BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Art in Britain

Course unit fact file
Unit code AHCP20221
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 2
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


The course  is concerned with the unique cultural and social structures that shaped artistic vision in

Britain c. 1780-1900. Lectures and seminars are designed to put forward arguments for rethinking the way we understand the history of artistic creativity, expression and meaning in this pivotal period. To this end, works by JMW Turner, John Constable, William Blake, Ford Madox Brown, D. G. Rossetti, Edward Burne Jones, John Everett Millais,  G. F. Watts, Walter Sickert, James Whistler and others are examined  alongside established theories relating to aesthetics,  sensory perception, human development and politics. On top of this, the course looks at how artists responded to new debates around spiritualism, class, gender, sexuality and race.

Teaching will make use of the world-class collections   at Manchester Art Gallery, The Whitworth, the John Rylands Library and Manchester Town Hall.



The course offers a detailed account of the history, theory and reception of British painting c.1780-1900, and provides students with the opportunity to understand how these matters were related to broader debates about the critical function and scope of the visual arts.




British Romantic Cultures: Imagining Nation and Empire

William Blake Among the Stars

The Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and the Pre-Raphaelite Sisterhood

‘Pre-Raphaelitism’ and Academicism

Machinic Modernity and the Social Activist Aesthetic

Public Art and Public Culture

Painting ‘Life’: The Rebirth of Mythos

Victorian Summerland; or, The Making of Spirit-land

Aestheticism and the Arts and Crafts Movement

Overview and Revision

Teaching and learning methods

Lectures, seminars and tutorials, supported by course unit texts and recorded teaching sessions.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Understand debates and arguments about the identity and value of visual culture in Britain c. 1780-1900.
  • Assess the extent to which visual culture changed during this period and what this might indicate about broader social development.
  • Explain how visual culture functioned as a site for the reproduction systems of power and knowledge, and how these matters were supported in critical, curatorial and institutional contexts.

Intellectual skills

  • Reflect critically on relevant art historical and cultural scholarship.
  • Develop analytical skills to understand a range of cultural and social matters.
  • Apply critical thinking and analysis to a range of cultural artefacts and social situations.
  • Formulate arguments supported by relevant evidence.

Practical skills

  • Evaluate cultural artefacts and situate them in their appropriate social and cultural contexts.
  • Engage with on-line research using relevant websites and databases contained in the course unit guide.
  • Produce structured, analytical and evidence-rich assessments.

Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Identify, arrange and deploy evidence in producing an argument.
  • Communicate ideas effectively.
  • Utilise a wide range of learning resources in the production of assessed material.

Employability skills

Effective time management skills through the completion of mandatory tasks. Effective IT skills through the production of assessments and online research. Effective professional skills via applying feedback to new learning situations.

Assessment methods

Essay Plan 0%
Essay 1 40%
Essay 2 60%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative

  • Written feedback on essays and essay plan



  • Additional one-to-one feedback (during consultation hour or by making an appointment)




Recommended reading

Bendiner, Kenneth, An Introduction to Victorian Painting, New Haven, 1985

Curran, Stuart, (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Romanticism, Cambridge, 1993

Frye, Northrop, Fearful Symmetry, New York, 1947

Harrison, Charles, et al (eds), Art in Theory 1815-1900, Oxford, 1998

Prettejohn, Elizabeth, The Art of the Pre-Raphaelites, London, 2000)

Trodd, Colin, Visions of William Blake, Liverpool, 2012

Wilton, Andrew, Turner and the Sublime, London, 1980


Study hours

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

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