This module will provide you with the learning skills necessary to make the most of your studies in history. You will be introduced to different approaches in the study of history as well as to different understandings of the functions served by engagement with the past. The module aims to encourage more effective learning, bridge the transition from school or college to university, prepare you for more advanced work in the discipline, and enhance the skills listed. You will usually spend two hours in lectures and seminars each week.
Introduction to Art History 1
History of Art is a broad discipline that encompasses many different approaches. This module takes as its basic premise that there is no one true history, but rather that there are various ways of approaching the past. With this in mind, we will examine key terms that have shaped the discipline of art history, in order to consider some key issues and debates that shape writing about art. The module is designed to get you thinking about how and why histories are written. Over the course of the module, we will consider broad questions, such as: What counts as art and what should be included in history of art? Should a history of art be a history of artists? What about patrons, viewers, critics, historians, and museums? How important is artist intention in defining the meaning of art? How useful are “-isms” in writing history of art? How should we understand art in relation to social, political, and economic contexts? How and why does art change? How have chronological, geographical, and gender biases affected histories of art? What makes “good” art and should we care? The module also includes weekly workshops, designed to help you develop the academic skills required to study History of Art at undergraduate level.
Introduction to Art History 2
This module builds on the foundation laid in Introduction to Art History I. It examines the study and interpretation of objects by considering different forms of writing on art. Each lecture will focus on a single work of art, examining a variety of ways in which it has been analysed. The artworks studied will cover the historical breadth of teaching in the Department of History of Art, from the Renaissance to the present day. The aim is to highlight diverse methodological approaches to art history, and different perspectives in dialogue across periods, geographies, and backgrounds. Integrated weekly workshops will allow you to develop and refine the academic skills acquired in Introduction to Art History I.
Courts and Princes in Renaissance Italy, 1450-1520
This module examines painting, architecture and sculpture at the courts of Ferrara, Mantua, Naples, Urbino and Milan in the period 1420-1520 and suggests that the small princely courts of Italy played an important role in shaping ‘the Renaissance’. Princes at courts competed for the services of the 'best' artists, and Leonardo da Vinci, Pisanello, Piero della Francesca and Andrea Mantegna were just some of the masters who worked for these Courts. This module draws both on established literature, but also seeks to incorporate more recent research questions regarding gender and material culture. As such, this module introduces students to questions that will be developed further in modules in second and third year. The role of women at court, and as patrons, will also be considered. The module focuses on: art as political propaganda; decoration of public and private spaces; establishment and celebration in art of dynasties; an image of the 'Prince'. Other issues of interest include an investigation into the link between political systems (Courts in this instance) and the type of commissions favoured by the patron; also, artists and cultural exchange between different courts, both within Italy and beyond.
Inventing French Art: From Renaissance to Louis XIV
This module will provide a broad survey of French art from the later 16th century to the end of the 17th century, focusing on the era of Louis XIV. We will consider the role of architecture and different types of patronage; the creation and structure of the palace of Versailles; the origins of the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture, and its use of theory and art education. We will focus on the careers of Charles Lebrun, and two of the Best-known French painters based in Rome (Nicolas Poussin and Claude Lorrain). We will also explore the remarkable provincial artists Georges de la Tour and the three Le Nain brothers. The module examines the functions of art and architecture within society and politics, and the invention of a national artistic tradition.
Art and Power: Paris 1937
This module focuses on the International Exhibition held in Paris in 1937, which provides a survey of art in the service of politics in the years immediately preceding World War II. Participating countries – including the USSR, Germany, Italy, and Spain – were represented by national pavilions, combining art and architecture to articulate national values and ambitions. The cultural battles between contrasting styles of state-sponsored art – Soviet Socialist Realism, German Neoclassicism, Spanish Modernism – will be examined in light of political and military conflicts at a time when Europe was divided by the ongoing civil war in Spain. The module will consider important individual works, such as Picasso’s Guernica, as well as the pavilions as integrated artworks, combining visual arts and architecture.
Introduction to the Medieval World, 500–1500
This module provides an introduction to medieval European history in the period 500–1500. It offers a fresh and stimulating approach to the major forces instrumental in the shaping of politics, society and culture in Europe. Through a series of thematically linked lectures and seminars, you will be introduced to key factors determining changes in the European experience over time, as well as important continuities linking the period as a whole. Amongst the topics to be considered are: political structures and organisation, social and economic life and cultural developments. You will usually spend two hours in lectures and seminars each week.
From Reformation to Revolution: an introduction to early modern history, 1500–1789
This module introduces you to major issues in the social, political and cultural history of Europe in the early modern period by analysing demographic, religious, social and cultural changes that took place between 1500 and 1789. You will examine the tensions produced by warfare, religious conflict, the changing relationships between rulers, subjects and political elites, trends in socio-economic development and the discovery of the ‘New World’. You will usually spend two hours in lectures and seminars each week.
