Accessibility statement

Art, Tastes & Stratification - SOC00013H

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  • Department: Sociology
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Laurie Hanquinet
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2018-19
    • See module specification for other years: 2017-18

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2018-19

Module aims

The module aims to explore the links between art and society from a sociological perspective. This module encourages students to reflect upon how art is produced and how it is diffused into society, as well as how this process affects people s tastes.

Art production and consumption are associated with values that are deep-rooted in society and that have to be unraveled and deconstructed, such as the concepts of gift, genius or the universality of tastes. These values are not neutral. On the contrary, they play an important role in the (re)production of social inequalities and are entangled with issues of domination and power. Following insights from the French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu, the recent Great BBC class survey has, for instance, recently highlighted the importance of cultural capital observable through people s tastes or cultural preferences in social class divisions and more generally social stratification. Cultural preferences are thus embedded in a wide range of social relations (class, gender, age, ethnicity) and hence symbolic and moral boundaries.

The module aims to encourage students to develop a critical view on these different aspects of the relationships between art and society, with a particular focus on the understanding of the social meaning of tastes. Examples of questions students will be asked to reflect upon are: what is an artist? Is an artist somebody naturally gifted? What are the relationships between artists and society? How do art institutions support and diffuse art? How is art received by people? How are tastes formed?

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module students should:

  • be able to reflect upon the social construction of art and its three main dimensions, production, mediation and reception
  • have a critical vision of the different actors and institutions involved in this process (e.g. the role of museums)
  • be able to engage with the sociological literature on art, artists and taste but also to understand better the main theoretical currents in sociology
  • gain an insight into interdisciplinary approaches on these topics (e.g. museum studies, history of art, etc.).


Task Length % of module mark Group
N/A 75 Default
Written Report
N/A 10 Default
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
N/A 15 Default
Written Report
N/A 50 A
Oral presentation/seminar/exam
N/A 50 A

Special assessment rules



Task Length % of module mark
N/A 100

Module feedback

Feedback at University level can be understood as any part of the learning process which is designed to guide your progress through your degree programme by providing commentary on your work to date. So feedback means more than just written comments on written work. We aim to help you to reflect on your own learning and to feel clearer about your progress through clarifying what is expected of you informative and summative assessments. The University guidelines for feedback are available in the Guide to Assessment Standards, Marking and Feedback.

You will receive feedback in a number of forms:

  • On any formative (non-assessed) work, you will receive written or verbal feedback about how to improve your work (though you may not receive a mark)

  • On summative work (work that is assessed) you will receive detailed written feedback from the marker. This is intended to show areas in which you have done well, and areas in which you need to improve.

  • Your supervisor will also give you feedback on your work. S/he will be able to look across a range of your work and discuss ways in which you can build on your strengths and improve in any areas

Feedback on your summative written work is made available to you online via e:vision. You will receive an email telling you when it is ready to look at. You are then advised to take this work (printed out or on your laptop) to your regular meeting with your academic supervisor. Your supervisor will be able to look at your work with you and address any queries you have, as well as advise you on ways to improve your work.

Feedback on Exam Scripts

You can ask for feedback on your exam performance from your supervisor, who will go through your examination script(s) with you and discuss the areas in which you did well, and those in which you need to improve. However, you may not take the script away with you, or photocopy the script. If you would like to discuss your exam performance, please let your supervisor know at least two working days in advance of your meeting, so that they can make sure they have the script with them when you meet.

Indicative reading

  • Becker, Howard Saul (1984). Art worlds. Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Bennett, T., Savage M., Silva E., Warde A., Gayo-Cal, M. and Wright, D. (2009). Culture, Class, Distinction. London: Routledge.
  • Bourdieu, P. (1984). Distinction: a Social Critique of the Judgment of Taste. Harvard: Harvard University Press.
  • Harrington A. (2004). Art and Social Theory: Sociological Arguments in Aesthetics. Cambridge: Polity.
  • Inglis, D. (2005). Thinking 'Art' Sociologically, in Inglis, D. & Hughson, J. (eds) The Sociology of Art: ways of seeing. Basingstoke: Palgrave, pp.11-29.
  • Peterson R., Kern R. (1996). Changing Highbrow Taste: From Snob to Omnivore. American Sociological Review, 61(5), pp. 900-907.
  • Prior N. (2002). Museums and Modernity: Art Galleries and the Making of Modern Culture, Oxford and New York, Berg.
  • Tanner, J. (2003). The sociology of art: a reader. London: Routledge.
  • Zolberg, V. (1990). Constructing a sociology of the arts. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.