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Unit information: Physical Culture - Visual Culture in 2020/21

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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 be able to:

  1. demonstrate in-depth and detailed knowledge and understanding of the visual and material culture of sport;
  2. integrate both primary and secondary source material into a wider analysis;
  3. select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general ideas;
  4. identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint;
  5. demonstrate advanced writing, research and presentation skills appropriate to level H.

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 digital presentation (25%) One timed assessment (75%) [ILOs 1-6]

Reading and References

  • Kasia Boddy, Boxing: A Cultural History (London 2008);
  • Marianne Doezema, George Bellows and Urban America (London 1992)
  • Mike Huggins and Mike O'Mahony, The Visual in Sport (Abingdon 2011)
  • Mike O'Mahony, Olympic Visions: Images of the Games through History (London 2012)