SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Approaches to Critical Interpretation & Aesthetic Theories

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Year of study:
Year 1
Taught in:
Full Year
Designed to help postgraduate (MA & MPHIL) students establish a solid critical basis on which to develop their understanding of art history and own individual research. The course explores fundamental approaches to concepts of knowledge (epistemology) and interpretation (hermeneutics), and the diverse methodologies available in relation to the study of art objects and architectural spaces, ritual and performance, and archaeological complexes and artefacts. Questions of aesthetics will also be discussed, with a cross-cultural emphasis.

Active reading and participation in the seminars are required.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The course seeks to bridge the gap between the empiricism often intended in the gathering and interpretation of data and the many other theoretical approaches that may be employed. Whenever possible students will be encouraged to consider the theoretical possibilities involved in their own individual research, and will be expected to present their views in the series of seminars which will take place in the second term. 


One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Scope and syllabus

Ten 2-hour lectures will be given in the first term, including group discussions. Short texts relating to each weekly topic will be prepared by course members and presented for discussion after each lecture. In the second term, presentation and seminars will take place. 

Method of assessment

  • One 2 000 words book review (worth 30%)
  • One 3 500 words essay (worth 50%)
  • One seminar (worth 20%)

Suggested reading

  • Arnheim R., 1954,1974, Art and Visual Perception.
  • Bontekoe R., 1996, Dimensions of the Hermeneutic Circle.
  • Cahoone L. (ed.), 1996, From Modernism to Postmodernism.
  • Cooper D. E., 1996, World Philosophies. A Historical Reader.
  • Fernie E., 1995, Art History and its Methods, a Critical Anthology.
  • Grimes R. L., 1982, Beginning in Ritual Studies.
  • Lefebvre H., 1991, 1995, Beginning in Ritual Studies.
  • Peacock J. L., 1986, The Anthropological Lens.
  • Price M., 1994, The Photograph, a Strange Confined Space.
  • Trigger B. G., 1989, A History of Archaeological Theory.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules