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Unit information: Histories, Theories and Critical Interpretations of Art: 2 in 2014/15

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Unit name Histories, Theories and Critical Interpretations of Art: 2
Unit code HARTM0026
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Williamson
Open unit status Not open



Histories, Theories and Critical Interpretations of Art: 1

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


History of Art has its own history as a discipline: it has grown over several centuries to comprise a whole series of approaches with different aims, assumptions, and methods. This unit (and its co-requisite) explores how History of Art has become the discipline it is nowadays by tracing its development from its 'origins' in the eighteenth-century. The unit also covers the main areas on which the discipline has focussed and their related methods: the notion of the artist, ideas about taste and beauty, and theories of the relation between art and history at large. It especially addresses the question of meaning in art, and how different theories of meaning - social history of art, semiotics, psychoanalysis, feminisms, philosophical aesthetics, and visual culture may be some of these - present competing pictures of how and what works of art mean.


The unit aims to provide an introduction to the various strategies for viewing works of art and for their interpretation. The development of art history as a discipline (its historiography) will provide a strong strand in this examination. Current interpretational models will be examined closely but the possibly enduring values of older patterns of investigation will also be considered.

Intended learning outcomes

By bringing the whole cohort together every week, the unit will not only help to orientate students socially and academically, but will: 1) equip those who may be new to the discipline with sufficient knowledge and confidence to work within in the discipline 2) equip students to learn to think critically about the discipline of History of Art 3) help students to recognise that art-historical narratives and practices are themselves historically conditioned and subject to change 4) help students and to reflect on their own processes of research and learning

Teaching details

The methods of teaching are:

  • 5 x fortnightly 1.5-hour taught seminars
  • 5 x fortnightly 1.5-hour research seminars
  • Contact Hours per week: 1.5

Assessment Details

3500 word essay (100% of formative/summative assessment

Reflective Journal OR Exhibition Review (depending on whether Reflective Journal or Exhibition Review has been chosen in Histories, Theories and Critical Interpretations of Art 1) - for credit, pass/fail only

With relation to the learning outcomes, the essay tests 1, 2, 3, 4; the journal/exhibition review tests 2, 3, 4.

Reading and References

N. BRYSON et al. (eds.) Visual Culture: Images and Interpretations D. CARRIER Principles of Art History Writing E. FERNIE Art History and its Methods: A Critical Anthology J. HARRIS The New Art History: a critical introduction R. NELSON/R.SHIFF (eds.) Critical Terms for Art History D. PREZIOSI (ed.) The Art of Art History