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Unit information: Religious Art (Reflective Art History Unit) in 2020/21

Unit name Religious Art (Reflective Art History Unit)
Unit code HART30008
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Dent
Open unit status Not open




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


The mixture of art and religion forms a powerful cocktail. Even today, the majority of people probably encounter works of art in places of worship rather than museums and galleries. For many of these people, images are a source of supernatural power, either as channels for the divine, or as living objects in their own right. By working through a series of case studies, in this course we will be reflecting on some of the big questions that surround religious art: How do you make an image of a god? What do you get out of praying in front of a painting or sculpture? Is there still space for the religious image in the modern, secular world?

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge and critical understanding of religious imagery in a number of different contexts;
  2. evaluate the phenomenology of art and ritual
  3. analyse the historical, physical, ethical, theological, and liturgical contexts of religious art;
  4. identify and evaluate pertinent evidence/data in order to advance a cogent argument;
  5. present and frame their ideas in a fashion consistent with the conventions of reviews and proposals for non-academic audiences

Teaching details

Classes will involve a combination of 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 1000-word review or proposal for a non-academic audience (25%) [ILOs 1, 3, 5]

One timed assessment (75%) [ILOs 1, 2, 3, 4]

Reading and References

Caroline Walker Bynum, Christian materiality: an essay on religion in late medieval Europe, Brooklyn, 2011

Amy Knight Powell, Depositions: scenes from the late medieval church and the modern museum, Brooklyn, 2012

Gervase Rosser and Jane Garnett, Spectacular Miracles: Transforming Images in Italy from the Renaissance to the Present, London, 2013

Bissera Pentcheva, The Sensual Icon: Space, Ritual and the Senses in Byzantium, University Park, 2010

Megan Holmes, The Miraculous Image in Renaissance Florence, New Haven and London, 2013