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Unit information: Sculpture and the Body (Level I Lecture Response Unit) in 2020/21

Unit name Sculpture and the Body (Level I Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HART20026
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Dent
Open unit status Not open




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


In the long history of sculpture as an art form, the human body has formed its central subject, from prehistoric figurines to Antony Gormley's body casts. Indeed, the ways in which we imagine our own bodies and, above all, our beliefs in a physical ideal have all been shaped by the ability of sculpture to give concrete and durable form to this central element of existence, the experience of embodiment. This course will explore how the sculptural image of the body has been transformed and recreated over time. The ancient Greeks represented gods and heroes in bronze and marble. The Romans took those exemplary bodies and used them to legitimise their political dominance. Christianity imagined another physique, the suffering bodies of Christ and of the saints. These traditions have loaded the body with cultural and political significance, and in the modern world the legacy of these traditions continues to haunt our ability to accept and understand our own bodies, both male and female, as well as to imagine new ones.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will be able to:

(1) demonstrate knowledge of the development of sculpture to depict the body;

(2) analyse and draw conclusions about the significance of developments in sculptural images of the body;

(3) select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general issues and arguments;

(4) identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically, and form an individual viewpoint.

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class discussion, investigative activities, and practical activities. Students will be expected to engage with readings and participate on a weekly basis. This will be further supported with drop-in sessions and self-directed exercises with tutor and peer feedback.

Assessment Details

One 2000-word essay (50%) (ILOs 1-4)

One timed assessment (50%) (ILOs 1-4)

Reading and References

  • Michael Squire, The Art of the Body: Antiquity and its Legacy, London, 2011
  • Francis Haskell and Nicholas Penny, Taste and the Antique: the lure of classical sculpture, 1500-1900, New Haven and London, 1981
  • Elizabeth Prettejohn, The Modernity of Ancient Sculpture: Greek Sculpture and Modern Art from Winckelmann to the Picasso, London and New York, 2012
  • G. Hersey, Falling in Love with Statues: Artificial Humans from Pygmalion to the Present, Chicago, 2009
  • R. Neer, The Emergence of the Classical Style in Greek Sculpture, Chicago, 2010
  • Penelope Curtis, Sculpture 1900-1945: After Rodin, Oxford, 1999