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Unit information: Physical Culture - Visual Culture in 2017/18

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Unit name Physical Culture - Visual Culture
Unit code HART30036
Credit points 20
Level of study H/6
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Mike O'Mahony
Open unit status Not open




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


The representation of the body has been central to art production from the classical period to the present day. This unit will focus on representations of the body, but with a specific emphasis on sport, physical motion and exercise. In the modern era, sport has typically been regarded as a practice associated with mass or popular culture; as such, it has been seen as being at the opposite end of the spectrum from so-called ‘high’ culture. Yet, from the classical period to the present day, sport has provided a fitting subject for a range of visual culture activities, embracing a wide range of media, from painting and sculpture to photography and film. The sport industry has also generated a wide range of artefacts of material culture, from stadia to medals, mascots and trophies. This unit will examine the visual and material culture of sport, focusing on individual case studies from different geographical regions throughout history.

Intended learning outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have been put in direct contact with the current research interests of the academic tutor. Additionally, they will have developed further: 1. the ability to work with primary sources; 2. the ability to integrate both primary and secondary source material into a wider analysis; 3. the ability to learn independently within a small-group context; 4. the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general ideas; 5. the ability to derive benefit from and contribute effectively to group discussion; 6. the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint; 7. the acquisition of advanced writing, research, and presentation skills.

Teaching details

Seminars - 3 hours per week

Assessment Details

3,500 word essay (50%) 2-hour unseen written exam (50%)

Reading and References

Guttmann, A., Sports and American Art: From Benjamin West to Andy Warhol (Cambridge, Mass., 2011) Huggins, M. and O’Mahony, M. (eds.), The Visual in Sport (Abingdon, 2011) Hughson, J., The Making of Sporting Cultures (Abingdon, 2012) Kühnst, P., Sports: A Cultural History (Dresden, 1996) O’Mahony, M., Sport in the USSR: Physical Culture – Visual Culture (London, 2006) Polley, M., Sports History: A Practical Guide (Basingstoke, 2007