M Phil in Textual & Visual Studies: 20th and 21st Centuries @Trinity College Dublin

Trinity College Dublin
Trinity College Dublin

What’s it all about?

What is it about some advertising posters of the 1920s or 1930s that still makes us want to look at them or even collect them decades after their release? What does a postage stamp tell us, not only about the national post office, but also the culture and ideology of the country that issues it? How is it that cinema has in the 20th century moved to the forefront of cultural consciousness, despite the continuing appeal of other arts such as literature and painting? In what ways do the new digital media transform cultural awareness and cultural practice?


These are some of the questions the Trinity College Dublin Masters in Textual & Visual Studies raises and invites students to reflect on critically and creatively. This course, unique in Ireland, also enables students to explore further what is at stake in typography, photography, graphic design and literature, either in their own right or in their interaction – fruitful or problematic – with each other.


The Course

This course explores the relationship between textual and visual forms of apprehension and expression in the modern world and their impact on European culture post-1900. The focus of the first-semester core module is on the graphic arts (poster, postage stamp, typography), that of the second on cinema, interactive video and digital-based media. Various theoretical approaches are explored in relation to the word/image problematic as manifested in a number of European cultural traditions.


This 12-month course starts in September of each year. Teaching takes place over two semesters, followed by a five-month dissertation-writing period. It consists of a two-semester core module (20 ECTs) taken by all students, together with four one-semester options (2 per semester, each worth 10 ECTs) from the range offered in a given year, and a dissertation of 15,000 to 20,000 words (30 ECTs) on an agreed subject.

Aims and Options

Optional one-semester modules will focus on specific media (photography, cinema, digital humanities) or themes (the city, avant-gardes, national identity). The aim of the course is to bring students to a high level of theoretical and practical awareness of the text-image relation in cultural expression, to equip them to analyze and evaluate the various forms text/image interaction takes, and to provide them with a training that will enrich their practice in other areas of study or professional engagement.

The course is open to students with a BA (graduating with a GPA of 3.3 or above) in any area of the arts and humanities. It is recommended (but not required) for applicants to have a reading knowledge of at least one language other than English from among those offered by the School of Languages, Literatures and Cultural Studies at Trinity College Dublin (German, French, Polish, Spanish, Russian, Irish or Italian).

Graduates of the course are currently pursuing doctoral research and careers in graphic design, arts administration, art curatorship, art publishing and lecturing.

What our graduates and students say about the course:

“I took the MPhil in Textual and Visual Studies in 2012/13. The core module offers an introduction to theories of visual semiotics and an opportunity to apply these theories to detailed analysis of the semiotic content of postage stamps, posters, magazine covers and advertisements. The shared lectures and tutorials with MPhil students from European studies, Literary Translation and Comparative Literature were a great opportunity to share and contrast approaches to similar topics. The teaching on the couse is terrific! Trinity College has a beautiful campus with excellent library and IT support and, most importantly, a hugely encouraging learning environment which actively supports the pursuit of areas of individual interest.  This MPhil exceeded my expectations and I highly recommend the course!”

-Olivia O’Flanagan (Ireland)


“Looking back, I can say my year as a TVS student is the most enjoyable period in my life. Everyday there was something new to learn and to explore. I benefited not only from the expertise of our wonderful and dedicated teachers, but also from my encounters with some of the most intelligent students from around the world.”

–Panpan Lin (China)

For more course information, please visit: https://www.tcd.ie/langs-lits-cultures/postgraduate/textual_visual_studies/


Article author: David Scott                 Course coordinator: John Murray


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