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Unit information: Text and Image (Level M Lecture Response Unit) in 2019/20

Please note: Due to alternative arrangements for teaching and assessment in place from 18 March 2020 to mitigate against the restrictions in place due to COVID-19, information shown for 2019/20 may not always be accurate.

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Unit name Text and Image (Level M Lecture Response Unit)
Unit code HARTM0035
Credit points 20
Level of study M/7
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Brockington
Open unit status Not open




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

Description including Unit Aims

When the historian Jaś Elsner claimed that Art History ‘is nothing other than ekphrasis’ (that is, the art of writing about art), he sparked a debate about the relationship between words and images, and how we use language to describe our experience of art. This unit explores that relationship in the work of artists and writers who were closely associated as friends or collaborators; who made 'literary' pictures, or wrote 'visual' poems and stories; and who illustrated texts, or sliced through the physical material of a book in order to create a sculptural work of art. We will put such examples of creative practice alongside the ideas of art historians who have thought critically about the nature of the relationship, and how far it can be taken; and we will make space for our own interpretations of texts and images, and the ways in which they work together. The period under discussion will focus on the C19th and C20th, looking mainly at literature in English, and at art from Europe and America. Artists/ writers and topics may include: the visionary art of William Blake; Dante Gabriel Rossetti and the 'double work of art'; Walter Crane and his illustrations for children; the friendship between Henry James and John Singer Sargent; Virginia Woolf and post-impressionism; Cubism and 'concrete poetry'; and Frank O'Hara amongst the artists of New York.

Intended Learning Outcomes

1) To provide students with a thorough understanding of the evolving relationship between text and image in art.

2) To place students in direct contact with the current research interests of the academic tutor and to enable them to explore the issues surrounding the state of research in the field.

3) To develop students’ ability to work with primary sources relating to this field and produce a research-led essay based on such sources.

4) To develop students’ abilities to integrate primary source material into a wider art historical and historiographical analysis.

5) To develop students’ ability to learn independently within a group context.

Teaching Information

1 x 2-hour interactive lecture per week.

Assessment Information

One summative coursework essay of 5000 words (100%). This will assess ILOs 2-5.

Reading and References

Cheeke, Stephen, Writing for Art: The Aesthetics of Ekphrasis, Manchester: MUP, 2008.

Elsner, Jaś, ‘Art History as Ekphrasis’, Art History, 33 (2010): 10–27.

Goddard, Linda, 'Artists' Writings: word or image?', Word & Image 28:4 (2012), 409-18

Gombrich, Ernst, ‘Preface to the Sixth Edition’, Art and Illusion, London: Phaidon Press, 2002; first published 1960, pp. xv–xxv.

Lessing, Gotthold, Laocoön: An Essay upon the Limits of Poetry and Painting [1766], Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984.

Mitchell, W.J.T., ‘Word and Image’, Critical Terms for Art History, ed. Robert S. Nelson and Richard Schiff, Chicago & London: U. Chicago P., 2003.