What you will study
This module presents multiple ways of approaching works of art, architecture and design within the discipline of art history. It is not bound by beginnings and ends of chronological divisions; it is about thinking, and writing, with critical analysis. Art historians whose ideas are still valuable today have been selected because they helped to open up interesting questions about art. How do you identify what art means? Why is art connected to society? How do visual works communicate? Can art explain ideas? You’ll be introduced to some key authors and their works, and shown through case studies how you can apply their ideas and methods to a range of art works. The case studies have a global scope, and delve into prehistory as well as reaching into contemporary art.
Writing as a craft is an important theme across the module, leading up to your dissertation project. Across the three blocks, you will be introduced to useful concepts and methods for recognising and understanding different types of writing, from the academic to writing for the public in different forms. You’ll have chance to apply new ways of writing, including a review and a short exhibition, and you may choose to use writing for a general audience as part of your dissertation work.
Block 1 looks at the twentieth century art historians who changed the way art history is written, making connections from art back to society. These authors are grouped here through their shared interest in analysing art works as if they could be read, like a text, through decoding visual languages. Ways of interpreting art include reconstructing world views of past societies up to the first challenges about writing inclusive art history from the perspective of class and gender, as understood in feminist thought up to the 1990s.
Block 2 works with art historians who have thought about the importance of understanding different cultures and contexts for art. The key writers introduced here worked in the second half of the twentieth century, in societies dealing with the impact of two global wars as well as the challenges of contemporary art practices. Questions arising include how can art effectively acknowledge atrocities; what are the boundaries of art; who can be an artist; and how can art represent all identities?
Block 3 extends the contexts for art from about humans to about humans in relation to the rest of the Earth. Once again, human identities are in focus, expanding the discussion through representations of the body and more recent gender theories; then seeing humans in relation to the rest of the world, considering if other species make art; how the properties of materials for art call attention back to their own qualities; and finally, whether art history can highlight issues of sustainability, as a challenge for the whole Earth.
You will learn
By studying this module you'll learn about:
- art history as a whole and its links to related subjects
- the established concepts, theories and principles of art history
- the potential uncertainty, ambiguity and limits of art-historical knowledge.
You'll gain an awareness of art history’s relationship with professional contexts, including the arts and heritage sector. You'll improve as a writer, and use the transferable skills of visual literacy, critical thinking, and communication.