; serious gaps in assigned work completed, or very low quality in course work. Evidence of development is not available.

Plus/minus grades are earned where the evidence provided in the Learning Record clearly falls between the criteria for two letter grades.

Overview of Major Assignments

The course assignments (major and minor) build toward a final project in which you’ll create a magazine together as a class. There should be no mystery to my evaluations, and I will distribute detailed instructions for each assignment. 

Daily blog posts/writing

For each class/reading, you’ll be expected to write a brief reflection on the materials – posted to a Wordpress blog created for the course. Posts should be between 200-500 words and include at least one image with appropriate citation/attribution. These are informal writing assignments, but you should still be attentive to punctuation, grammar, etc. They are due by midnight the night before class.

Learning Record materials

You’ll be asked to create three Learning Record portfolios: an initial assessment, a midterm assessment, and a final portfolio. You’ll also be expected to record daily learning observations throughout the semester (for which you’ll be given the last few minutes of every class). You must have a minimum of 30 observations by the end of the semester.

Magazine articles

Early in the semester, you’ll compose a magazine article modeled on an article and magazine of your choosing. For the final course project, the class will collectively put together a magazine, and you will contribute an article. The latter article will go through an extensive writing process, beginning with a pitch letter and moving through at least two drafts before the final product.

Satiric ad campaign

In addition to your journalistic contribution to the magazine, each of you will also create a satirical advertisement to be included in the publication. These will similarly follow a process of proposal and revision. 

Late Work

Work is due on the dates specified by the course schedule. Should you fail to submit/post your work on time, you will jeopardize your ability to get the grade that you desire for the term. Note the criteria listed for a student to earn an A or a B for the term stipulate that all assigned work must be completed on time.

In addition to affecting your final grade, habitually turning in work late will put you out of sync with the rest of the class and will affect your overall performance. Late submission will also result in assignments being returned late, which may set you back even further if the assignment needs revision. For these reasons, I strongly caution against submitting anything after the due date. That said, if you do not complete an assignment on time but do complete the work, you should submit the material to demonstrate its completion and to continue with the assignment sequence that everyone else will be following. You must email me to notify me that you have submitted something late. 


You are responsible for making your own decisions regarding attendance. I do not excuse absences, but I do like to be informed about your well-being. If an unavoidable problem prevents you from attending class, please contact me as soon as possible, preferably ahead of time, to let me know.

Given that participation is a requirement for the grading criteria, multiple absences will certainly have a negative impact on your grade. If you miss two full weeks of class (6 absences), you will be withdrawn from the course (WP/WF as is appropriate). Similarly, habitual tardiness will affect your grade, and excessive tardiness (arriving more than 10 minutes late) or arriving to class unprepared (without your reading/book) will result in being counted absent.

Academic Integrity

Wofford has a strict and clear honor code, and it applies to all work done for this class. Academic dishonesty will not be tolerated. Although we will discuss it in class, you are expected to understand what plagiarism is at this point. Regardless of your intentions, any suspicion or evidence of plagiarism or academic dishonesty will be remanded to the honor council.

For further reading on Wofford’s policies, please refer to the following:

Use of Electronics

This course is held in a computer classroom, and we’ll be working on those computers with some frequency. I expect phones to be put away and left on silent. Please do not use your electronics for non-class purposes. In a class this small, I will definitely notice, and violations will affect my assessment of the quality of your participation. Prolonged use may count as an absence, as I may ask you to leave class if you are unable to manage your distractions.


I will be communicating with you via email with some regularity. Email is an official means of communication at Wofford, and you are expected to check it daily.

I make a concerted effort to respond to all emails within 24 hours. I typically only answer email between 9AM and 5PM, so if you send an email after hours, I’ll get to it the next day. Weekend response times are likely to be longer. 

Conferences/Help Beyond Class Time

I'm happy to talk with you about your work at any stage of the writing/creative process. If my office hours don't work for you, please email me to set up an appointment – I’m on campus most days and happy to meet with you. If you would like feedback on a draft, I ask that you come talk to me in person and that you email me the draft ahead of time. I will read it (time permitting) before our meeting and have questions and comments prepared. 


Wofford College seeks to provide disabled students with reasonable accommodations needed to ensure equal access to the programs and activities of the college. Support for students with special needs is coordinated through Wofford College Wellness Center/ Accessibility Services. Please let me know how I can best assist you.

Further information can be found at the following:

Learning Differences

I expect that students will have different learning styles. For example, you may prefer to process information through reading, so some of our discussion may be difficult to absorb. Please talk to me as soon as you can about your individual learning needs and how this course can best accommodate them. If you do not have a documented disability, remember that other support services, including the Writing Center and library services, are available to all students. I’m also on a mission to design inclusive assignments and activities, so if you have learning needs I haven’t anticipated, let me know, and I’ll see what I can do. 

A Note on Technology

We’ll be navigating a number of digital platforms in this class. Most of our coursework and discussion will occur in a chat/messaging space called Slack. This is where you will find links to important course documents and readings, and it’s also a venue for discussion, questions, and sharing of resources and ideas. The address is:

Slack provides a means to participate in and contribute to the course if you feel less comfortable sharing aloud in group settings. While I do expect participation both in class and online, I invite you to lean into whichever of the two you are more comfortable with – as both will provide evidence for your Learning Record. Keep in mind, of course, this is a semi-public platform (private to both sections of HUM 101 that I’m teaching, but public to the group), and I expect you to treat each other with respect.

In addition to Slack, you’ll be using Pathbrite to create portfolios, Wordpress to compose daily blog posts related to the readings, and Google Drive to share drafts and submit work to me – as well as other technologies we’ll encounter along the way. This is quite a lot to navigate, and it can easily become confusing without careful attention. If you are entering the class feeling less than confident about your digital literacy, the good news is that you’ll have the opportunity for a lot of growth by the end of the semester. Please do come to me for help if you find yourself overwhelmed.