Topics in Art History and Visual Culture II (AHV1009)

StaffDr Meredith Hale - Lecturer
Credit Value15
ECTS Value15
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
  • 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 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

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 object
  • 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

Whilst the content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that the module will follow a chronological progression, introducing 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.

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 teaching111 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching102 hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching4Trip to London galleries
Guided independent study125Private 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
Essay902500 words1-10Written feedback. Tutorial
Participation & engagement10Five short reflective pieces 1-10Oral

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 Mitigation/repeat study1-10 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 redo the assessment(s) as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

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.
  • 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 Criteria Confrontations 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 & Visual Culture II