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Theory & Methodology for Art History

30 Credits

Works of art prompt interpretative processes. This course is about these processes – it comprises a critical and reflective consideration of how we engage in art historical study. This course charts the different theories that have shaped the interpretation of art, from the beginnings of the discipline to the present day, and how art history and its methods have changed over time. Focusing on the work of key thinkers and movements, students will explore how critical debates in the theory and practice of art history have been products of their historical context. A wide range of theoretical approaches will be discussed, including formalist methods of analysis, dialectical materialism, gender, psychoanalysis, and phenomenology. Concrete case studies will demonstrate how such bodies of theory can be applied as frameworks for the interpretation of art. Students will also consider the role of institutions, such as museums and galleries, in framing our understanding and experience of art. This course will reveal the complexity and richness of art historical thinking. By the end of the course, students will have a greater understanding of the discipline of art history, a more informed view of their own practice as art historians, and a more developed ability to apply theoretical positions to the study of works of art.