Topics in Art History and Visual Culture I (AHV1008)

StaffDr Fiona Allen - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value7.5
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 1: 11 weeks;

Module aims

In this module you will explore the forms of artistic practice which emerged between 1870 and 1970 in Europe and North America, with an emphasis on painting and lens-based media. Beginning in nineteenth-century Paris, the first half the module will take its lead from the key artistic and theoretical developments which occurred in Europe prior to 1945. These include Impressionism, Cubism and The New Vision. The second half of the module will explore the forms of artistic practice which emerged following the end of the Second World War and the relocation of the avant-garde from Paris to New York – for Abstract Expressionism, Colour Field painting and Minimalism. By drawing upon a range of materials, including manifestos, exhibition catalogues and art criticism, it will offer an introduction to both the aforementioned practices and the broader critical debates which they provoked. The module delivery will consist of lectures and seminars, which will give you the opportunity to discuss these critical texts in more detail and develop own your position in relation to art historiography and theories of visual culture more broadly. 

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. demonstrate a critical understanding of the place of modern art, architecture and photography in Europe and North America between c. 1870 and 1970
  • 2. analyse works of visual culture in the context of wider intellectual and popular discourses in the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries
  • 3. articulate your own critical position relative to historical and current debates on Modernism

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. display confidence in analysing a wide range of artistic practices
  • 5. use a range of methodologies and theoretical approaches to interpret art and visual culture
  • 6. critically engage with relevant scholarly texts and historical documents, and relate them to a range of modernist practices

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills, and a capacity to construct a coherent, substantiated argument based on visual analysis and scholarly literature
  • 8. demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis
  • 9. develop confidence in verbal communication
  • 10. develop appropriate time-management skills for private study, and the ability to work collaboratively with peers

Syllabus plan

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that the module  will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • When was Modernism?
  • Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century
  • The Avant-Gardes I: From Post-Impressionism to Cubism
  • The Avant-Gardes II: Modernism between the Wars
  • The New Vision
  • Camera Work
  • The New York School
  • Art and Objecthood
  • Institutional Questions
  • Global Modernisms
  • After Modernism

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 teaching1111 x 1 hour lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching activities105 x 2 hour seminars
Guided independent study125Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short essay750 words1-10Written feedback and tutorial
Group presentation15 minutes1-10Written feedback and 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
Essay902500 words1-10Written feedback. Tutorial
Participation & Engagement 105 short reflective pieces (c.250-300 words each) 1-8 Oral

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
Participation 5 short reflective pieces/repeat study 1-8 Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Aynsley, Jeremy. Designing Modern Germany. London: Reaktion, 2008.
  • Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. New York: Schocken Books, 1969.
  • Blau, Eve. The Architecture of Red Vienna, 1919-1934. Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1999.
  • Freud, Sigmund. Civilization and Its Discontents. London: Penguin, 2004.
  • Jay, Martin, Anton Kaes and Edward Dimendberg. The Weimar Republic Sourcebook. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994.
  • Kracauer, Siegfried. The Mass Ornament. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1995.
  • Loos, Adolf. Ornament and Crime: Selected Essays. Riverside: Ariadne Press, 1998.
  • Nietzsche, Friedrich. The Birth of Tragedy. London: Penguin Classics, 1993.
  • Richter, Hans. Dada: Art and Anti-Art. London: Thames and Hudson, 1997.
  • Saletnik, Jeffrey and Robin Schuldenfrei. Bauhaus Construct: Fashioning Identity, Discourse and Modernism. London: Routledge, 2009.
  • Schorske, Carl E. Fin-de-siècle Vienna: Politics and Culture. New York: Vintage, 1980.
  • Schwartz, Frederic J. The Werkbund: Design Theory and Mass Culture Before the First World War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996.

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Topics in Art History and Visual Culture I