Core modules - all students
All students will study two core modules:
Criticism and Methods in the History of Art and Visual Culture
This module looks at the historiography, methods and theoretical underpinning of contemporary practices of artistic and visual analysis. Based on close reading of key scholarly texts, you will engage with traditional art historical methods as well as more recent approaches to the study of art and visual culture. You will be asked to consider the relevance of these methods to a range of examples, including the potential topics for your final dissertation.
Postgraduate Research Training and Methods
This specialised module prepares you for both writing and researching your dissertation. It covers topics such as: referencing systems; writing a research proposal; literature reviews; approaching archives; and oral histories.
Assessment: Written assignment
Core modules - British Art pathway
Those specialising in British Art will take a further two core modules:
Defining British Art
What exactly is British art, and how does it relate to national identity? This module provides a broad overview of developments in British art from c.1760 to the present. It questions and unpacks this art historical category, by examining the key debates and writings that have shaped our understanding and definition of British art. It engages with the ways in which the boundaries of British art have been increasingly redrawn in recent years, as art historians integrate Britain’s imperial past and postcolonial present into the study of British art.
The module will consider the ways in which British art has been made, exhibited, experienced, conceptualised and contested. It will examine the breadth of British art, notably painting and sculpture, but also photography, the decorative arts, and more recent conceptual approaches. Students will engage directly with artworks through visits to relevant collections.
The module’s broad chronological sweep encompasses a diverse set of ideas related to British art. Topics might include: What is British Art?; art and empire; British ‘isms’ and movements; ‘English’ or ‘British’? Four nations art history; collecting and exhibiting British art; writing British art; the Royal Academy and the creation of the ‘British school’; researching British Art; judging British art; and queering British art.
This module includes mandatory and optional visits to museums and galleries. The cost of these will be covered by the Department.
Assessment: A research portfolio focused on an object produced in the Midlands, comprising a 2,000 word essay, annotated bibliography, and a selection of annotated visual and contextual sources.
Those taking a general route through the programme will choose three Special Subjects and one optional module; those specialising in British Art will take two Special Subjects and/or optional modules.
Aesthetics and the Philosophy of Art
This module consists of a critical examination of topics in aesthetics and the philosophy of art. It considers subjects such as: art and the nature of aesthetic experience; beauty, ugliness and the sublime; symbolism and allegory; the aesthetics of modernism.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Artists' Film and Video from the 1920s to the Present
This module will offer an in-depth introduction of the field of twentieth century artists’ film. Starting with films by exponents of Dada and Surrealism such as Fernand Léger, Man Ray and Germaine Dulac, it will take in work by American avant-garde artists such as Maya Deren, Stan Brakhage, and Jonas Mekas, and more contemporary artist filmmakers such as Peter Greenaway, Valie Export, David Lynch, Derek Jarman, and Steve McQueen. Appropriate theoretical material on the artistic movements represented and on the field of artists’ film and video will be supplied alongside the films themselves throughout the module.
Assessment: Two 2,000-word essays
This module aims to develop your commercial awareness and provide a framework for undertaking enterprising activity in cultural organisations, which is ever more important in a time of funding pressure. The module takes the form of a series of lectures and seminars on how to create a plan for new revenue generating activity within a large organisation, or a business startup. This will be supported by a series of guest speakers who currently engage in commercial activity in cultural organisations. You will work in groups to develop an idea based on a real-world challenge set by a cultural organisation, before pitching your idea in a Dragon’s Den for feedback and preparing a business plan.
Assessment: 4,000-word business plan
Theorising and Historicising Exhibitions
In many ways, exhibitions have been fundamental to art history, perhaps because artists have been influenced by exhibitions or have been ‘periodised’ by exhibitions (for example, Impressionism and Post-Impressionism). Arguably, art history has also been made through exhibitions. Therefore this module explores art history from the perspective of exhibitions. Such a perspective not only offers an intriguing approach that can be applied to any artist or art period, but an exhibition history constitutes part of any exhibition proposal. Therefore, this module supports both curatorial and art-historical studies. It provides an introduction to a variety of theoretical approaches to the role of exhibitions regarding society and institutional critique (Bourdieu, Foucault, Bhabha) and to aspects that are pertinent to exhibitions, including the relevance of place and space for an exhibition, display, the role of curator, artist and audiences, marketing and sponsoring.
Assessment: 4,000-word essay
Special Subjects available is updated annually in line with staff research interests. The following are indicative of the range of subjects we teach:
- Berlin 1890-1939: Symphony of a (Great?) City
- Contemporary Art and Masculinity
- Contemporary Global Art
- Fashioning Flesh and Technology: Modernism and the Body in Germany 1918–1933
- Inside Out: Interior and Interiority in French Art, Design and Visual Culture 1850–1940
- Paris Moderne 1850–1930: Image, Myth, Femininity
- Prague, Budapest, Cracow 1867–1918
- Pre-Raphaelites: Contexts, Approaches and Reputations
- Turning the Pages: Manuscript and Print, Past and Present
- Women and Artistic Culture 1400–1600
In addition to your taught modules, you will conduct a piece of independent research with the support of a supervisor, culminating in a 15,000-word dissertation. This will either have a focus on British Art, for those following this pathway, or a topic of your choice within History of Art.
Please note that the optional module information listed on the website for this programme is intended to be indicative, and the availability of optional modules may vary from year to year. Where a module is no longer available we will let you know as soon as we can and help you to make other choices.