Faculty of Arts


Art Writing and Methodology

Please note: this is archived course information from 2018 for ARTHIST 330.


This is a demanding – but rewarding – course intended for Stage III students who want to deepen their performance in Art History and are considering going on to further studies at postgraduate level. It is aimed at an understanding of the concepts behind the discipline, to develop a more self-conscious and enriched approach to the way we study and write about art.

Each week has a theme or themes related to a particular approach to art history. The first half of the course looks at the "founding fathers" of Art History to promote an awareness of the origins and development of the discipline, and the contribution of some of the early writers, such as Vasari, Berenson, Wölfflin, Panofsky and Gombrich. Their approaches included the use of biography, connoisseurship, formal and iconographic analysis. However outdated they may seem, we still deploy many of them – and often in an unthinking way. We will study them critically, looking also at more recent examples of theoretical positions related to theirs. The first assignment will be an essay on one or more of these historical approaches.

The second half of the course examines some of the many later approaches to Art History – approaches that are often known as "isms", acknowledging that they represent a particular, often ideological angle. For example, we will consider formalism (strongly linked to modernism), Marxism, feminism and postcolonialism. The coverage is necessarily selective, acknowledging that post-modernism has spawned a multitude of different approaches. It will not be our aim to identify one of them as "correct", but to understand their use and to recognise that different approaches can be valuable for tackling different artists and artworks in our own practice. So the final lectures will look at some case studies of "theory in practice" from a range of writers, to see how they applied different theoretical approaches to a variety of artworks, and the second assignment will invite you to do the same.

This course is based on your engagement with key readings. Keeping up with the set texts in the course book is an essential part of the programme, especially for tutorials, so there is a participation mark of 5%. The course is internally assessed with two substantial essay assignments, but no examination.

Availability 2018

Not taught in 2018



Recommended Reading

Hatt, Michael and Charlotte Klonk. Art history: a critical introduction to its methods. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2006.

Preziosi, Donald, ed. The art of art history: a critical anthology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009.


Internal assessment: two essays (45%; 50%) and a participation mark (5%).


ARTHIST 330: 15.0 points


15 points at Stage II in Art History and 60 points passed

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