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Study information

Questions and Methods in Art History and Visual Culture

Module titleQuestions and Methods in Art History and Visual Culture
Module codeAHV1011
Academic year2024/5
Module staff

Dr Lotte Crawford ()

Duration: Term123
Duration: Weeks


Number students taking module (anticipated)


Module description

This module introduces you to the key methods used to analyse works of art and visual culture, and in doing so, raises critical questions about the disciplines of Art History and Visual Culture and their relationship to one another. While Art History is a long-established field of study, Visual Culture can be viewed as an interdisciplinary mode of enquiry, which is both attuned to a history of visual culture as much as a definition of contemporary culture. Together, both fields of study continue to evolve in line with a series of common intellectual debates. You will be introduced to the appropriate terminology used in academic literature and to the foundational texts upon which both fields rely. You will also learn about a range of historical and contemporary theoretical approaches that inform the study of Art History & Visual Culture. 

Module aims - intentions of the module

Art History & Visual Culture will be a new subject for almost all students at University level, and this module aims to:

  • Provide you with a basis for successful progress in the degree programme, embedding a good understanding of methods and questions in Art History, Visual Culture and related fields of enquiry.
  • Assist your thinking about works of visual art and culture (their identity, their production, their significance), as well as cultures of vision and visuality, both (pre-)historic and contemporary.
  • Engage critically with art historiography and visual cultures studies (their intentions, methods, audience) and how their position has changed over time, conditioned by wider social and intellectual considerations. 
  • Map the concerns that typify its approach to the study of visuality and indicate its possible future direction.
  • Encourage you to accept the dynamism and continued development of the subject in your own approach to the study of visuality.

The module makes reference to theoretical commentaries on the aesthetic, social and political issues embedded in Art History and Visual Culture and offers you a foundation for further University-level study in the subject. Through project work, centred on the University Library and its resources, the module also acquaints you with the varied visual, archival and textual sources used in the study of Art History & Visual Culture, and provides practical instruction in their use. 

Intended Learning Outcomes (ILOs)

ILO: Module-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 1. Correctly employ the specialist terms used to describe the physical properties and techniques of a variety of works of art and visual culture
  • 2. Apply a variety of methodologies and theoretical approaches to the interpretation of works of art and visual culture in an informed way
  • 3. Describe and evaluate some of the dominant concepts, methods and debates informing the study of art and visual culture, both historically and in the present
  • 4. Undertake independent research on an artist or work of art, using appropriate sources and methods

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 5. Research, present and evaluate relevant descriptive and analytic material with increased independence?
  • 6. Use specialist art historical terminology effectively and make proficient use of the technical literature

ILO: Personal and key skills

On successfully completing the module you will be able to...

  • 7. Through writing and project assessments, demonstrate good research and bibliographic skills, construct a coherent, substantiated argument, and write clear and correct prose
  • 8. Through research for projects and essays, retrieve and analyse information proficiently
  • 9. Through project work, work collaboratively orally and/or in written form, and in teams towards the development, research, organisation, and expression of ideas under pressure of time

Syllabus plan

Whilst the module content may vary from year to year, it is envisioned that the module will cover some or all of the following topics:

  • What is Art History & Visual Culture? 
  • Style and formalism 
  • Iconography 
  • Text and image 
  • Feminism and queer theory 
  • Marxism and social history 
  • Colonialism 
  • Ecology of images

Learning activities and teaching methods (given in hours of study time)

Scheduled Learning and Teaching ActivitiesGuided independent studyPlacement / study abroad

Details of learning activities and teaching methods

CategoryHours of study timeDescription
Scheduled learning and teaching 11Weekly lectures
Scheduled learning and teaching 22Weekly seminars - these will be led by the tutor. You will need to prepare for each seminar and to present on a given topic on at least one occasion
Scheduled learning and teaching 10Workshops (2 hours every other week)
Scheduled learning and teaching 12Tutorial guidance for reading, research and essay preparation
Guided independent study245Independent study including reading, research, preparation for seminars and assessments

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Critical analysis500 words1-8Oral or written annotation (tutor’s choice)
Oral presentation5-10 minutes1-9Oral

Summative assessment (% of credit)

CourseworkWritten examsPractical exams

Details of summative assessment

Form of assessment% of creditSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Individual portfolio501500 words1-9Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up
Essay502000 words1-8Feedback sheet with opportunity for tutorial follow-up

Details of re-assessment (where required by referral or deferral)

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
Individual portfolioIndividual portfolio1-9Referral/Deferral period
EssayEssay1-8Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes


For Participation and engagement: you will either repeat the exercise of responding to the prompts for the 600-word write ups, or, if all of the participation makes have been missed, you must complete a 3000-word essay on a particular topic as chosen by the course convenor.

Deferral – if you miss an assessment for certificated reasons judged acceptable by the Mitigation Committee, you will normally be either deferred in the assessment or an extension may be granted. The mark given for a re-assessment taken as a result of deferral will not be capped and will be treated as it would be if it were your first attempt at the assessment.

Referral – if you have failed the module overall (i.e. a final overall module mark of less than 40%) you will be required to submit a further assessment as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

  • Dana Arnold, Art History - a very short introduction, 2004.
  • Whitney Davis, A General Theory of Visual Culture, 2011.
  • Eric Fernie Art History and its methods, 1995.
  • Nicholas Mirzoeff, How to See the World, 2015.
  • Michal Podro The Critical Historians of Art, 1982.
  • Donald Preziosi (ed) The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology, 1999.
  • Marita Sturken and Lisa Cartwright, Practices of Looking: An Introduction to Visual Culture, 2001.
  • Sunil Manghani, Image Studies: Theory and Practice, 2012.

Indicative learning resources - Web based and electronic resources

Key words search

Visual culture, media, art history

Credit value30
Module ECTS


Module pre-requisites


Module co-requisites


NQF level (module)


Available as distance learning?


Origin date


Last revision date