To offer a varied, flexible and distinctive postgraduate curriculum across the field of Art History and Theory with a Philosophy component. To provide the opportunity for an in-depth understanding of aspects of art since the Sixties in Europe and North America, including systematic knowledge informed by advanced work in the field, and for some original work either by developing new material or in the application of ideas to existing material. To develop in students the research skills appropriate to the study of Contemporary Art, and to art history as a field of study, and to provide the basis for them to develop the necessary levels of skill and knowledge required to progress to research degree level. To develop sound understanding of interpretative methods and forms of questioning appropriate to visual artefacts; including historical inquiry, theory of representation, aesthetic approaches to the value and function of visual art, and critical approaches to the conditions of the production, consumption, interpretation or reinterpretation of visual artefacts. To encourage both critical engagement with and enjoyment of the visual arts, particularly through first-hand observation. To provide the knowledge and skills (critical inquiry and argument, imaginative understanding, written, spoken and visual interpretation, communication and presentation) that will not only stand students in good stead for more specialised academic careers, but will also enhance their opportunities for employment in a wide range of other careers. Note: The outcomes listed below represent the minimum that might be expected of an MA graduate from the Department of Art History and Theory of the University of Essex. It is the intention of the Department that the vast majority of graduates will achieve significantly more.
The MA in Contemporary Art, Theory and Criticism tackles pressing theoretical issues such as how traditional categories and methods of art history have been challenged by recent 'post-medium' art and how photography has contributed to this change in art. It also engages in a close study of art from 1960 to the present.
Modules and Options
The lists of modules below represent the range of options available for each year of study. This may not be a complete list of the options you will study, and may be subject to change, so please contact the department for further details.
A PERFECT STATE? ART IN THE NETHERLANDS IN THE 17TH CENTURY
ARCHITECTURE IN PIECES: THE AESTHETICS OF DECAY AND DESTRUCTION
ART AND THEORY IN THE SPANISH GOLDEN AGE
ART, ARCHITECTURE AND NATIONAL IDENTITY IN THE SPANISH GOLDEN AGE
Core: ART, POLITICS AND ETHICS: FROM BEUYS TO BOURRIAUD
Core: DISSERTATION - MA SCHEMES
Core: PHOTOGRAPHY DEGREE ZERO: ART AND PHOTOGRAPHY 1960 TO THE PRESENT
Core: RESEARCHING ART HISTORY - METHODOLOGY AND THEORY
CUBISM: MATERIALISM AND METAPHYSICS
ENGENDERING DESIRE: SURREALISM, SEX AND ART
EXPERIMENTAL CINEMA IN THE DIGITAL AGE
FROM THE SUBLIME TO THE RIDICULOUS: NETHERLANDISH PAINTING FROM VAN EYCK TO BRUEGEL
HISTORY AND IDENTITY IN LATIN AMERICA
INDIGENOUS ART IN THE COLONIAL WORLD: MEXICO AND THE ANDES
INTRODUCTION TO MAYA HIEROGLYPHIC WRITING I
INTRODUCTION TO MAYA HIEROGLYPHIC WRITING II
LIFE AND DEATH IN PRE-COLUMBIAN AMERICA
MAGICAL LOOKING: THE MARVELLOUS AND THE MONSTROUS FROM THE RENAISSANCE INTO SURREALISM
REPRESENTING OTHERS IN 18TH CENTURY ART
ROMANTICS AND SUPERMEN: FRENCH PAINTING 1819-1851
SACRED LOOKING: PROPHECY, PENITENCE AND POLITICS IN RENAISSANCE ART
TRASHING TASTE I: THE POLITICS OF URBANISM AND DESIGN 1960-1970
Teaching and Assessment Methods
A: Knowledge and Understanding
A1 : A range of visual art from the early twentieth century the present day, including theoretical issues that have been central to the development of modern art.
A2 : The relationships of contemporary art to the broader cultural context, including philosophical schools of thought
A3 : (in greater depth) one or more artists, exhibitions, theoretical texts and/or forms of contemporary visual art
A4 : Some substantive areas of current research in Contemporary Art, including an awareness of the development of these areas of research.
A5 : The methods of critical analysis and argument appropriate to visual artefacts
A6 : The concepts, values and debates that inform study and practice in the field
A.1-6 are acquired through module seminars and related coursework (with regular feedback, both oral and written, from tutors), and through the development of the dissertation in close consultation with a supervisor.
