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Unit information: Art and Society in 2021/22

Unit name Art and Society
Unit code SOCI20087
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Professor. Marshall
Open unit status Not open




School/department School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies
Faculty Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Description including Unit Aims

What do we mean by 'culture'? What is it for? How does a society produce and define 'art'? What is an artist? And what should they do? This unit focuses on the understandings of culture and art that are peculiar to modernity and postmodernity, together with how these ideas have been theorised within the sociology of culture and, later, the new discipline of cultural studies. The central theme of the unit is of the 'separation of art from everyday life' within modernity and the repercussions of this for both 'art' and 'everyday life'. We shall look at the understandings of 'high' and 'low' culture that emerge from these ideas and discuss postmodern developments that challenge such a separation.

The aims of this unit are:

  • To introduce students to sociological theory concerning the nature of art and culture in modern society.
  • To investigate the social currents that underlie the classification of high and low culture.
  • To discuss the purpose and role of culture in contemporary society.
  • To encourage students to understand their own cultural awareness within the context of the unit.

Additional costs

In addition to the fees for the programme, a student taking this unit may encounter the following costs:

This unit includes the opportunity to take part in an optional field trip to London.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of the unit, students will be able to:

  • Discuss a work of art in the context of wider sociological theory.
  • Distinguish between Romantic, modern and postmodern cultural periods.
  • Demonstrate understanding of the social nature of cultural hierarchies.
  • Recognise the social basis of artistic judgement.

Teaching Information

The unit will be taught through blended learning methods, including a mix of synchronous and asynchronous teaching activities plus a 500 word essay plan (0%).

Assessment Information

3,000 word essay (100%)

The assessment tests all learning outcomes listed.


If this unit has a Resource List, you will normally find a link to it in the Blackboard area for the unit. Sometimes there will be a separate link for each weekly topic.

If you are unable to access a list through Blackboard, you can also find it via the Resource Lists homepage. Search for the list by the unit name or code (e.g. SOCI20087).

How much time the unit requires
Each credit equates to 10 hours of total student input. For example a 20 credit unit will take you 200 hours of study to complete. Your total learning time is made up of contact time, directed learning tasks, independent learning and assessment activity.

See the Faculty workload statement relating to this unit for more information.

The Board of Examiners will consider all cases where students have failed or not completed the assessments required for credit. The Board considers each student's outcomes across all the units which contribute to each year's programme of study. If you have self-certificated your absence from an assessment, you will normally be required to complete it the next time it runs (this is usually in the next assessment period).
The Board of Examiners will take into account any extenuating circumstances and operates within the Regulations and Code of Practice for Taught Programmes.