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Final Year Special Subjects

All modules are 30 credits and are taught in a single term, with the exception of the Dissertation.

Core Modules

HA3D3: Practices of Art History

This core module will introduce students to the history of the discipline of art history, examining a range of theoretical approaches from the discipline’s beginning in the early-nineteenth century to contemporary debates. In exploring questions of theory and method, the module will develop research skills, such as critical reading and evaluating evidence. Throughout the course, students will reflect on their own theoretical commitments, and consider how these will shape their dissertations.

HA3A1: Dissertation

A dissertation is an extended essay written on a topic of your choice, made in consultation with your tutor. Importantly, a dissertation should try to provide answers to a set of questions. You will work closely with a supervisor as you research and write the dissertation. It is written according to formal academic conventions. It should demonstrate your research skills, and your ability to formulate an independent perspective on a given subject. It should also be well written and grammatically correct, to demonstrate your literacy skills.

Special Subjects

HA3C4: East meets West: The Visual Arts in Colonial and Postcolonial India

This module examines the production and development of the visual arts in India during its (British) colonial and postcolonial periods (c.1757 to the present day). We look at the ways in which colonial encounter, conquest and knowledge were experienced and articulated through architecture, painting, sculpture and photography, as well as through spectacles such as the Delhi Durbars and Great Exhibition of 1851. The module examines the works of British and Indian artists, considering how issues of colonialism and nationalism impacted upon artistic genres and media, as well as the patronage and training of artists. We then consider recent works by Indian artists in relation to issues of local/global politics, diaspora and migration, and to broader structures of the contemporary, global art market. Topics may include: colonial and courtly cities; landscape, power and exploration; native and colonial photography; Indian nationalism and the visual arts; training artists in colonial India; gender and identity in Indian art; artists of the Indian diaspora; the Kochi-Muziris biennale and the globalisation of Indian art.

Watch: Dr Rosie Dias shares more about the module

HA3B2: Deconstructing Medieval and Early-Modern Buildings

Very few historic buildings have escaped alteration over the period in which they have been in use. Changes to liturgy and to society, have required that the buildings are adapted to accommodate these changes. By studying the fabric of the buildings, reading the evidence in the structure and combining this with documentary research it is possible to build up a picture of the whole history of individual monuments. This research-based module introduces you to the subject of buildings archaeology and gives you the chance to get involved in a current research project on a local building, so that you also gain practical experience. Aspects such as building materials, documentary research, antiquarian and topographical studies, stylistic analysis and comparative studies will be evaluated as sources of information and scientific methods of analysis such as dendrochronology examined.

HA3A8: The Thirties: Art and Society in Inter-war Britain

At the heart of this module is the debate over the role of art and the artist in modern society that occurred in inter-war Britain. Rather than considering artistic developments during the period in terms of conservative artistic ideas confronted by an imported model of avant-garde practice, the module tests alternative interpretations. The Victorian tradition that linked art with civic responsibility will be connected with the modern artist’s social engagement, and is contrasted with the aestheticism of critics like Roger Fry. The growing involvement of artists and designers not just in the area of fine arts and architecture but also in advertising, industrial design and film-making will be examined in the context of the precarious economic and political conditions of the period.

Watch: Dr Otto Saumarez Smith explains more about the module

HA3D5: Leonardo: Art and Science

The module aims to investigate the relationship between art and science in the early modern period. Using Leonardo’s exemplary activity and output both as an artist and as a natural philosopher, the module will explain in which ways practical aspects of art making (for instance lighting, chiaroscuro, and perspective) are strictly interlinked with aesthetic notions (in particular beauty) and the investigation of nature in its multiple phenomena as carried out by Leonardo on empirical grounds. A thorough examination of Leonardo’s artistic production (paintings, drawings, sculptural and architectural designs) and of Leonardo’s observations on and description of nature (articulated in the fields of optics, anatomy, and engineering) will underpin the structure of the seminars.

HA3C2: Colour and its Meaning

This module will explore the meanings and effects produced by colour in art. It will examine the claims made, and influence exerted, by scientific, philosophical, psychological, and psychoanalytical theories of colour from Aristotle to Wittgenstein, Merleau-Ponty and neuroscience. It will investigate how language affects the perception and use of colour. And it will address the question of what makes colours harmonious or expressive. It will consider works of art from a wide range of cultures and periods, which could include Mexican art, C16th Venetian painting, Impressionism, Van Gogh, Cézanne, Kandinsky, Matisse, and paintings produced in the last few years by Gerhard Richter.

HA3D6: Reality after Film

This module focuses on the place of moving images in both art and daily life. The theme of reality, explored through different artistic and social approaches to realism, will be at the heart of the works, literature, and phenomena studied in class. While the module focuses on contemporary culture, we will also look at the early years of the cinema and its hopes for films' future role in writing history. The other turning points we will examine led to the ubiquity of moving images in our lives. In the 1960s, televisions entered people's homes and video permanently entered the art word, transforming art’s vocation to mediate reality. More recently, the digital turn and the arrival of Web 2.0 have made everyone into a potential video-maker and every event into a potential film. Through close formal analysis and a historical approach, students will develop a nuanced understanding of the roles played by sound, narrative, movement and editing when it comes to both capturing and constructing reality.

HA3C9: Visual Art and Poetry

This module will explore the relationship between art and poetry from the early-twentieth century to the present, examining collaborations between artists and poets, the work of artist-poets, and poets’ responses to the visual arts. In particular, the module will attend to visual and concrete poetry, work that attempts to break down the boundary between the two kinds of art. Possible topics include: early modernism (e.g. Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams); Frank O’Hara and the New York School; concrete poetry; the significance of technologies such as typewriters, mimeographs, and xerox; performance art and performance poetry; conceptual art and conceptual poetry. Each seminar will require students to read selected poems, to examine related works of art, and to read critical or theoretical material on both. The module will also include a performance workshop, in which all students will be required both to discuss and participate in performance poetry.

HA3D7: Latin American Modernism: Twentieth-century Objects, Twenty-first Century Exhibitions

On this module you will investigate how artists and thinkers have approached the idea of race, and individual racial categories, in their attempts to uphold or subvert dominant political and cultural ideologies. Racial categories and ideas of racial mixing (or mestizaje) have taken various forms across the historical epochs and vast geographical spread of Latin America. Artistic production in Latin American nations has at times highlighted, buried, and/or obfuscated racial narratives in the service of political platforms. The module will cover artists and movements from the late colonial to the contemporary period. Over the course of the term, we will look at early representations of indigenous peoples, casta paintings that codified racial hierarchies after the Spanish conquest, nineteenth-century depictions of slave labor in Brazil and the Caribbean, Modern art by Latin Americans suffering racial stigmatization in Europe, visualizations of La raza cosmica and broader indigenismo movements, and contemporary Latinx art that deals with the neglect and erasure of Latinx culture.

Watch: Dr Danielle Stewart explains more about the module