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Philosophy of Art History

  • Module code: PH7705
  • Year: 2018/9
  • Level: 7
  • Credits: 30
  • Pre-requisites: None
  • Co-requisites: None

Summary

This module focuses on the question 'what is involved in a philosophical thinking of the history of art?' This question devolves into two main parts. The first concerns the temporality proper to art's history; the second concerns the way in which the individual work of art presents history and the operation of time. The module will concentrate on three figures central to a philosophical thinking of the work of art: Walter Benjamin, Alois Riegel and Aby Warburg. To conclude, we will examine, in detail, three works of contemporary art, traversing painting, sculpture and photography.

Aims

  • To introduce students to the idea of a philosophy of the discipline of art history.
  • To familiarise students with important works by Walter Benjamin, Alois Riegel and Aby Warburg in the context of the philosophical criticism of modern art.
  • To enable students to critically evaluate the philosophical significance of different conceptions of art history.
  • To enable students to philosophically interpret the historical significance of works of art.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students will be able to:

  • Understand aspects of the historical relationship between philosophy and art history.
  • Critically compare the philosophical aspects of different approaches to art history.
  • Reflect on and discuss problems relating to philosophical aspects of the historical meaning of art.
  • Undertake the work of close textual analysis of demanding theoretical texts.
  • Consider and critically examine unfamiliar ideas and terminology.

Curriculum content

1)    Introduction to the module.

2)    The Presence of Dürer in Walter Benjamin's The Origins of German Tragic Drama.

3)    Benjamin 2: 'Rigorous Study of Art: On the First Volume of Kunstwissenschaftliche Forschungen'.

4)    Alois Riegel: The Main Characteristics of the Late Roman Kunstwollen.

5)    Introduction to Aby Warburg.

6)    Aby Warburg: The Emergence of the Antique as a Stylistic Ideal in Early Renaissance Painting.

7)    George Baselitz: Ein moderner Maler (1966) and Ein moderner Maler (remix) (2007).

8)    Eva Hesse: The Body of Sculpture

9)    Moi Ver: Paris

10) Conclusion: Retrospect and Prospects

Teaching and learning strategy

This module will be taught by means of a mix of lectures and seminars, supplemented by individual tutorials and private study. Emphasis is placed on seminar-based discussion. Students may be asked to prepare short seminar presentations.

Breakdown of Teaching and Learning Hours

Definitive UNISTATS Category Indicative Description Hours
Scheduled learning and teaching Seminars/lectures; 11 taught sessions of 2.5 hours each 28
Scheduled learning and teaching Individual tutorial 1
Guided independent study 271
Total (number of credits x 10) 300

Assessment strategy

The assessment strategy is designed to test a student's ability to meet the module's learning outcomes. Summative assessment involves two pieces of written work:

  • A 1,500-word exercise, requiring written answers to (usually 3) questions set by the tutor. The exercise is normally submitted at or before the mid-way point of the module and is worth 20% of the final module grade. This exercise also functions formatively in relation to the second, longer piece of assessed work:
  • A 3,500 to 4,000 word essay, worth 80% of the final mark. The topic for the essay may be drawn from a list suggested by the tutor, or students may propose their own topic (to be agreed with the module tutor)

The skills required to prepare these assessed elements will be developed in a variety of formative activities throughout the module, notably through class discussion, feedback on in-class presentations, and individual tutorials. Preparation of the final essay normally includes a scheduled tutorial with the module tutor.

Mapping of Learning Outcomes to Assessment Strategy (Indicative)

Learning Outcome Assessment Strategy
1) Understand aspects of the historical relationship between philosophy and art history. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work.
2) Critically compare the philosophical aspects of different approaches to art history. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work.
3) Reflect on and discuss problems relating to philosophical aspects of the historical meaning of art. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work.
4) Undertake the work of close textual analysis of demanding theoretical texts. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work.
5) Consider and critically examine unfamiliar ideas and terminology. Assessed formatively through class discussion, presentations and tutorials, and summatively through the two pieces of individual written work.

Achieving a pass

It IS NOT a requirement that any major assessment category is passed separately in order to achieve an overall pass for the module.

Bibliography core texts

Walter Benjamin, The Origins of German Tragic Drama, trans John Osborne, Verso, 2009.

Walter Benjamin 'Rigorous Study of Art: On the First Volume of Kunstwissenschaftliche Forschungen', in Benjamin, ???

Alois Riegel, The Main Characteristics of the Late Roman Kunstwollen, ??

Aby Warburg, The Emergence of the Antique as a Stylistic Ideal in Early Renaissance Painting,

George Baselitz: Ein moderner Maler (1966) and Ein moderner Maler (remix) (2007).

Eva Hesse, The Body of Sculpture

Moi Ver, Paris

Bibliography recommended reading

Michael Podro, The Critical Historians of Art, Yale University Press, 1984.

Andrew Benjamin, ed, Walter Benjamin and Art, Continuum, 2005.

Additional reading:

Christopher Wood (ed.), The Vienna School Reader, Zone Books, New York, 2000.

Aby Warburg, The Renewal of Pagan Antiquity, Getty, LA, 1999

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