Roads to Modernity: an introduction to modern history, 1789–1945
In the first semester, the module provides a chronology of modern history from c.1789–1945 which concentrates principally on key political developments in European and global history such as the French Revolution, the expansion of the European empires and the two World Wars. The second semester will look more broadly at economic, social and cultural issues, such as industrialisation, urbanisation, changing artistic forms and ideological transformations in order to consider the nature of modernity. You will usually spend two hours in lectures and seminars each week.
Art, Politics and Protest in Twentieth Century America
This module examines the ways in which artists responded to and engaged with domestic and foreign politics in America from the 1950s to the 1970s. It considers the ways in which artists used a range of artistic practices as a means of protest in an era of capitalist consumerism, the Cold War and the American Vietnam War, the rise of identity and sexual politics and the civil rights movement. In particular, this module will examine the work of historically marginalised constituencies, including African American artists, Mexican American and Chicano artists, and women artists.
The Contemporary World since 1945
The module surveys and analyses some of the main developments in world affairs since the end of the Second World War. This includes major international events, particularly the course and aftermath of the Cold War, as well as national and regional histories, especially in Europe, East Asia and the Middle East; the module also looks at key political and social movements. Attention is paid to political, economic and social forces. You will usually spend three hours in lectures and seminars each week.
Heroes and Villains in the Middle Ages
The module compares and contrasts key historical, legendary and fictional figures to examine the development of western medieval values and ideologies such as monasticism, chivalry and kingship. It explores how individuals shaped ideal types and how they themselves strove to match medieval archetypes. The binary oppositions between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are explored through study of the ‘bad king’, and the creation of stereotypical villains such as ‘the Jew’. You will usually spend three hours in lectures and seminars each week.
This module addresses evidence for crusader motivation and experience through sources relating to crusading activity in Europe and the Middle East from the late eleventh century to the mid-13th century. It seeks to understand how crusaders saw themselves and their enemies, their experiences and activity on crusade and as settlers, and how this horrifying yet enduringly fascinating process has been interpreted historically. You will usually spend three hours in lectures and seminars each week.
The Venetian Republic, 1450–1575
This module explores the nature of the Venetian Republic in the later 15th and 16th centuries. It examines the constitution, its administrative and judicial system, its imperial and military organisation, but will above all focus on the city and its inhabitants itself. The module will discuss the enormous cultural dynamism of the city (especially the visual arts from the Bellini to Tintoretto and Veronese), changing urban fabric, the role of ritual and ceremony, the position of the Church, and class and gender. You will usually spend three hours in lectures and seminars each week.
De-Industrialisation: A Social and Cultural History, 1970–1990
This module examines the social and cultural impact of economic change in three traditional industrial regions in the UK, Germany and the US in the 1970s and 1980s. It takes thematic approaches, exploring topics including: overlaps and differences between Contemporary History and the Social Sciences; change and decline in traditional industries such as coal, steel and shipbuilding; political responses to industrial change, with a particular focus on industrial conflict over closures, among others. You will usually spend three hours in lectures and seminars each week.
Art at the Tudor Courts, 1485-1603
This module will provide an introduction to visual art at the Tudor courts, from the accession of Henry VII in 1485 to the death of Elizabeth I in 1603. In doing so, it takes account of a wide range of art forms, from portraiture to pageantry, from jewellery to the book. You will examine contemporary theories of visuality and monarchy, the particular context of court culture, and the use of visual material in the service of self -fashioning. The module considers the impact of major historical developments including the Reformation and the advent of print. By exploring the highly sophisticated uses of visual art at the Tudor courts, this module seeks to re-evaluate the common idea that English art at the time was isolationist and inferior to that of continental Europe.
Realism and Impressionism, 1840-1890
This module examines two of the most influential movements in Western art, Realism and Impressionism. We will consider the major figures and critical debates in the history of modern art. Among the artists to be studied are Courbet, Bonheur, Millet, Manet, Morisot, Degas, Cassatt, Renoir, and others. This module includes the study of different critical approaches to the study of art works and visual culture.
This module explores the Italian Futurist movement as a pioneering project in multimedia experimentation, which included painting, sculpture, architecture, design, photography, film, performance, typography, literature, fashion, and music. It investigates the movement’s apparent rejection of Italy’s cultural heritage and celebration of twentieth century technology, from the speed of the motorcar to the violence of modern warfare. The political objectives of the Futurists will be considered, including the movement’s complex relationship with Fascism. The publicity strategies of the group, such as the extensive use of manifestoes and provocative public interventions, will also be examined. The module will cover the period from Futurism’s headline-grabbing conception in 1909 through to the end of its second manifestation in the 1940s.
Los Angeles Art and Architecture, 1945–1980
In this module you will be introduced to a number of artistic and architectural practices that emerged in Southern California after 1945. Exploring their cultural and historical context, we will consider the role of Los Angeles in the development of post-1945 American art and architecture, including mid-century modernism, Pop Art, Conceptual Art and Light & Space Art. A central question in this module will be whether all art made in Los Angeles can be classified as “Los Angeles Art” – that is, the extent to which the art and architecture of the region necessarily reflected the geographical location, climate, and expansive urban layout of Los Angeles.
