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How are cultures produced and encountered, and why does it matter? These questions are examined in this module through the key themes of place, power, literary ‘classics’, and journeys. You'll learn about contemporary cultures and relationships between cultures throughout history, discover how and why cultural identities emerge, and explore how they are expressed using texts, images and objects. After exploring a range of case studies from classical studies, art history, English literature, and creative writing, you'll investigate these themes with specific reference to your choice of one of these subject areas.

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Module code




  • Credits measure the student workload required for the successful completion of a module or qualification.
  • One credit represents about 10 hours of study over the duration of the course.
  • You are awarded credits after you have successfully completed a module.
  • For example, if you study a 60-credit module and successfully pass it, you will be awarded 60 credits.

Study level

Across the UK, there are two parallel frameworks for higher education qualifications, the Framework for Higher Education Qualifications in England, Northern Ireland and Wales (FHEQ) and the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF). These define a hierarchy of levels and describe the achievement expected at each level. The information provided shows how OU module levels correspond to these frameworks.
Level of Study
1 7 4

Study method

Module cost

Entry requirements

Student Reviews

This module has a more traditional feel to it than 'Discovering the arts and humanities' (A111) – in some ways...
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I studied A112 as part of my degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. From the start of this module,...
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What you will study

This module asks two key questions:

  • How are cultures produced and encountered?
  • Why do cultures matter?

You'll be encouraged to think about how the ideas, behaviours, and customs of diverse groups of people, ranging from the ancient to the contemporary world, have emerged, been shared, and might continue to be meaningfully encountered today. More specifically, it invites you to investigate the role played by texts, images and objects in these different cultures, discovering what these can tell us about the shared ideas or identities of particular communities and historical groups.

Your study of cultures will be structured around four key themes: Place, Power, Literary classics, and Journeys. Over the course of the module, you'll learn about:

Placing ancient cultures  Why do places matter to cultures?
In this first block, you'll learn about three places of central importance for ancient cultures: Athens, Rome, and Delphi. Studying the evidence for these very different ancient places will reveal what was important to the people of ancient Greece and Rome, as well as why these places continued to have cultural relevance in later centuries. You will also explore examples of art and literature which show how later visitors were inspired by ancient places, including people who encountered them as part of The Grand Tour in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Art and power  Why do certain works of art demand our attention through the centuries?
In this block, you'll analyse portraits of Elizabeth I and Beyoncé, ambassadors and emperors, from Renaissance Italy to the Mughal Empire in India in order to answer questions about how works of art have been used to represent power as well as to challenge it. What techniques have artists used to show individual, political or dynastic power? You’ll also explore how country houses, from Hardwick Hall to the ‘real’ Downton Abbey, were designed to represent power in the past and in today’s world. You'll find out how artists such as Goya and Picasso drew on satire and propaganda to mobilise their art against war and against fascism, challenging power. Finally, you’ll discover how character portraits can be brought to life by ancient rulers, in literature, and through the practice of creative writing.

Literary classics  What is at stake when we label something as ‘a classic’?
In this block, you'll learn how to analyse two texts which began as ‘popular’ works but which have come to be regarded as ‘classics’ of English literature: Twelfth Night, a Renaissance comedy by William Shakespeare, and Jane Eyre, a nineteenth-century novel by Charlotte Brontë. You'll be introduced to the idea that although these texts are deeply rooted within the cultural contexts in which they were written, they still have much to say to us today. You'll also find out why both works are considered to be classics before investigating how a similar status might be achieved for works in the context of classical studies (Virgil’s Aeneid) and art history (the Mona Lisa) and how the classics of the future are produced by contemporary creative writers.

Cultural journeys – How do cultural encounters affect the creative process of writing?
This block will invite you to participate in the creation of cultural forms by introducing you to some of the principal skills of creative writing, including how to read as a writer and the essentials of structure, character construction, language, and setting. You will explore how writing involves a journey of discovery, as well as how contemporary writers have used their experiences of real-life journeys to evoke a sense of place and to write about home. The question of what happens when people and ideas travel and inevitably encounter one another is also relevant to other subject areas, so you will have the chance to examine what the cultural impacts of this might be for cultural identities, the visual arts, and texts from the ancient and contemporary world.

