BASS Sociology and Philosophy

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Advanced Topics in Aesthetics

Course unit fact file
Unit code PHIL30621
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 3
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This course unit will cover a selection of topics in contemporary philosophical aesthetics, as well as exploring some of the points of contact between aesthetics, ethics and the philosophy of language. We will consider how to understand some distinctive aesthetic experiences, such as awe, amusement, horror, and the experience of the uncanny. We will discuss the nature of fictional representation and, in particular, examine some of the ways in which a fiction’s representational content relies on far more than, e.g., the words on the page or the images on screen. This will enable us to consider some questions about the ethics of representation, such as: What is an offensive joke? If I like to make my character do terrible things when I play a video game, does my behaviour deserve criticism? How secure is the distinction between an extremely violent film that trivialises violence and an extremely violent film that implicitly critiques the representation of violence? And when, if ever, does the choice to perform a role amount to an endorsement of the actions we are representing?


The course unit aims to:

- Introduce students to a range of topics in philosophical aesthetics, including some cutting-edge contemporary research in the area.

-  Give students an opportunity to reflect analytically on some of the ways in which people can engage with and respond to artworks.

Learning outcomes

Students should be able to demonstrate:

- A detailed understanding of some of the questions and ideas within philosophical aesthetics.

- The ability to engage analytically and critically with some of these questions and ideas.

- The ability to read and understand difficult texts and arguments.

- The ability to form a justified position and argue for it in writing.

Teaching and learning methods

This unit is taught through lectures and tutorials

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Written exam 67%
Written assignment (inc essay) 33%

Feedback methods

There will be an opportunity to receive formative feedback on an essay plan before submission of your coursework essay.

The School of Social Sciences (SoSS) is committed to providing timely and appropriate feedback to students on their academic progress and achievement, thereby enabling students to reflect on their progress and plan their academic and skills development effectively. Students are reminded that feedback is necessarily responsive: only when a student has done a certain amount of work and approaches us with it at the appropriate fora is it possible for us to feed back on the student’s work.

We also draw your attention to the variety of generic forms of feedback available to you on this as on all SoSS courses. These include: meeting the lecturer/tutor during their office hours; e-mailing questions to the lecturer/tutor; asking questions from the lecturer (before and after lectures); and obtaining feedback from your peers during tutorials.

Recommended reading

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (ed. Edward N. Zalta) includes some open-access articles on relevant issues and debates in aesthetics, such as:

Fred Kroon and Alberto Voltolini, ‘Fiction’ (;

John Morreall, ‘Philosophy of Humor’ (;

Emine Hande Tuna, ‘Imaginative Resistance’ (

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 20
Tutorials 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 170

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Emily Caddick Bourne Unit coordinator

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