BA Art History and History

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Humanities in Public: The Politics and Value(s) of Knowledge

Course unit fact file
Unit code SALC10411
Credit rating 10
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 1
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


According to the British Academy, the humanities “provide us with the methods and forms of expression we need to build better, deeper, more colourful and more valuable lives for all” ( At the same time, though, for many commentators, there is something of a ‘crisis’ in the humanities, which is marked by a societal undervaluing of the importance and impact of humanities research in favour of more technical skills and ideas represented by STEM subjects. How, then, can the goals of the humanities be realised and communicated to different academic and public audiences? 
In this course, we uncover insights into how we might define and understand the scope and goals of humanities research and teaching. Through analysis of intellectual, historical, and political sources, we’ll reflect on how we currently perceive the humanities and their public and academic role in relation to the sciences and to different ethical concerns. Throughout this course, you’ll gain a deeper and critical understanding of your own degree programme in its broader intellectual and social context, and you’ll be able to apply this understanding to the ways that you communicate your ideas to others and engage with interdisciplinary research.



  • To explore different attitudes to the humanities, including critiquing different perceptions of their content and their role or value in society;
  • To investigate and evaluate the notion of a ‘crisis’ in/of the humanities through challenge-led learning; 
  • To develop a critical understanding of the relationship between the humanities and sciences, and to place this in different historical, cultural, and intellectual contexts;
  • To introduce students to ways of working across interdisciplinary boundaries by examining the relationship between different ideas and disciplines; To provide students with a foundation for studying Liberal Arts, which involves critical reflection on the distinctiveness, communication, and application of ideas.


1. What are the humanities? 
2. Humanities and sciences
3. Humanities and citizens
4. Humanities and society
5. Humanities and the public
6. Interdisciplinarity
7. Essay skills

Teaching and learning methods

Weekly interactive lectures that feature discussion of key readings, playful learning, enquiry-based learning through case studies and independent research, and development of independent research enquiry through group work. In addition, students are encouraged to attend weekly office hours to discuss queries and/or feedback; classes in the final week of teaching are also given over to small group tutorials to discuss assignments.

Knowledge and understanding

  • Demonstrate an awareness of how the humanities are perceived in  intellectual, historical, and political contexts
  • Critique the notion of a ‘crisis’ in contemporary framings of the humanities
  • Be familiar with the importance and value of the humanities as a set of subjects and disciplines facing academy and society


Intellectual skills

  • Analyse and critique the relationship between humanities and the public, using independently researched case studies and examples
  • Understand the nuances and contours of the relationship between the arts, humanities, and (social) sciences and discuss the importance of this relationship
  • Locate one’s own programme of study in wider academic and sociopolitical contexts

Practical skills

  • Appropriately and critically handle a range of scholarly and media sources and use them to develop an independent argument
  • Evidence group working skills and communication of ideas in co-operation with others
  • Practice appropriately critical reflective and self-aware learning



Transferable skills and personal qualities

  • Demonstrate familiarity with interdisciplinarity as a foundation for ongoing interdisciplinary work across the humanities and beyond
  • Evidence self-organisation skills and an ability to plan research (independently and in groups) in order to meet course deadlines
  • Narrate the skillset of the humanities and how it impacts individuals and communities



Assessment methods

Assessment taskFormative or SummativeLengthWeighting within unit (if relevant)
Video interviewFormative5 minutes0%
Video interviewSummative5 minutes30%
Research essaySummative1500 words70%


Feedback methods

Feedback methodFormative or Summative
Written; within 15 working days of submission from the deadlineFormative
Written; within 15 working days of submission from the deadlineSummative


Recommended reading

  • Bod, Rens, A New History of the Humanities: The Search for Principles and Patterns from Antiquity to the Present (Oxford: OUP, 2013)

  • Bod, Rens, Julia Kursell, Jaap Maat, and Thijs Weststeijn, ‘A New Field: History of Humanities’, History of Humanities, Vol. 1, No. 1 (Spring 2016), pp. 1-8.

  • DiYanni, Robert and Anton Borst (eds.), Critical Reading Across the Curriculum, Vol. 1: The Humanities (Malden, MA: Wiley Blackwell, 2017)

  • Frodeman, Robert (ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Interdisciplinarity (Oxford: OUP, 2010)

  • Klein, Julie Thompson, Humanities, Culture, and Interdisciplinarity: The Changing American Academy (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2005)

  • Roche, Mark William, Why Choose the Liberal Arts? (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010)

  • Snow, C. P. The Two Cultures (Cambridge: CUP, 1998[1959])

Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Practical classes & workshops 20
Independent study hours
Independent study 167

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Scott Midson Unit coordinator

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