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Unit information: Approaching the Object in 2016/17

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Approaching the Object
Unit code HART10007
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Professor. Shaw-Miller
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of History of Art (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts


In this unit we will be introducing you to some key skills that will carry through your degree. The most important aim of the unit is to encourage you to read, write and think as an art historian and to introduce you to the challenges and the excitement of actually exploring the discipline yourself. This unit will be constructed by a series of lectures and workshops. Everyone attends the 20 hours of lectures which include fieldtrips within Bristol. You are then divided into smaller groups, and will attend 10 workshops. By the end of the unit you should have acquired key skills in visual analysis and core concepts for art historians. You should understand what is distinctive about the study of art history and understand why art historians study their subject in the ways they do. You should also be able to reflect upon the complex relationship between evidence and interpretation, and to think about the nature of academic debate.


This unit is designed to prepare students for degree-level study in art history by equipping them with the skills they will need. It focuses upon fostering the practical and interpretive skills required by those studying art history, and upon developing students' sense of what being an art historian involves. It thus aims to introduce students to the challenges and the excitement of studying this subject, with a particular emphasis on how to read, interpret and discuss artistic objects.

Intended learning outcomes

By the end of the unit students will be equipped to: • be aware of different approaches to the history art, and be able to reflect critically upon these different approaches (assessed by 24 hour exam) • utilise iconographical skills and conduct visual analysis (assessed by group project and 24 hour exam) • understand what constitutes plagiarism (assessed by plagiarism test) • work together in a group on a research project (assessed by group project) • provide a short group presentation to students and assessors based on a research project (assessed by group project) • employ Powerpoint or similar technology effectively in a presentation (assessed by group project) • produce a coherent word-processed exam answer to a set question within a 24-hour period based on the unit’s lecture series and associated reading material (assessed by 24-hour exam)

Teaching details

1 x 2 hour lecture per week

1 x 1 hour workshop per week

Access to tutorial consultation with unit tutor(s)

Assessment Details

Formative: • Plagiarism test (students are required to pass this in order to complete the unit)

Summative: • 24 hour take-home examination (50% of unit mark) where the student will be expected to write a 1000-word answer to one question. • Group project presentation (50% of unit mark) which results in an individual mark.

The exam will relate primarily to the content of the lectures to ensure that students engage with the unit as a whole. It will assess the ability of students to write a short essay, within a day, on a question that relates to the lecture series but which will also require wider reading in preparation. As such the unit will assess the ability of students to: take effective and well-referenced notes from lectures, books and secondary literature; reference effectively; plan their reading; form a coherent and focused analysis; use library resources and engage with historiographical debates.

The Group project presentation will assess the ability of students to work together in small groups; identify and develop a research project; divide up research responsibilities; analyse primary and secondary materials; present a coherent analysis in a group oral presentation.

Reading and References

Robert S. Nelson and Richard Shiff (eds.), Critical Terms for Art History (2nd ed., University of Chicago Press, 2003)

Donald Preziosi and Claire Farago, Grasping the World: the Idea of the Museum (Ashgate, 2003)