AHV1009 - Topics in Art History and Visual Culture II

2022/3 Module description

StaffDr Fiona Allen - Convenor
Credit Value15
ECTS Value15
NQF Level4
Duration of Module Term 2: 11 weeks;

Module description

This module offers a critical introduction to the history of Modernism in Europe and North America. Taking its lead from the work of Manet and his contemporaries, it will explore the key developments in art, design and photography during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Beginning with an investigation into the various ways in which the term Modernism has been used, the course will address both the origins of the term and its relationship to notions of modernity. Building upon this foundation, it will then explore the various ‘-isms’ which constituted the European avant-garde and the rise of their American counterparts. Possible topics for discussion include Cubism, Pictorialism and the New York School. The course will conclude by considering the various ways in which the modernist paradigm has been called into question, from the changing status of the art institution to the rise of Postmodernism.

Module aims

In this module you will explore the forms of artistic practice which emerged between 1870 and 1970 in Europe and North America, with an emphasis on painting and lens-based media. Beginning in nineteenth-century Paris, the first half the module will take its lead from the key artistic and theoretical developments which occurred in Europe prior to 1945. These include Impressionism, Cubism and The New Vision. The second half of the module will explore the forms of artistic practice which emerged following the end of the Second World War and the relocation of the avant-garde from Paris to New York – for Abstract Expressionism, Colour Field painting and Minimalism. By drawing upon a range of materials, including manifestos, exhibition catalogues and art criticism, it will offer an introduction to both the aforementioned practices and the broader critical debates which they provoked. The module delivery will consist of lectures and seminars, which will give you the opportunity to discuss these critical texts in more detail and develop own your position in relation to art historiography and theories of visual culture more broadly.

ILO: Module-specific skills

  • 1. Demonstrate a critical understanding of the place of modern art, architecture and photography in Europe and North America c. 1870-1970.
  • 2. Analyse works of visual culture in the context of wider intellectual discourses of the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
  • 3. Articulate your own critical position relative to recent and current debates on modernism.

ILO: Discipline-specific skills

  • 4. Display confidence with the analysis of a wide range of artistic works.
  • 5. Demonstrate research skills.
  • 6. Critically engage with a range of scholarly texts and relate them to relevant modernist practices.

ILO: Personal and key skills

  • 7. Demonstrate appropriate research and bibliographic skills and the ability to construct a coherent, substantiated argument based on scholarly literature and visual resources.
  • 8. Demonstrate proficiency in information retrieval and analysis.
  • 9. Develop confidence in verbal communication.
  • 10. Develop appropriate time management skills for private study and the ability to work collaboratively with peers.

Syllabus plan

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

  • When was Modernism?
  • Paris, Capital of the Nineteenth Century
  • Dada and Surrealism
  • The Harlem Renaissance
  • The New Vision
  • Camera Work
  • The New York School
  • Art and Objecthood
  • Institutional Questions
  • Global Modernisms
  • After Modernism

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 teaching1111 x 1-hour seminars
Scheduled learning and teaching105 x 2-hour seminars
Guided independent study129Private study

Formative assessment

Form of assessmentSize of the assessment (eg length / duration)ILOs assessedFeedback method
Short essay750 words1-10Written feedback. Tutorial
Oral presentation15 minutes1-10Written feedback. Tutorial

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
Essay902500 words1-10Written feedback. Tutorial
Participation & Engagement10Five short reflective pieces 1-10Oral

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

Original form of assessmentForm of re-assessmentILOs re-assessedTimescale for re-assessment
EssayEssay1-10Referral/Deferral period
Participation Mitigation/repeat study1-10 Referral/Deferral period

Re-assessment notes

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 redo the assessment(s) as necessary. If you are successful on referral, your overall module mark will be capped at 40%.

Indicative learning resources - Basic reading

Basic reading:

NB As the precise topic is at the discretion of the convener it is not possible to give a generic indicative syllabus plan. As an example, if the selected topic was ‘Modern/Avant-Garde/Contemporary: Debates and Contestations in The Visual Arts’, an indicative syllabus plan might be as follows:

Key Texts/Sources:

  • Baudelaire, Charles. The Painter of Modern Life and Other Essays . London: Phaidon, 1995
  • Greenberg, Clement. ‘Avant-Garde and Kitsch’ (1939), and ‘Modernist Painting’ (1961), The Collected Essays and Criticism Vols 1 and 4 ed. John O’Brian. Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1986 and 1993
  • Harrison, Charles and Wood, Paul, eds. Art in Theory 1815-1900 and 1900-2000 . London: Blackwell 

Background Reading:

  • Adorno et al Aesthetics and Politics . London, New York: Verso 1977
  • Buchloh, Benjamin. Neo-Avant-Garde and Culture Industry . Cambridge, Mass: MIT, 2000.
  • Avanessian & L. Skrebowski, eds. Aesthetics and Contemporary Art .   London: Sternberg Press, 2011
  • Belting, Hans. Art History After Modernism . Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 2003
  • Foster, Hal, Rosalind Krauss, Yve-alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh, eds. Art Since 1900. Modernism, Antimodernism, Postmodernism London: Thames and Hudson, 2004
  • Osborne, Peter. Conceptual Art. London: Phaidon, 2002
  • Smith, Terry, et el. eds. Antinomies of Art and Culture: Modernity, Postmodernity, Contemporaneity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2008.
  • Steinberg, Leo. Other Criteria Confrontations with Twentieth-Century Art . New York. Oxford University Press, 1972
  • Stiles, Kristine and Peter Selz. Theories and documents of Contemporary Art. A Sourcebook of artist’s writings. California: University of California Press, 1996

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Topics in Art History & Visual Culture II

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