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BA Latin and French

Year of entry: 2020

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Course unit details:
Art and Aesthetics

Unit code CAHE33011
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Offered by Classics & Ancient History
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course enables students to analyse ancient and modern aesthetic theories alongside some of antiquity’s most influential sculptures and paintings, and to consider the influence of the latter on the art of the high Renaissance. Students will consider how ancient, early modern, and modern thinkers have conceptualized the value and effect of the arts. They will then use these ideas as starting points for thinking about the effects and functions of artworks themselves. The course will focus on several pivotal achievements in ancient and Renaissance art, including the Parthenon, the temple at Pergamum, Raphael’s ‘Stanza della Segnatura’, and Bernini’s mythological sculptures; these works will be addressed in the context of wider artistic and intellectual developments. Ancient artists’ techniques and concerns will be examined against those of the Renaissance; students will examine the influence of ancient art in this period, and analyse what made the Renaissance distinctive, paying particulary attention to religious, historical, and philosophical changes. 


  • To introduce students to ancient ideas about the arts.
  • To enable students to analyse the forms and effects of ancient artworks and the contexts in which they were made and viewed.
  • To enable students to better understand the continuities and differences between ancient art and that of the high Renaissance.
  • To enable students to build on techniques for analysing material culture which they have learned on other courses; the course will work in tandem with Introduction to Classical Archaeology, will build on some of the ideas explored in the Plato course, and will be of interest to students whose main interests are in Archaeology and Art History.


Learning outcomes

Specific outcomes listed below.


Students will study a series of sculptures, paintings, and drawings. In addition, a selection of texts will be read in translation, including:


Plato, Republic 3 and 10 (selection)

Plato, Ion (selection)

Dionysius of Halicarnassus On Imitation

Dio Chrysostom Olympic Oration

Philostratus Imagines (selection)

Leon Battista Alberti On Painting (selection)

Giorgio Vasari Lives of the Artists (selection)

A selection from Leonardo da Vinci’s writings on painting


Students will also read selections from authors including Homer, Apollonius of Rhodes, and Pliny.


Teaching and learning methods

  • 2 x 1 hour lectures per week;
  • 1 x 1 hour seminar per week;
  • Blackboard: course material, handouts and other supporting materials.


Teaching and learning take place through plenary lectures and small-group tutorials (one lecture/week, fortnightly tutorials). The lectures provide a broad framework by introducing students to major themes and problems and showing how they can be further investigated.

The tutorials require students to prepare selected topics in advance for concentrated and detailed discussion, to which they are all expected to contribute. Tutorial tasks, which may be prepared individually or in groups, will be formatively but not summatively assessed.


Knowledge and understanding

By the end of the course all students will be able to

  • show a knowledge and critical understanding of the content, form, conventions, and aims of various ancient and Renaissance artworks
  • comment critically on different genres of ecphrastic and art-critical writing
  • demonstrate an appreciation of the influence of cultural contexts on how artworks were created
  • show an understanding of aesthetic theory (ancient and modern), and its applicability to individual works of art
  • demonstrate understanding of the influence of ancient artworks on artists such as Raphael and and Bernini

Intellectual skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • demonstrate subject-specific skills, including the ability to respond thoughtfully to difficult and complex texts, and to comment critically upon them.
  • demonstrate the ability to analyse visually complex artworks and comment on their significance
  • analyse stylistic differences and developments in artworks across particular periods
  • analyse the relationships between individual artworks and their social, political, and intellectual contexts

Practical skills

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • Manage time and resources
  • Discuss complex texts clearly in writing and conversation

Transferable skills and personal qualities

By the end of this course students will be able to:

  • construct an argument in written and oral form;
  • pose questions about complex issues;
  • assimilate and summarise large quantities of evidence;
  • locate and retrieve relevant information from primary sources;
  • use e-resources and gain knowledge of research methods and resources;
  • engage in critical discussion.

Employability skills

Analytical skills
The course involves a large number of skills that can be deployed in different form outside the classroom. These include the ability to analyse and respond in a sophisticated way to large amounts of information, to scrutinize complex iconography and visual material, to assess the merits of opposed or differing critical positions, to produce cogent syntheses of arguments, and to retrieve information from complex sources and present it as part of cogent arguments.

Assessment methods



Assessment task

Formative or Summative


Weighting within unit (if summative)



1,500 words




2,500 words








Feedback methods


Feedback method

Formative or Summative


Formative and summative


Formative and summative during tutorials and consultation hours upon request


Recommended reading

S. Halliwell, Between Ecstasy and Truth: Interpretations of Greek Poetics from Homer to Longinus (Oxford, 2011)

C. Nagel and A. Wood, Anachronic Renaissance (New York, 2010)

E. Panofsky, Renaissance and Renascences in Western Art (orig., 1960)

V. Platt, Seeing the Gods (Cambridge, 2012)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 22
Seminars 11
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Thomas Phillips Unit coordinator

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