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BA Literature and Art History

Why we're great

  • We are distinct - study the social and political implications of art and go beyond its historic institutions.
  • Our structured programme of study trips at home and abroad covers both the exotic and the local.
  • We house the most important collection of Latin American art in Europe, ESCALA.

Course options2017-18

UCAS code: QV23
Duration: 3 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

UCAS code: QV32
Duration: 4 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Philosophy and Art History (School of)
Fee (Home/EU): £9,250
Fee (International): £13,350
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
Home and EU fee information
International fee information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 873666
Email admit@essex.ac.uk
Live chat

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About the course

Our distinctive curriculum allows you to take advantage of the most up-to-date developments in the field, and to understand the interactions and differences between literature and the visual arts in history.

You have the opportunity to:

  • Study the relationship between text and image and the relationships that exist between the two
  • Develop your interests and explore a variety of interpretative methods which are appropriate to both the text and to the visual artefact

Literature is introduced in your first year through a series of seminal works in drama, poetry and narrative which have helped to articulate the literature of England and Europe both past and present. By adopting and practising close reading skills you develop your abilities in analysis and interpretation, and grow in confidence from the beginning of your undergraduate study.

Similarly in your art history modules you cover a broad history from your first year of study and can choose from a variety of specialist options to suit your own interests. Engage with art works that range from Old Master paintings, through the Pre-Raphaelites and Surrealists, to the most up-to-date contemporary art and visual culture.

Your modules explore a wide variety of media, including architecture, urbanism, photography and video, as well as painting, drawing, printmaking, performance art and sculpture. This understanding of visual history allows you to complement and enhance your exploration of different textual sources, from the earliest modern works to the literature and theory of the present day, in a variety of contexts.

One of the major reasons for choosing Essex is the quality of the education you will receive. We are ranked top 10 in the UK for History of Art (CUG 2018) and ranked 6th among Art History departments in the UK for research excellence (REF 2014). You will be taught by our expert staff in your very first year, a rarity in UK art history courses.

We are also ranked top 20 in the UK for literature (Guardian University Guide 2015).

Study abroad

We offer you a variety of study abroad options. The four-year version of our course allows you to spend the third year studying abroad without paying a fee (2017 entry), while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad can allow you to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable and organised. We have established partnerships across Europe, the United States, Latin America and Asia, including with world-renowned institutions such as:

  • École du Louvre in France
  • University of Freiburg in Germany
  • University of Bologna in Italy

Our expert staff

We are a dynamic group of art historians who investigate the production and reception of images and built environment, across cultures and media, from the early modern period to the present day.

Our art history staff’s research interests include activist art, modernist art and totalitarianism, the relationship of art and science, the artistic status of body modification, expressions of societal anxiety in art, as well as architecture and urbanism.

Our Department of Literature, Film, and Theatre Studies is committed to unlocking creative personal responses to literature. Our distinctive environment is possible because we are a community of award-winning novelists, poets and playwrights, as well as leading literature specialists.

Our academic staff specialise in a range of areas including modernism, comparative and world literature, Shakespeare, the Renaissance, travel writing, nature writing, translated literature, cultural geography, Irish and Scottish writing, U.S. and Caribbean literature, and the history of reading.

Specialist facilities

  • Our Essex Collection of Art from Latin America (ESCALA) is the most comprehensive Latin American art research resource in the UK and has a state-of-the-art teaching and research space. Many of our students gain work and research experience through our collection
  • Our onsite gallery Art Exchange runs an ongoing programme of contemporary art exhibitions, talks by curators and artists, and exhibitions organised by our curatorial students
  • Enjoy regular visits to London galleries, including Tate Modern, Tate Britain, the National Gallery and the Royal Academy of Arts, as well as many independent and alternative spaces
  • Meet fellow readers at the student-run Literature Society or at the department’s Myth Reading Group
  • Learn from leading writers and literature specialists at weekly research seminars

Your future

Our combined honours graduates in literature and art history gain deep insights into the communication skills required for work.

The number of careers that lead from courses in literature is almost as large as the number of graduates, but two particular areas in which our graduates have had recent success are publishing and the theatre. One of our former students is now in charge of editorial at a large publishing house, and another has just taken over running one of the country’s major theatres.

Our recent graduates have gone on to work in a wide range of desirable roles including:

  • The Civil Service
  • Journalism and broadcasting
  • Marketing
  • Museum and library work
  • Commerce and finance
  • Teaching

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

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Example structure

We offer a flexible course structure with a mixture of compulsory modules and options chosen from lists. Below is just one example of a combination of modules you could take. For a full list of optional modules you can look at the course’s Programme Specification.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore all modules listed are subject to change.

Year 1

Explore the varied ways in which art historians, philosophers and artists have thought and written about art, from the Antiquity to the 21th century. This module examines the role of emotions in experiencing art, social and feminist art histories, the changing conceptions of what defines ‘art’, and the impact that ideas have on artistic creation itself. It will provide you with a sound foundation in the fundamental theoretical issues relating to the history of art and artistic practices.

Which writers re-worked Homer’s Odyssey? Or borrowed ideas from Dante’s Inferno? Examine how key literary texts and genres have been used by successive generations of writers up until the present day. Shift from classical text to a more modern example, studying the long cultural traditions that exist.

Build on your knowledge gained from AR113, and tackle some of the biggest questions surrounding the history of art. Explore the key issues of storytelling and style, and the complex notion of “looking”, by engaging critically with seminal texts, original works of art, and architecture. Through debates and essays, you will develop your analytical and interpretive skills, and leave with a solid foundation for the study of the history of art.

Certain ideas shape the way we see ourselves and the world around us—ideas like democracy, free speech, individualism, free markets, and humans rights. These ideas took their definitive modern form during a politically and intellectually revolutionary stretch of history known as the Enlightenment (1650-1800). This interdisciplinary module examines this period and thus serves as an essential prerequisite for students who want to understand the intellectual currents that run through the world they live in. Graduating students often rank it among the most useful modules they’ve taken.

Slander. Vendetta. Madness. Infanticide. These and other social problems threatened the integrity of daily life in late medieval and early modern (ca. 1300-1600) Italy--pitting husband against wife, brother against brother, friend against friend. This interdisciplinary module examines a wide range of visual culture (everything from altarpieces to prints, fresco cycles to manuscripts) to discover how images shaped public perceptions of social problems (and how similar processes occur today).

Gain first-hand professional experience in the cultural and creative sector with this practical skills-based module. You will work with the Arts Education team on an arts projects with a local school, discovering how to plan and deliver effective and engaging sessions, whilst learning about the career opportunities in this sector. By helping children develop, you’ll reflect upon your own strengths and capabilities, building on vital transferrable employability skills such as teamwork, resilience, leadership, and experience of working with outside organisations. You will have the opportunity to achieve Arts Award Gold accreditation, and the chance to put yourself forward for extra Arts Award training, helping you to stand out from the crowd. Complementing other modules on the course, this module will also prepare you for a placement or year abroad.

Year 2

Do our urban surroundings influence our behaviour, or is it our behaviour which affects our surroundings? This module explores the art, architecture and urbanism of Constantinople/Istanbul, Rome, and Tenochtitlán/Mexico City between 1400-1800, a period of massive change in each of these metropolises. By examining these cities we can begin to understand how urban identity is affected by art and architecture, and vice versa.

In this module, we will explore the diverse responses by individual artists working at the end of the nineteenth century to the legacy of Impressionism as the quintessential art of modern life. We will attempt to discover what it really meant to be 'modern' in turn-of-the century Europe and how artists responded to the dramatic political, social and technological changes that we call modernisation.

Some of the most captivating artworks in European art history have come to be known as ‘Baroque’, but what does this term mean? When did it emerge and what is at stake in calling an artwork Baroque? Originally introduced as a derogatory term, recently the stylistic and theoretical notion of the Baroque has been of much interest in art history. This course introduces these debates to students through writings that discuss key seventeenth-century artworks such as the dramatic paintings of Caravaggio, the voluptuous sculptures of Bernini, and the dynamic architecture of Borromini. 'More Art, More Ideas: Baroque and Neo-Baroque' solidifies and deepens students' understanding of the reception, theorisation and critique of art, as well as the developments and shifts of art history as a discipline over time.

How useful is the term “early modern”? What about “medieval” or “Renaissance”? Study literature from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries. Glimpse cultural structures and behaviour that prefigures our own, as well as an exciting “otherness” of the many worlds represented in the variety of texts chosen.

What are the major US texts since 1850? And what problems are connected to them? Study a varied spectrum of US literature, looking at issues such as the relationship between American writing and history, American “difference” and differences within American society, nationalism and regionalism, and conflicts of race and gender.

This module seeks to answer the thorny question ‘What makes art modern?’ by considering different strands of European modern art from the 1900s through 1945, including Futurism, Constructivism, and Surrealism. Some key issues addressed include the birth of abstraction; the relationship between art and politics; and intersections between art, mass media, and consumer culture.

This module will prepare you for your final-year capstone project in Art History, whether it be a dissertation or a curatorial project. All second-year students following BA schemes in Art History, including those on Study Abroad variants, are required to complete the Capstone Preparation Module. This module will support you in developing a clearly defined topic, a research plan, and a bibliography of key texts. It will prepare you for the required Art History capstone by guiding you through the process of conceiving, developing and proposing an extended piece of research (either a dissertation or curatorial project) based on a topic which you have chosen yourself.

Final year

This module follows on from AR321, and presents the artwork of the post-mechanical age. Uncover how new media, such as film and video, cybernetics, robotics, video games and the internet have been used to create art from the 1960s to the present day. Investigate the issues of production, reception, display, the acceptance of new media into the art world, whilst attempting to link the issues raised by new media artists to your own experiences of life in an increasingly digital world.

How has more recent history shaped our understanding of the distant past? This module, organised by theme, rather than chronologically, investigates the complex relationships between past, present and future by considering the fraught concept of the “Renaissance”-- how it was “invented” in the nineteenth century, how it was “reinvented” in the twentieth century, and how it is being redefined further today. Among other issues, we will consider the role of museums in shaping our definition of the Renaissance, the importance of art history textbooks in crafting a narrative of Classical revival, and the current art historical focus on the “global Renaissance”.

What are the important theories about Wordsworth’s poetry? And Coleridge? How do you analyse the imagination of Shelley? Or Keats? Explore key aspects of Romantic writing, deepening your knowledge of this vibrant and diverse literature. Study works of poetry, fiction and essays, building understanding of relevant critical approaches and theories.

How was the history play invented in early modern England? And why? Examine Shakespeare’s English and Roman history plays, as well as works by Marlowe, Jonson and Ford. Understand how the Elizabethan history play responds to the radically different kinds of history being written and translated in early modern England.

Some of the most realistic and vivid representations of the human body were produced in northern Italy after the Protestant Reformation. From Titian’s painterly evocation of flesh to Caravaggio’s theatrical bodies, these moving images made the body come to life before the eyes of the beholder. This course focuses on these incredibly lifelike artworks, asking students to reconsider familiar ‘masterpieces’ of Renaissance and Baroque painting as well as introducing them to intriguing genres such as miraculous imprints and wax sculptures.

Investigate the myths surrounding the founding of the United States. Crossing disciplines of fiction, non-fiction, poetry, and cinematic and theatrical texts, you compare the classic Western against a range of counter-narratives from black, Hispanic, latino, and aboriginal storytellers. This module interrogates the concept of a 'national literature', explores the relationship between folklore and contemporary society, and investigates the relationship between the Western as a narrative form, and the history of colonialism in the U.S.A.

What fascinates you? Pursue a topic that you are enthusiastic about and have chosen, with support and guidance from our expert academic staff. Gain invaluable training for future graduate work, as you learn how to sustain a written argument over 10,000 words.

Year abroad

On your year abroad, you have the opportunity to experience other cultures and languages, to broaden your degree socially and academically, and to demonstrate to employers that you are mature, adaptable, and organised. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

Teaching

  • Close examination of texts written by artists, critics, art historians and philosophers
  • Subsidised gallery visits to work ‘in situ’ for each course
  • Gain practical experience in curating, such as handling and installing artworks
  • Teaching takes the form of lectures and seminar sessions or discussion classes
  • Innovative ways of engaging with literary texts include editing 16th century sonnets and archival research

Assessment

  • Assessment methods include coursework, for example essays, analysis of source material, exhibition reviews and virtual portfolios, coursework reports, oral presentations
  • Written examinations are also taken for the majority of modules at the end of each academic year

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Qualifications

UK entry requirements

A-levels: BBB

IB: 30 points. We are also happy to consider a combination of separate IB Diploma Programmes at both Higher and Standard Level. Exact offer levels will vary depending on the range of subjects being taken at higher and standard level, and the course applied for. Please contact the Undergraduate Admissions Office for more information.

BTEC Extended Diploma: DDM (in relevant subject)

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email admit@essex.ac.uk for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the high school qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

English language requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. Different requirements apply for second year entry, and specified component grades are also required for applicants who require a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK.

Other English language qualifications may be acceptable so please contact us for further details. If we accept the English component of an international qualification then it will be included in the information given about the academic levels listed above. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications

If you are an international student requiring a Tier 4 visa to study in the UK please see our immigration webpages for the latest Home Office guidance on English language qualifications.

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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Applying

Applications for our full-time undergraduate courses should be made through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS). Applications are online at: www.ucas.com. Full details on this process can be obtained from the UCAS website in the how to apply section.

Our UK students, and some of our EU and international students, who are still at school or college, can apply through their school. Your school will be able to check and then submit your completed application to UCAS. Our other international applicants (EU or worldwide) or independent applicants in the UK can also apply online through UCAS Apply.

The UCAS code for our University of Essex is ESSEX E70. The individual campus codes for our Loughton and Southend Campuses are ‘L’ and ‘S’ respectively.

Applicant Days and interviews

Resident in the UK? If your application is successful, we will invite you to attend one of our applicant days. These run from January to April and give you the chance to explore the campus, meet our students and really get a feel for life as an Essex student.

Some of our courses also hold interviews and if you’re invited to one, this will take place during your applicant day. Don’t panic, they’re nothing to worry about and it’s a great way for us to find out more about you and for you to find out more about the course. Some of our interviews are one-to-one with an academic, others are group activities, but we’ll send you all the information you need beforehand.

If you’re outside the UK and are planning a trip, feel free to email visit@essex.ac.uk so we can help you plan a visit to the University.

Visit us

Open days

Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex. In 2017 we have three undergraduate Open Days (in June, September and October). These events enable you to discover what our Colchester Campus has to offer. You have the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

Check out our Visit Us pages to find out more information about booking onto one of our events. And if the dates aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

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