Skip to main content

Unit information: Sculpture in 2020/21

Please note: you are viewing unit and programme information for a past academic year. Please see the current academic year for up to date information.

Unit name Sculpture
Unit code CLAS10037
Credit points 20
Level of study C/4
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 1 (weeks 1 - 12)
Unit director Dr. Hales
Open unit status Not open




School/department Department of Classics & Ancient History
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Classical sculpture is often hailed as the cornerstone of ‘western’ art. But it was not simply beautiful adornment. In a largely illiterate society, successful participation in religious, political and social life relied on the ability to interpret visual information. Sculpture told mythic narratives and community history; commemorated victories and deceased relatives; praised individuals, whether kings or athletes; and provided access to the divine. In this unit, we will learn how to identify the different forms and styles of ancient sculpture and interpret its meanings and themes but more importantly we will discover the roles it played in society. How did ancient audiences engage with the sculpture around them? We will also explore the ways in which that sculpture has been displayed, recontextualised and re-interpreted since antiquity and consider how the aesthetic importance we have placed on it has affected our understanding. How might we most effectively engage with this material?


  • To enable students to recognise the major forms and styles of ancient sculpture, and the contexts in which they were viewed.
  • To equip students both with the practical skills of 'reading' an image and an understanding of how our own ‘readings’ may differ from those of the original audience.
  • To explore the ways in which sculpture reflected and affected ancient communities’ perception of themselves and the roles which sculpture played in ancient society.
  • To develop students’ skills to use the knowledge acquired in class and through their own reading to construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on the built environment.

Intended Learning Outcomes

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

  1. demonstrate a detailed knowledge of sculpture in the ancient world; its uses and contexts and an awareness of how post-antique practices of interpretation and display have affected the way in which we have ‘created’ that knowledge;
  2. recognise and analyse critically the major artistic styles of ancient sculpture;
  3. use the knowledge acquired in lectures and through their own researches to construct coherent, relevant and persuasive arguments on different aspects of the subject;
  4. demonstrate skills in oral and written communication, in small groups and general discussion in the classes, and in a written project report and an exam, at a standard appropriate to level C.

Teaching Information

This unit will involve a combination of independent investigative activities, long- and short-form lectures, and discussion. Students will be expected to engage with materials and participate on a weekly basis. Feedback will be provided for both formative and summative assessments, and this will be supported by meetings with tutors.

Assessment Information

1. 200 word individual catalogue entry (formative). 2. 1,500 word project report (summative) (100%). [ILOs 1-4].

Reading and References

  • Mary Beard & John Henderson, Classical Art. From Greece to Rome (Oxford) 2001
  • Richard T. Neer, Art & Archaeology of the Greek World (London) 2012
  • Robin Osborne, Archaic and Classical Greek Art (Oxford) 1998
  • Jerome Pollitt, Art in the Hellenistic Age (Cambridge) 1990
  • Tyler Jo Smith & Dimitris Plantzos eds, A Companion to Greek Art (Oxford) 2012