You will also attend a non-assessed weekly lecture module throughout the year called ‘Doing History’. This builds on the first-year core module Learning History and aims to develop your awareness of the craft of the historian, developing essential skills to get the most out of your second-year options and enabling you to determine what sort of historian you are. It also operates as a bridge to your third and final year, permitting you to make informed decisions about your choice of Special Subject, third-year options, and dissertation.
This module involves the in-depth study of an art historical topic over one or two semesters. You will chose the topic in consultation with a tutor, subject to the approval of the department, and will be allocated a dissertation supervisor appropriate to the chosen topic. Teaching for this module takes the form of individual tutorials with your dissertation supervisor, as well as group workshops focusing on research, writing, and presentation skills. It provides you with the opportunity to undertake a substantial piece of writing on a topic of particular personal interest. As an alternative to the dissertation in history of art, you may also choose to complete a year-long dissertation research project in history.
This module re-evaluates the history of masculinity in medieval Western culture. Most existing analysis of masculinity in Western culture deals with modern cultures. Yet, many of the key characteristics of this masculinity can plausibly be traced back to the Dark Ages. Students will study such issues as: how to use gender as an analytical tool with which to investigate early medieval evidence; gender ideology; codes of male honour; men's life cycles and fatherhood; relations between the sexes; rituals of violence; military and clerical ideals of masculinity. You will have three hours of seminars and lectures each week for this module.
Spending four hours per week in seminars and tutorials, you will be given a framework to understand the experience of Italians (and to a lesser degree their enemies, allies, and collaborators) during the military conflicts in the long decade 1935–45, as well as knowledge of the background factors that shaped these experiences. As source material you will have the chance to explore diplomatic correspondence, personal memoirs, newspapers and magazines, newsreels, as well as examining the representation of the war in literature and cinema. You will have four hours of seminars each week for this module
Samurai Revolution, Inventing Japan 1853–78
This module surveys the dramatic cultural encounter in the 19th century as the world of the samurai was confronted by Western expansion and the Age of Steam. It explores the forces at work in Japan’s rapid transformation from an ‘ancien régime’ under the rule of the Shogun into a ‘modern’ imperial power. Original documents examined in class draw on the growing range of Japanese primary sources available in English translation, together with the extensive works of Victorian diplomats, newspaper correspondents and other foreign residents in the treaty ports. You will have four hours of lectures and seminars for this module.
Renaissance Luxuries: Art and Good Living in Italy 1400–1600
This module seeks to engage with the Renaissance as a period of conspicuous consumption of a range of luxury goods, and examines the social, cultural and economic factors which characterised the period 1400–1600. Amongst the issues raised in lectures and seminars will be the importance of objects as signifier of status, magnificence, the diversification of objects and the concomitant rise in specialised living arrangements, and women as consumers of art.
Mobility and the Making of Modern Art
New technologies of mobility have long been a defining condition of modernity. It is from this perspective that we will examine modern art while highlighting the interrelated components of movement and speed – mechanized motion, temporality and their political connotations (e.g., social, ideological, artistic trends). This module includes a range of works, mainly paintings, from the mid nineteenth century to the early twentieth century. We will also consider photography and other pre-cinematic forms of moving images such as optical devices, peepshows, and panoramas that added different motion and time to representation. A key question is the role of artists in naturalizing the equation between mobility, modernity, and the West. To this end, our consideration will involve non-Western representations to explore the ideological and economic implications of mobility.
Fascism, Spectacle and Display
This module will examine cultural production during Italy’s fascist regime. There will be an emphasis on the experience of visual culture in public settings such as the exhibition space, the cinema, and the built environment. A wide range of cultural artefacts will be examined, paying attention to material as well as visual aspects. Visual material will be situated in the social, cultural and political circumstances of the period. Topics will include: Fascism’s use of spectacle, fascist conceptions of utopia, the regime’s use of the past, the relationship between Fascism and modernism, Fascism as a political religion, the cult of Mussolini, urban-rural relations, and empire building. The module will also consider the afterlife of fascist visual culture and the question of ‘difficult’ heritage.
The module examines the visual culture of America from the late 19th century to the present day. The module explores how visual culture – art, advertising, architecture, cinema, television, cartography, video, the internet and images of science – has transformed and shaped the image of the United States. The module looks closely at a series of themes: urban and rural landscapes, icons and iconography, art and photography, race and gender in the US, high and low culture, sex and sexuality. The module also introduces various visual and critical theories which help us better understand the visual cultures of the United States.
The modules we offer are inspired by the research interests of our staff and as a result may change for reasons of, for example, research developments or legislation changes. The above list is a sample of typical modules we offer, not a definitive list.