Special subject: Michelangelo
The Michelangelo Special Subject module will deal with the wide-ranging works of this artist, examining his artistic outlook, his special achievements, his influence and his reputation. Particular emphasis will be placed on historical evidence and modern critical responses.
In the first term we will focus principally on a chronological investigation of Michelangelo’s career and his main works of sculpture, painting and architecture. These works will be carefully chronicled and interpreted with the aid of drawings and early written sources, and will then be set into their broader historical, artistic and cultural contexts.
The second term will look more closely at questions of theory and artistic procedure, and particularly at Michelangelo’s own aesthetic and philosophical views, as represented in his writings and in other texts of the period. It will also consider Michelangelo’s particular contribution to art in the wider sixteenth century, and it will investigate the various relationships between him and his contemporaries and followers, as a means of defining his artistic objectives more closely.
Special Subject: Inside Out: Interior and Interiority
Inside Out: Interior and Interiority in French Art, Design and Visual Culture, 1840-1940
This module analyses the changing uses and meanings of the interior and notions of interiority in French art, design and visual culture. During the modern period the interior constituted more than a mere backdrop to visual representation. It was the active subject of artistic and other forms of visual culture and increasingly the object of design practice and its attendant representations. Moreover, the interior was considered a metaphor for self, so the issues of subjective and corporeal interiority will be considered at length, as will issues deriving from feminist methodologies. We will consider a range of media, including painting, photography, magazines and film, debate the practices of key figures including Degas, Cassatt, Vuillard, Matisse, Atget, Le Corbusier and Perriand and analyse the interiors produced by Impressionism, Art Nouveau, Cubism, Art Deco and Surrealism. The module considers visual forms in relation to artistic and architectural theory, popular psychology and literary fiction to show the range of interiors constructed by and for the modern imagination.
Special Subject: Contemporary Visual Art and Postcolonialism
The migration of Asians and Africans to Britain in the 1960s generated changes in society and culture and triggered discourses which fall under the general heading of Postcolonialism. While Postcolonialism is widely studied both in terms of methodology and in relation to literary productions, the visual arts have received scant attention in this context.
This module will explore the causes for this lack of attention and will examine a wide variety of media from the 1960s to the present day (eg works by Mona Hatoum, Chris Ofili, Anwar Shemza). It will also consider various discourses in Postcolonialism (Homi K Bhabha, Edward Said and Gayatri Spivak) and explore its major themes (diaspora, race, nationhood and belonging, imperialism, hybridity) as well as examining canonical postcolonial literature (Salman Rushdie, V S Naipaul), in order to create a dialogue with the works of art in question. The module will also examine the visual productions of both historical and present cultures of colonialism and neo-colonial conflicts such as Nazi Germany, Germany after reunification, and the Iraq war. This module emphasises primary source materials, both textual and visual.
Special subject: After Modernism. Art and Culture since the 1970s
In July 1972 the prize-winning Pruitt-Igoe housing estate in St. Louis was demolished. Commonly thought of as embodying the utopian social ideals of modern art and architecture, many observers regarded its destruction as marking a key turning point.
In place of the idealistic and progressive hopes for social and cultural rebirth associated with modernism and the avant-garde, the demolition of Pruitt-Igoe seemed to inaugurate a period, a sceptical and fractured art world, in which art seemed to have lost its historical, political and cultural direction.
This course examines the development of art from this moment in the early 1970s to the present in light of the context of art after modernism. It examines art world development not only through time - the 40 or so years since 1972 - but also through space. In particular, beginning with a focus on practices in Britain, Europe and North America, the module will also consider the globalisation of contemporary art and the 'provincialising' of the Western art world. It examines a wide variety of themes including: feminist art; Neo-Expressionism and the figurative painting of the 1980s; conceptual art and the role of photography; installation and site-specific art; the globalised art world; finance, commerce and the contemporary art market; Prince Charles as an architectural critic; theories of post-modernism; art exhibitions in the age of the global biennale.
Special Subject: Women and Artistic Culture in the Late Medieval and Early Modern Period.
This module draws on the recent growth of scholarship on women as subjects, consumers and producers of art and visual cultures the late medieval and early modern period. It will first focus on the construction of the female sex in discourses of the time and explore modern methodologies for studying women and the production of art, and the possibilities for bringing them into the canon. It will then focus on the different social, political and religious roles played by women in this period, including motherhood, ruler, or confirmed religious, and how this shaped their patronage and artistic practice, or how these roles influenced the works they were offered by men. Secular as well as devotional works will be considered along with popular models for or representations of women. Media such as portraiture, illuminated manuscripts, frescos and tomb sculpture commissioned by noble women such as Margaret of Austria and Isabella d’Este, will be explored, as well as more ‘popular’ objects from material culture that were destined specifically for female audiences.
