Theories of Art II

Key information

Start date
End date
Year of study
Year 2
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview

This second year, team-taught module will build incrementally on the first year core module Theory in History of Art and Archaeology , to give robust theoretical and methodological training in History of Art and Archaeology.  Co-taught by faculty members, the module offers students a series of key transferable skills and a range of analytical, theoretical and practical approaches to the study of art and archaeology.  Students are encouraged to adopt a critical perspective in applying these methods to the study of material culture in Asia and Africa. The module will comprise four thematic blocks, the themes of which will vary each year but may include, for example: Situating the Discipline; Perspectives on Art History; Art and Perception; and Art and Interpretation.  Lecture topics may include: Material Culture, Architecture and Space, Context and Value, Museology, Yoruba Aesthetics, Art History in China, Gender, Interpreting Archaeology, Semiotics, Phenomenology, Hermeneutics and Deconstruction and others.  The module will prepare second year BA History of Art and Archaeology students for further research, equipping them with the skills they will need to successfully complete their degree, and encouraging them to establish and articulate their position within a range of disciplines.

Teaching will comprise a two-hour lecture-seminar per week.  In addition to essay assessments, alternative assessments methods will include group projects, literature reviews and research journals.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Demonstrate fluency in a range of theories and methodologies in the disciplines of History of Art and Archaeology.
  • Appraise the various approaches, key issues and concerns in this field, with particular concern for their application in Asian and African contexts, and for decolonising the discipline.
  • Apply methodologies and conceptual frameworks appropriate to their own research and professional interests.
  • Demonstrate a range of skills necessary for successful academic and vocational pathways, including general research and transferable study skills.
  • Appreciate a variety of cultural values and explore their implications for equality issues such as class, “race”, gender, sexual orientation, age and disability.


  • 2 hours per week

Scope and syllabus

Sample content/structure – for example only

Thematic Block 1: Situating the Discipline

  • The History of Art History
  • Geographies of Art and Archaeology
  • Material Culture
  • Art, Anthropology and Cultural Studies

Thematic Block 2: Perspectives on Art History

  • Yoruba Theories of Art
  • Chinese Theories of Art
  • Arabic Theories of Art
  • Hindu Theories of Art
  • Race and the Visual
  • Art and Queer Theory

Thematic Block 3: Art and Perception

  • Reception Theory
  • Art and Post-colonial Theory
  • Performance Art and the Body
  • Phenomenology

Thematic Block 4: Art and Interpretation

  • Interpreting Archaeological Evidence: Technology, Environment and Trade
  • Interpreting Archaeological Evidence: Society and Culture
  • Semiotics
  • Digital Art and Hermeneutics
  • Text and Image
  • Deconstruction

Method of assessment

  • One two hour exam - 30%
  • One 750 word literature review/annotated bibliography - 20%
  • One 1,500 word essay - 40%
  • Lecture/seminar participation and attendance - 10%

Suggested reading

  • d'Alleva, Anne Methods and Theories of Art History Lawrence King, 2012
  • Elkins, James Is Art History Global? Taylar and Francis, 2007
  • Emerling, Jae (2005) Theory for Art History London: Routledge
  • Fernie, Eric (1995) Art History and its Methods: A Critical Anthology London
  • Grove Art Online -
  • Nelson, Robert and Robert Shiff (eds) Critical Terms for Art History Chicago and London
  • Preziosi, Donald (ed) (1998) The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology Oxford
  • Renfrew, Colin and Bahn, Paul (2004, 4th edition) Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice London
  • Tilley, Christopher et al, (eds) (2006) Handbook of Material Culture London



Professor Ashley Thompson


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules