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BA Philosophy 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: VV53
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: VV5H
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

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About the course

You study the disciplines of philosophy and art history together in order to appreciate the relationships between them with a degree of critical awareness. In so doing you are offered a unique approach to develop skills which are now vital in a society dominated by the visual image and visual forms of communication.

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

Our School of Philosophy and Art History is widely regarded as among the very best in the UK, having been recognised as one of the Top 10 UK universities for research excellence (REF 2014), and being placed in the Top 10 in The Guardian University Guide in 2010, 2011, and 2013.

Study abroad

Your education extends beyond our University campus. We support you extending your education through providing the option of an additional year at no extra cost. The four-year version of our degree allows you to spend the third year studying abroad, while otherwise remaining identical to the three-year course.

Studying abroad allows 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 exchange partners in the following areas:

  • The United States
  • Europe
  • Canada
  • Australia
  • New Zealand
  • Latin America
  • The Middle East
  • Hong Kong
  • Japan

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 courses are taught by world-class academics, and over three quarters of our philosophy research is rated ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’ (REF 2014), which puts us fifth in the UK for research outputs.

Our open-minded and enthusiastic philosophy staff have an exceptionally broad range of research interests, so whatever questions in philosophy catch hold of your imagination, there is certain to be someone you can approach to find out more.

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
  • An exciting programme of research seminars, reading groups and mini-courses that help you expand your philosophical knowledge beyond what you learn on your course
  • Access a variety of philosophy and art history textbooks and journals in the Albert Sloman Library

Your future

Graduates equipped with an understanding of wider ethical and philosophical issues are becoming increasingly attractive to employers. Many employers want graduates with critical thinking skills who can think logically and creatively about practical problems.

Our students are in demand from a wide range of employers in a host of occupations, including law, PR, journalism and the media, the Civil Service, charity work, banking, and the NHS. Our recent graduates have gone on to work for a wide range of high-profile companies.

Our BA Philosophy and Art History develops your transferable skills, providing you with:

  • The ability to understand all sides of a dispute objectively and without forming a premature opinion
  • The ability to work in a team, taking a collaborative approach to problems
  • The ability to interpret dense text and to communicate effectively
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills

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

Studying at Essex is about discovering yourself, so your course combines compulsory and optional modules to make sure you gain key knowledge in the discipline, while having as much freedom as possible to explore your own interests. Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

For many of our courses you’ll have a wide range of optional modules to choose from – those listed in this example structure are just a selection of those available. The opportunity to take optional modules will depend on the number of core modules within any year of the course. In many instances, the flexibility to take optional modules increases as you progress through the course.

Our Programme Specification gives more detail about the structure available to our current first-year students, including details of all optional modules.

Year 1

Begin your study of philosophy with an exploration of scepticism and matters of life and death. Do we truly know anything? Might, for all we know, our brains be under the control of evil scientists? Is torture ever justified? How demanding is morality and how much of our lives should it cover?

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.

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.

Get ready to take on the ever changing graduate jobs market with this employability module, and equip yourself with the skills, competencies, and attitudes essential for success in the arts and cultural fields. By looking critically at how the industry has developed over time, you will leave with a more solid understanding of your place in the world, and the confidence to take risks and make an impact.

Ask life’s big questions: What, if anything, is the meaning of our lives? How can we become wise? Can we make sense of human suffering? How should we think about our own deaths? You take up these questions, first, by examining a series of ancient narratives, including The Myth of Sisyphus and Eden and the Fall; and then through the study of key works of modern philosophers including Nietzsche, Weber and Freud.

Meet the rule-breakers. What is it that motivates an artist to break the mould? Focussing on French Impressionism, this module identifies not only how the political, social and economic changes during the nineteenth century affected art and creative thinking, but how this vibrant and multi-faceted group of artists, who refused to follow the crowd, influenced their world. Through analysis of primary and secondary sources, you’ll explore their historical reputation, as well as their relevance today.

Year 2

What is the nature and limit of human knowledge? What are the relations between faith and reason? What is the relation between the body and the mind? Study the philosophical texts of the modern era that helped lay the conceptual foundations for these questions and others. You explore the work of Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz, Locke, Berkeley and Hume.

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.

What kind of societies have we created in the twentieth- and twenty-first centuries? What makes them new? Or are they simply new expressions of old ideas? Study contemporary issues such as the humanitarian treatment of people, the meaning of the self and global warming that have arisen out of the ideas behind the Enlightenment, colonialism, and capitalism.

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.

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.

From mementos on the walls of our homes to perfume ads in glossy magazines, from selfies to forensic imaging – photographs are everywhere. In this module, explore how the birth of the camera changed the way people saw themselves, their nation, and their world, and how it continues to do so. Learn about the history of photography, interpreting and analysing both photographs and texts, and see how the photograph’s status shifted over time from document to artwork.

Since the Enlightenment, religious belief in the Western World has been under new pressures to justify itself in terms compatible with the worldview of modern science. You explore the work of philosophers who have sought to show that we can and need to make a place for religion in modern cultural and social life, through the work of Hegel, Rosenzweig, Habermas, and Levinas.

Final year

New, exciting, and unconventional practices call for new, exciting and unconventional theories. This module deepens your existing thematic and historiographical knowledge, concentrating on contemporary art and philosophical responses to it. You’ll find out why contemporary art forced a new beginning in the way we theorise art, examine the connection between the new and the museum, and learn more about viewer participation and the role of the spectator.

Rome is a multi-layered, palimpsestical city with an extraordinarily rich artistic, architectural, and archaeological heritage. The trip will explore the varied life and afterlife of classical Antiquity in Rome from the time of the city’s foundation to the twentieth century. Taking in sites within the city, it will also include tips to places that are further afield.

Existentialism encompasses a variety of different thinkers unified by a.) the belief that human existence cannot be fully understood using the categories provided by the philosophical tradition or the natural sciences, and b.) a commitment to taking seriously the first-person quality of experience as it is lived. For this reason Existentialism has close ties to Phenomenology, which is a philosophical methodology defined by its insistence on examining meaning as it is experienced first-personally in order to uncover the structural necessities governing the possibility of those meaningful experiences. This module is dedicated to the intersection of these philosophical approaches.

Kant's Critique of Pure Reason initiates a new 'critical' method in philosophy which has been highly influential in both continental and analytic philosophy. His critical method establishes a new way of thinking about the relation in which we stand to the world, and the role played by knowledge and judgement within that world. You explore the ways in which Kant has been taken up in twentieth and twenty-first century continental philosophy.

When artworks or artefacts have been looted, should finders really be keepers? What causes an artwork to fetch £100 million at auction? And when is it (il)legal to reproduce another artist’s work and claim it as one’s own? Study how issues of property rights, valuation, market transparency and digitisation have shaped -- and continue to reshape -- the field of art across different media.

Beginning with the cabinets of curiosities and ending with the challenges of collecting and curating new media art, this module will offer students a journey through the history of display. Alongside the exploration of different case studies, the module will critically engage with texts that offer various approaches to display methods. The case studies will enable students to identify paradigm shifts in the history of collecting and curating and to gain a clear understanding of the interconnectedness of these practices. We will also look at the development of the different kinds of museums, such as public museums, museums of modern art, or museums of contemporary art, to mention a few.  Furthermore, we will analyse the emergence of the so-called contemporary curator: from initially being the figure that traditionally took care of collections, the curator has become central to the production, dissemination, and presentation of art since the 1990s

Discover the philosophical questions that are raised by everyday medical practice and recent developments in medical science. You consider topics including suicide, euthanasia, abortion, cloning, reproductive medicine, resource allocation, medical research, confidentiality, patient autonomy, and biopolitics.

Can belief in God be reconciled with the reality of terrible evils in our world? Take an in-depth look at such central topics in the philosophy of religion and advance your understanding of key concepts such as: faith, theodicy, trial, free will, resignation, spiritual trial, sin, grace, sacrifice and forgiveness.

Placement

On a placement year you gain relevant work experience within an external business or organisation, giving you a competitive edge in the graduate job market and providing you with key contacts within the industry. The rest of your course remains identical to the three-year degree.

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
  • We believe that discussion is the lifeblood of philosophy, and we try to keep our classes as small as we can for this purpose

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
  • In your second- and third-years of philosophy modules, you may write an optional essay if you wish, in order to improve your coursework mark

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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.

Entry requirements for students studying BTEC qualifications are dependent on units studied. Advice can be provided on an individual basis. The standard required is generally at Distinction level.

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.

IELTS entry requirements

English language requirements for applicants whose first language is not English: IELTS 6.0 overall. (Different requirements apply for second year entry.)

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.

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.

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 required. Please note that date restrictions may apply to some English language qualifications.

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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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