BA Art History and English Literature

Year of entry: 2020

Course unit details:

Unit code AHCP33132
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Offered by Art History and Cultural Practices
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


Picasso is the most densely inscribed artist of the twentieth century, a key figure in histories of modernism and the avant-garde. This course tracks his production across narratives of art, culture and ideology, placing it in historical and theoretical contexts, while attending to the themes and fictions of the reception. Notwithstanding Picasso’s continuing recuperation as an institution or brand-name, his practice submitted the European world-picture to an unprecedented interrogation. This course brings this radical questioning of identity and meaning to the fore.


  • To enable students to gain a detailed knowledge of the work of a major twentieth-century artist.
  • To enable students to situate Picasso’s production in relation to modernism and the avant-garde, in particular Symbolism, Cubism, Surrealism
  • To enable students to describe and analyse complex modernist and anti-modernist artworks
  • To develop the capacity to apply knowledge of social and cultural history to the analysis of the work of major 20th century artists by the study of one example.
  • To enable students to interpret Picasso by means of theoretical concepts
  • To introduce students to challenging art-historical and art-critical texts, and promote good practices of reading and writing
  • To encourage presentational and public speaking skills, in the context of complex discussions

Learning outcomes

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


The following is a preliminary plan:

1. Introduction: The Picasso Myth

2. Early Picasso: Background and Bohemia

3. Les Demoiselles d’Avignon: The Question of the Primitive

4. Cubism and Representation

5. Neoclassical Picasso: Pastiche and the Return to Order

6. Picasso and Surrealism

7. Picasso and Documents Magazine

8. War and the Politics of Myth

9. Picasso and ‘the Masters’

10. Picasso and Sexuality

11. Picasso and Death

Teaching and learning methods

This course is seminar based. Student will participate in class discussion based on set reading. Readings will be available via BlackBoard. 

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate a first-hand knowledge of a wide range of Picasso’s production.
  • Be proficient in the description and analysis of works by Picasso.
  • Analyse Picasso’s statements and interviews in relation to his work and career.

Intellectual skills

  • Analyse contemporaneous critical responses to Picasso’s work in their cultural and social context.
  • Demonstrate a critical approach to theoretical, social-historical and biographical interpretations of Picasso.
  • Demonstrate a critical approach to the placing of Picasso in general histories of twentieth-century art and culture.

Practical skills

  • Develop  writing skills
  • Recall, analyse and articulate complex historical and conceptual data

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Demonstrate independent learning  through assessed work
  • Demonstrate research skills through assessed work

Employability skills

¿ Carry out supervised research using available resources ¿ Critically evaluate written and visual sources ¿ Present coherent arguments in written work ¿ Manage time effectively in order to complete assignments ¿ Use Word in order to present work professionally ¿ Respond to feedback in order to improve their study skills and understanding of material discussed in class

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 40%
Written assignment (inc essay) 60%

Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

Written feedback on essay


Exam feedback (on request)


Verbal feedback on formative essay


Additional one-to-one feedback in consultation hours (or by appointment)



Recommended reading

  • Michael Bracewell, ed., The Dark Monarch: Magic and Modernity in British Art (Exhibition Catalogue: Tate Gallery, 2008)
  • e-flux journal 36, 2012, ‘Animism’
  • Alfred Gell, Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998)
  • Hal Foster, ‘The Artist as Ethnographer’, in Foster, The Return of the Real (Cambridge MA and London: MIT Press, 1996)
  • Philip Grant, ‘Too Real an Unreality: Financial Markets as Occult’, e-flux journal 62, 2015
  • David Lomas, ‘Artist-Sorcerers: Mimicry, Magic and Hysteria’, Oxford Art Journal 35, 3, 2012, 363-388
  • Paolo Magagnoli, ‘Critical Nostalgia in the Art of Joachim Koester’. Oxford Art Journal 34, 1, 2011, 97-121
  • Birgit Meyer and Peter Pels, eds., Magic and Modernity: Interfaces of Revelation and Concealment (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2003)
  • Bernd-Christian Otto and Michael Stausberg, eds., Defining Magic: A Reader (London and New York: Routledge, 2014)
  • P. Adams Sitney, Visionary Film: The American Avant-Garde 1943-2000 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity: A Particular History of the Senses (London and New York: 1993)

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Assessment written exam 2
Lectures 33
Independent study hours
Independent study 0

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Charles Miller Unit coordinator

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