Topics in Art History and Visual Culture II (AHV1009)

StaffProfessor Fabrizio Nevola - Lecturer
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module aims

The module is designed to complement the first term core courses (AHV1001 and AHV1002), which have a focus on theory and methodologies in the practice of art history and visual culture, by instead offering a more focused study of movements, topics or themes. The module will enable you to develop a deeper understanding of a specific field within the discipline of art history and visual culture, and through close analysis of key examples, to acquire and put into practice your analytical skills. While the specific subject will vary, you will have the opportunity to learn about diverse visual media (painting, sculpture, architecture, photography etc.), and aspects of making, meaning and practice that are fundamental for your further studies. You will also begin to gain an understanding of the complex scholarship that shapes the debate in a given field, and acquire the skills to articulate a well-informed and independent position in relation to these.

The module delivery is primarily through lectures and seminars, and where appropriate will include a guided visit.


ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Describe and analyse selected visual works in detail
  • 2. Situate works of art and visual culture in appropriate historical and/or critical contexts
  • 3. Critically evaluate texts and images, and their relations
  • 4. Articulate your own critical position relative to recent and current debates

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 5. Display confidence with the analysis of a wide range of artistic works
  • 6. Demonstrate research skills
  • 7. Apply a variety of methodologies and theoretical approaches to the interpretation of visual objects
  • 8. Understand and apply specialist terms, methodologies, and concepts

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 9. Through writing and project assessments, demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, a basic capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and a capacity to write clear and correct prose and manage your own research time.
  • 10. Through research for projects and essays, demonstrate basic proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.

Syllabus plan


The history of photography (1830-1950)


Following a chronological progression, the module will introduce students to key themes and characteristics of the photographic styles in the history of visual culture both in Europe and the United States, from the mid-nineteenth century to the first half of the twentieth century.


Beginning with the origins of photography and its early beginnings with pictorialism in France, England and the United States, we will go on to study the practices of photography in the years leading up to and after the First World War, including the avant-garde activities of Dada and Surrealist artists, the Neue Sachlichkeit and New Vision in continental Europe, French humanism as well as straight photography and the f/64 group in the United States. We will also cover documentary photography in the United States – from Jacob Riis and Lewis Hine to the FSA pictures, the History of Man exhibition and The Americans by Robert Frank.

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Indicative syllabus will vary from year to year and will be indicated prior to module choice selection before the start of term 1.



Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching activities111 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities102 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching activities4Trip to London galleries
Scheduled learning and teaching activities125Private Study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short Essay750 words1-10Written feedback. Tutorial
Oral Presentation15 minutes1-10Written feedback. Tutorial

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Essay1002500 words1-10Written feedback. Tutorial

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-10Referral/deferral period

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

NB As the precise topic is at the discretion of the convener it is not possible to give a generic indicative syllabus plan. As an example, if the selected topic was ‘Modern/Avant-Garde/Contemporary: Debates and Contestations in The Visual Arts’, an indicative syllabus plan might be as follows:


Key Texts/Sources

Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays. London: Phaidon, 1995

Greenberg, Clement. ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’ (1939), and ‘Modernist Painting’ (1961), The Collected Essays and Criticism Vols 1 and 4 ed. John O’Brian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1986 and 1993

Harrison, Charles and Wood, Paul, eds. Art in Theory 1815-1900 and 1900-2000. London: Blackwell 

Background Reading.

Adorno et al Aesthetics and Politics. London, New York: Verso 1977


Buchloh, Benjamin. Neo-Avant-Garde and Culture Industry. Cambridge, Mass: MIT, 2000.


A. Avanessian & L. Skrebowski, eds. Aesthetics and Contemporary Art.  London: Sternberg Press, 2011


Belting, Hans. Art History After Modernism. Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 2003


Foster, Hal, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh, eds. Art Since 1900. Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism London: Thames and Hudson, 2004

Osborne, Peter. Conceptual Art. London: Phaidon, 2002

Smith, Terry, et el. eds. Antinomies of Art and Culture: Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity . Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.


Steinberg, Leo. Other CriteriaConfrontations with Twentieth-Century Art . New York. Oxford University Press, 1972


Stiles, Kristine and Peter Selz. Theories and documents of Contemporary Art. A Sourcebook of artist’s writings. California: University of California Press, 1996

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Topics in Art History and Visual Culture II