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Unit information: Histories and Theories of Art in 2015/16

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Unit name Histories and Theories of Art
Unit code HART22223
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Dent
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

The unit aims to familiarize students with a range of theories and art-historical methods that can be used for constructing a history of visual art, for interpreting meaning in art, or for setting limits on that act of interpretation. We will explore the way in which the discipline of art history has developed, by studying differing views of art and of art history from the Renaissance onwards, and how these came to be formulated into methods of studying art systematically. The unit will centre on issues of methodology and will have a strong textual base. As well as offering an overview of developments over time, the unit will also examine the individual methodologies of a handful of key art historians.


This unit is designed to give students a broad understanding of significant aspects of the development of the history of art as an academic discipline, and of the theories and theoretical perspectives relating to the current practice of history of art. To make students aware that the discipline of History of Art has a history and to highlight the range of theoretical models underpinning the subject. To familiarize students with the main methodologies which have shaped the discipline as historical in the sense that they view or construct art (a) as having its own, internal history, or (b) as something that is determined by a wider social and political history; and to develop students awareness of the interpretative theories of art and their application and applicability to art history.

Intended Learning Outcomes

Students completing this unit will have a knowledge of the principal histories and theories of art and will have developed a critical awareness of the underlying assumptions in different kinds of art-historical approaches, together with the ability to assess the advantages and shortcomings of competing methodologies.

Students will develop and demonstrate an ability to express their ideas at a level appropriate to Level I, in both written and verbal forms.

Teaching Information

Twice weekly lectures

Access to tutorial consultation with unit tutor(s)

Assessment Information

1 x 24-hour written take-home examination (100% of UAM)

Students will also undertake formative assessment in the form of a 5 minute oral presentation as a requirement for the award of credit in this unit.

Reading and References

Edwards, Steve (ed.), Art and its Histories: a Reader (Princeton NJ, Yale University Press, 1999).

Fernie, Eric (ed.), Art History and its Methods (London, Phaidon, 1995).

Harrison, C. and Wood, P. (eds.), Art in Theory 1815-1900 (Oxford, Blackwell, 1997)

Hyde Minor, Vernon, Art History’s History (New York, Abrams, 1994).

Podro, M., The Critical Historians of Art (Yale University Press, 1982).

Smith, P. and Wilde, C., A Companion to Art Theory (Oxford, Blackwell, 2000)