Investigating cultures
The final block is dedicated to studying cultures with reference to your own choice of one of the module’s four subject areas: art history, classical studies, creative writing, or English literature. You'll explore in greater depth the sort of material that is of particular interest to you and further develop the skills to support your future study plans. You'll be closely supported as you develop your ability to study the arts and humanities with greater independence and to exercise some personal choice. 

Teaching and assessment

Support from your tutor

You will have a tutor who will help you with the study materials and mark and comment on your written work, and whom you can ask for advice and guidance. Your tutor will also support you with the independent study aspects of the module. Tuition will take place through tutorials and forums. Your tutor will also keep in contact by phone.

Contact us if you want to know more about study with The Open University before you register.


The assessment details for this module can be found in the facts box.

Future availability

Cultures starts twice a year – in February and October. This page describes the module that will start in October 2024 and February 2025. We expect it to start for the last time in February 2028.


As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the academic regulations which are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.

Course work includes:

5 Tutor-marked assignments (TMAs)
End-of-module assessment

Entry requirements

OU level 1 modules provide core subject knowledge and study skills needed for both higher education and distance learning to help you progress to modules at OU level 2. This module builds on the skills and understandings of relevant arts and humanities subjects developed through the study of Discovering the arts and humanities (A111). We strongly advise you to take A111 first unless you have already completed The arts past and present (AA100), now discontinued.

Successful completion of this module will equip you for more specialised OU level 2 arts and humanities modules. This module focuses on the subject areas of Art History, Classical Studies, Creative Writing, and English Literature and may therefore be of particular relevance if you intend to study any of these subjects at OU level 2 or beyond.

If you have any doubt about the suitability of the module, please speak to an adviser.


Start End England fee Register
05 Oct 2024 Jun 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 05/09/24 (places subject to availability)

01 Feb 2025 Sep 2025 £3636.00

Registration closes 09/01/25 (places subject to availability)

This module is expected to start for the last time in February 2028.

Additional Costs

Study costs

There may be extra costs on top of the tuition fee, such as set books, a computer and internet access.

If your income is not more than £25,000 or you receive a qualifying benefit, you might be eligible for help with some of these costs after your module has started.

Ways to pay for this module

Open University Student Budget Account

The Open University Student Budget Accounts Ltd (OUSBA) offers a convenient 'pay as you go' option to pay your OU fees, which is a secure, quick and easy way to pay. Please note that The Open University works exclusively with OUSBA and is not able to offer you credit facilities from any other provider. All credit is subject to status and proof that you can afford the repayments.

You pay the OU through OUSBA in one of the following ways:

  • Register now, pay later – OUSBA pays your module fee direct to the OU. You then repay OUSBA interest-free and in full just before your module starts. 0% APR representative. This option could give you the extra time you may need to secure the funding to repay OUSBA.
  • Pay by instalments – OUSBA calculates your monthly fee and number of instalments based on the cost of the module you are studying. APR 5.1% representative.

Joint loan applications

If you feel you would be unable to obtain an OUSBA loan on your own due to credit history or affordability issues, OUSBA offers the option to apply for a joint loan application with a third party. For example, your husband, wife, partner, parent, sibling or friend. In such cases, OUSBA will be required to carry out additional affordability checks separately and/or collectively for both joint applicants who will be jointly and severally liable for loan repayments.

As additional affordability checks are required when processing joint loan applications, unfortunately, an instant decision cannot be given. On average the processing time for a joint loan application is five working days from receipt of the required documentation.

Read more about Open University Student Budget Accounts (OUSBA).

Employer sponsorship

Studying with The Open University can boost your employability. OU courses are recognised and respected by employers for their excellence and the commitment they take to complete. They also value the skills that students learn and can apply in the workplace.

More than one in ten OU students are sponsored by their employer, and over 30,000 employers have used the OU to develop staff so far. If the module you’ve chosen is geared towards your job or developing your career, you could approach your employer to see if they will sponsor you by paying some or all of the fees. 

