Skip to main content

Unit information: Art and Memory (Level M Lecture Response Unit) in 2020/21

Unit name Art and Memory (Level M Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HARTM0030
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
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


Images are a way of remembering that which is no longer present. Amongst the many myths about the origins of art, several of the most moving involve the making of an effigy to act as a substitute for an absent lover. Through works of art, the fickle and ephemeral images in our memories can be given permanent presence in the external world. Conversely, the process of forgetting often involves the physical destruction of images in order to enable the erasure of a memory that we no longer wish to recall. But the relationship between art and memory goes deeper than this. From the ancient world onwards, the skill of remembering itself has been constructed around the sophisticated creation of mental images. Not only do these artificial techniques permit great feats of memory, they also underpin the creative recombination of knowledge. This in turn has shaped the history of the image itself. This course will trace some of the significant steps in the relationship between art and memory and will reflect on the ongoing role that visual culture in all its forms continues to play in memorialisation in the modern world.

Intended learning outcomes

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

  1. articulate an understanding of the relationship between art and memory;
  2. analyse and generalise about the significance of art / visual culture to the act of remembering and memorialisation;
  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

1 x two-hour interactive lecture per week

1 x one-hour seminar per week

Assessment Details

One summative coursework essay of 5000 words (100%). This will assess ILOs 2-5.

Reading and References

Frances Yates, The Art of Memory, London, 1966

Mary Carruthers, The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory 'in Medieval Culture, 2nd ed., Cambridge, 2008

Harald Weinrich, Lethe: The Art and Critique of Forgetting, Ithaca, 2004

Maurizio Bettini, The Portrait of the Lover, trans. Laura Gibbs, Berkeley, 1999

Robert Bevan, The Destruction of Memory: Architecture at War, London, 2006