Skip to main content

Unit information: Histories, Theories and Critical Interpretations of Art: 2 in 2021/22

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. Mike O'Mahony
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

Description including Unit Aims

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

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

1) develop their knowledge and confidence to work within in the discipline  

2) learn to think critically about the discipline of History of Art  

3) recognise that art-historical narratives and practices are themselves historically conditioned and subject to change  

4) reflect on their own processes of research and learning 

5) communicate their knowledge through individual presentations

Teaching Information

Classes will involve a combination of long- and short-form lectures, class 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 Information

One 1500-word formative assignment (reflective journal) [ILOs 1-4] One 3500-word summative essay (100%) [ILOs 1-3]


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. HARTM0026).

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.