  • Your employer just needs to complete a simple form to confirm how much they will be paying and we will invoice them.
  • You won’t need to get your employer to complete the form until after you’ve chosen your module.  

Credit/debit card

You can pay part or all of your tuition fees upfront with a debit or credit card when you register for each module. 

We accept American Express, Mastercard, Visa and Visa Electron. 

Mixed payments

We know that sometimes you may want to combine payment options. For example, you may wish to pay part of your tuition fee with a debit card and pay the remainder in instalments through an Open University Student Budget Account (OUSBA).

Please note: your permanent address/domicile will affect your fee status and, therefore, the fees you are charged and any financial support available to you. The fee information provided here is valid for modules starting before 31 July 2025. Fees typically increase annually. For further information about the University's fee policy, visit our Fee Rules

This information was provided on 18/05/2024.

Can you study an Access module for free?

Depending on eligibility and availability of places, you could apply to study your Access module for free.

To qualify, you must:

  1. be resident in England
  2. have a household income of less than £25,000 (or be in receipt of a qualifying benefit)
  3. have not completed one year or more on any full-time undergraduate programme at FHEQ level 4 or above or successfully completed 30 credits or more of OU study within the last 10 years

How to apply to study an Access module for free

Once you've started the registration process, either online or over the phone, we'll contact you about your payment options. This will include instructions on how you can apply to study for free if you are eligible and funded places are still available.

If you're unsure if you meet the criteria to study for free, you can check with one of our friendly advisers on +44 (0)300 303 0069, or you can request a call back.

Not eligible to study for free?

Don't worry! We offer a choice of flexible ways to help spread the cost of your Access module. The most popular options include:

  • monthly payments through OUSBA
  • part-time tuition fee loan (you'll need to be registered on a qualification for this option)

To explore all the options available to you, visit Fees and Funding.

What's included

The module is presented through a blend of printed and online material. You’ll be provided with two printed module books and have access to a module website, which includes:

  • a week-by-week study planner
  • module materials
  • audio and video recordings
  • interactive content
  • an assessment guide
  • access to online tutorials and forums.

Computing requirements

You’ll need broadband internet access and a desktop or laptop computer with an up-to-date version of Windows (10 or 11) or macOS Ventura or higher.

Any additional software will be provided or is generally freely available.

To join in spoken conversations in tutorials, we recommend a wired headset (headphones/earphones with a built-in microphone).

Our module websites comply with web standards, and any modern browser is suitable for most activities.

Our OU Study mobile app will operate on all current, supported versions of Android and iOS. It’s not available on Kindle.

It’s also possible to access some module materials on a mobile phone, tablet device or Chromebook. However, as you may be asked to install additional software or use certain applications, you’ll also require a desktop or laptop, as described above.

Materials to buy

Set books

  • Bronte, C.: Smith, M. (ed.) Jane Eyre Oxford World's Classics £5.99 - ISBN 9780198804970
  • Shakespeare, W.: Warren, R. & Wells, S. (eds) Twelfth Night: The Oxford Shakespeare Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199536092
  • Dickens, C.: Cardwell, M. (ed.) Great Expectations * Oxford World's Classics £5.99 - ISBN 9780199219766 This book is one of two options for students who choose to study the English Literature option EMA.
  • Shakespeare, W.: Holland, P. (ed.) A Midsummer Night's Dream: The Oxford Shakespeare * Oxford World's Classics £7.99 - ISBN 9780199535866 This book is one of two options for students who choose to study the English Literature option EMA.

Note: All students should purchase 'Jane Eyre' and 'Twelfth Night: The Oxford Shakespeare'. Students only need to purchase one of the two books marked with an * if they choose to study the English Literature option EMA.

If you have a disability

The OU strives to make all aspects of study accessible to everyone and this Accessibility Statement outlines what studying A112 involves. You should use this information to inform your study preparations and any discussions with us about how we can meet your needs.

To find out more about what kind of support and adjustments might be available, contact us or visit our disability support pages.