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Critical readings in the History of Art


This module has two primary intentions. One is to introduce you to several of the most important writers and writings that have shaped History of Art as an academic discipline from the 19th century to our own time: that is, critical readings in the sense of essential texts within the subject. The second purpose is to provide you with the tools to question and evaluate the texts that you will read throughout your degree: critical readings in the sense of skeptical analysis of what you read. Both of these aspects of the module provide a crucial foundation for your future success as an art historian.

The course is structured in a broadly chronological fashion, starting with late 19th-century writings, moving through the 20th century, and concluding with work from recent years. Each seminar will focus on two texts highlighting important authors and approaches that have characterized key episodes in the history of our discipline. In addition to learning about the various methodological approaches that have been employed within the History of Art, you will also be introduced to a range of analytical tools that will help you to assess the texts that you read and to write well-informed, analytical arguments yourself. The module is by no means fully comprehensive in the history of the discipline, but it should set the stage for your further in-depth study of various art-historical subjects and methodologies in future terms.

Preliminary reading

  • Charlotte Klonk and Michael Hatt, Art History: A Critical Introduction to its Methods (Manchester, 2006)
Detail of St William window, York Minster

Module information

  • Module title
    Critical readings in the History of Art
  • Module number

For undergraduates