Special Subject: Fashioning Flesh and Technology: Modernism and the Body in Germany 1918-1933
This module considers the concept of German Modernism in relation to discourses on real and imagined bodies during the Weimar Republic.
Examining a range of works of art, design and film, as well as textual sources, it explores the ways in which some of the defining practices and theories of Modernism revolving around the metropolis, technology, mass culture, and sexuality can be used to understand attitudes towards the body. The module analyses several art-historical moments associated with German Modernism (including Neue Sachlichkeit, Bauhaus design and late German Expressionism). As well as developing an understanding of the body as a site of complex social and psychological negotiations, students will engage critically with both historical (Freud, Hirschfeld, Nordau, Schlemmer) and more contemporary theoretical considerations of the body (Foucault, Laqueur, Mosse, Cowan) in order to frame their interpretations. Through an emphasis on the body, this module questions the lasting myth of Weimar Germany as a period of ‘Golden Twenties’ (Gay, Laqueur, Willett) cut short by the National Socialists.
The Body and its Representation in Visual Culture
This module analyses the representation of the body in western art and visual culture from the Renaissance to the present day. Rather than attempting a survey of periods we will analyse the body in visual representation according to a set of thematic concepts relevant to current debates. These themes are: The Ideal Body, The Body Politic, The Body as Specimen, The Body and Obscenity, Body Matter, The Artist’s Body and Identity.
Visual Cultures of Revolution in France 1789-1848
The period covered by this module includes the revolutions of 1789, 1830 and 1848, as well as the rise and fall of Napoleon Bonaparte, the restoration of the Bourbon monarchy, and the reign of the Orléanist monarchy. The module will examine the continuities and changes in the production, dissemination, display and reception of paintings, sculptures and prints during this period of conflict in France. The training of artists, the development of museums, periods of iconoclasm, and British print-makers’ responses to events in France will also be studied. Among the artists whose works we will consider will be: David, Boilly, Isobey, Gérard, Zoffany, Rowlandson, Gillray, Géricault, Delacroix, Ingres, Daumier, and Courbet. The module will engage critically with the notion of ‘revolution’ and making regular reference to primary source material.
Architecture and Public Art in Sixteenth-Century Venice
The module will examine the architecture and the decoration of public buildings (e.g. the Doge’s Palace; churches and scuole) in Venice and certain Venetian mainland territories during the course of the sixteenth century. It will examine, in particular, how the styles and subject matter changed during the period; chronicle the emergence of new kinds of building (e.g. the villa and new kinds of palace and church); and chart the effects of changing artistic practices. The architects covered will include Sanmicheli (in Verona) and Palladio (in Vicenza) as well as Sansovino (Venice’s official architect); among the artists studied will be Carpaccio, Titian, Veronese and Tintoretto. The module will place special emphasis on artistic traditions and themes that had a particular significance for Venice, and it will make regular reference to primary source material.
Modernism in Europe: Image, Text, Sound
The module will provide a deep understanding of Modernism as a European cultural movement and will cover aspects of theory, literature, art and music. It examines the nature and role of Modernism in early 20th C European Culture. Early sessions are devoted to theories of Modernism which will both place the movement in its historical and cultural context and lead to an understanding of the movement as part of a wider paradigm shift in Western science and culture at the beginning of the 20th C. During the rest of the module Modernism will be studied in relation to various areas of the arts (e.g. literature, theatre, music, art) and a range of themes (e.g gender, social class, geography, the avant-garde).
The Political Thriller on Film: Genre, Ideology, Emotion
Is it possible to articulate a political critique from within the mainstream film industry? Is genre film a suitable vehicle for progressive ideology? Can popular film be a means for political change? In this course such questions will form the basis of an analysis of the political thriller, a genre that emerged in Europe in the 1960s before expanding to become a global genre in the decades that followed. With its focus on conspiracies and imperilled investigators, the political thriller used specific generic and narrative tropes to explore the political challenges of the modern world. The course will explore the evolution of the political thriller in a range of national and political contexts and apply three key theoretical concepts (genre, ideology, emotion) to explore how the political thriller simultaneously engages audience on both a political and visceral level.