Students are fully expected to extend and enhance the knowledge and understanding they acquire from seminars by regularly consulting library or archival materials related to the course, or in order to provide wider context. This independent research is consolidated in essay work.
Assessment of students' knowledge and understanding takes place through coursework essays (1 4-5000 word essay or equivalent per module) and a dissertation of 15-20,000 words.
The core module 'Researching Art History' provides specialist training in critical analysis and in the concepts, values and debates relevant to art history.
B: Intellectual/Cognitive Skills
B1 : Analyse a complex body of material, which may be incomplete, breaking it down into component points or parts and highlighting the most significant among them
B2 : Synthesise evidence, arguments or ideas from different sources productively in a self-directed manner
B3 : Reason critically and offer judgements based on argument that can be communicated effectively to a specialist or non-specialist audience
B4 : Think independently and with an open-mind, sometimes making connections between familiar and new ideas or material
Intellectual and cognitive skills are practised in module seminars, either in responding to or giving presentations on agreed topics. The seminar work encourages critical discussion arising from the analysis and interpretation of texts or visual artefacts with an emphasis on being able to reason cogently, argue coherently, present one's own viewpoint persuasively, and learn from others. The seminars are intended as practice sessions for cognitive skills.
Supervision of dissertations cultivates these skills through written commentary and discussion concerning the development of the research and on drafts of chapters.
Students translate the skills acquired there collectively into individually assessed essays and a dissertation.
C: Practical Skills
C1 : Visual skills; including observation (including recognition of materials and techniques but also other aspects of works of visual art such as formal organisation or narrative structure), description (using ordinary as well as specialised language) and interpretation (recognising necessary differences between different forms of art, between language and visual art, making appropriate use of personal responses, relating works of visual art to historical and contemporary philosophical and cultural context)
C2 : Research Skills: including use of appropriate methods to locate primary and secondary sources, and works of visual art, but also forming research questions and pursuing them autonomously
C3 : Critical Skills: including selection of relevant material, and appraisal of other people's arguments on the basis of familiarity with source materials and current literature
C4 : Writing Skills: including use of proper academic conventions, creating logical and structured narratives, and effective use of language to convey particular and general responses of readers or viewers to works of visual art, and to articulate complex conceptual issues and create frameworks for understanding them
All MA teaching takes the form of seminars directed by a member of staff, but often developed in consultation with the students according to specific research interests in the group. The core module 'Researching Art History' provides training in research methods. Personal supervision is available to students in order to allow them to develop the topic for the essay in the relevant module. Considerable autonomy is encouraged in researching essays, the staff member aiming to assist in the formulation of research questions and in developing a strategy for answering them. All students are encouraged to attend the weekly Staff-Student Research Seminar, and to participate in debate on the topic presented.
There are detailed guidelines on the writing of MA dissertations in the Departmental handbook to supplement guidance given by the supervisor.
All four skills will be assessed by essays and a dissertation.
D: Key Skills
D1 : The ability to communicate information, arguments and ideas cogently and effectively in a range of different contexts using a range of different aids or resources; special ability to deploy visual material in a variety of media in the context of presentations or written work.
D2 : Students should be able to make use of IT for research purposes (including searchable databases such as library catalogues and internet sources). Word-processing is essential.
D4 : Management of projects and timetables. Students should be able to apply knowledge and understanding in order to make judgements and offer solutions in a range of contexts.
D6 : Students should have the ability to: work to briefs and deadlines; take responsibility for their own work; reflect on their own learning and performance and make constructive use of feedback; develop their work independently of guidance for extended periods.
Communication is developed through seminar discussion. Visual media skills are developed through personal instruction to students using slide projectors or DVDs/VCRs in class, and through drawing attention to the media whereby visual images are presented to us, both in terms of informing students but also developing a critical appreciation of the relationship between image and context in any medium. Students are expected to acquire IT skills based on some initial guidance. Students will be given the opportunity to work constructively and productively in groups, and be able to participate effectively in seminars. All students present their plans for MA dissertations to their peers and to staff, using slides etc. as appropriate. Most seminars require students to present theories or historical material to the group, and to answer questions on the topic.
These skills are assessed through the essays and dissertation.
The core module 'Researching Art History'provides training in IT and in developing and managing research projects.