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Unit information: Copies and Originals in 2016/17

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Unit name Copies and Originals
Unit code HART30034
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Alexandra Hoare
Open unit status Not open




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


The unit explores the concept of originality in Western art. Focusing upon the early modern debate concerning the subjects of invention, origination, reproduction, and re-appropriation, we will consider works of art, artistic practices, and discourses that inform our modern ideas about the “idea” and its ownership. Topics will include: the element of ‘revival’ implicit in the Renaissance episteme; the evolution of the discourse on copying in art (and concurrent discussions in music, theatre, literature, poetry and science); the idea of the artist’s hand and its role in theories of style and economic regulations; the concepts of creative uniqueness and inimitability; poetic license; theories about the imitative dimension of art as a representation of reality (and the potential threat this posed in religious contexts); and the economic dimension of the work of art in connection with the art market, collecting and printmaking. Analysis of these topics will incorporate both broad trends in theory and practice and revealing individual case studies. The unit will also consider the implications of these themes for our contemporary engagement with, and understanding of, what constitutes ‘originality’

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed 1. a wider knowledge of the significance and development of the notion of ‘originality’ in Western Art; 2. an awareness of how to approach a controversial and hotly debated topic; 3. the ability to set individual issues within their particular context; 4. the ability to analyse and generalise about issues of continuity and change; 5. the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general historical points; 6. the ability to derive benefit from and contribute effectively to large group discussion; 7. the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint; 8. the acquisition of advanced writing, research, and presentation skills.

Teaching details

Seminars - 2 hours per week

Assessment Details

24-hour written examination (summative, 100%)

Reading and References

Roland Barthes, “The Death of the Author” (1967). Elizabeth Cropper, The Domenichino Affair (2005). Maria Loh, “New and Improved: Repetition as Originality in Italian Baroque Practice and Theory” (2004). Erwin Panofsky, Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (1972). Christopher Wood, Forgery, Replica, Fiction: Temporalities of German Renaissance Art (2008).