BA Art History and History / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Standing on The Shoulders of Giants: Foundations for Study in The Arts

Course unit fact file
Unit code SALC10002
Credit rating 20
Unit level Level 1
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


This Level 1 course introduces you to the key ideas, concepts and thinkers in the Western tradition which underpin the ways we approach the world in the different disciplines in the arts, from archaeology to literature, history to film, art to drama, religion to music. You will have heard of Paul, Marx and Freud, but may be less familiar with Connell’s arguments about gender, or Fanon’s writing on ethnicity. Each week, you will explore a central idea in a lecture, a seminar, and your written submissions, and engage directly with the texts or images at the heart of the debate. By doing so, you will gain a broad foundation in the ideas and concepts you will use throughout your degree programme in the School, and come to understand the intellectual underpinnings of the Western approach to knowledge, wisdom and truth.


  • To introduce students to ten key thinkers for Western thought, and explore how their ideas underpin the ways we study the world
  • To provide a common introduction to some of the central issues and ideas found in the study of the arts and humanities
  • To encourage students to develop critical skills by analysing a variety of important texts
  • To practice taking notes on relevant information from lectures. (To that end, computers and recording equipment will not normally be permitted in lectures. Students with specific language requirements 

Knowledge and understanding

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

  • Have acquired preliminary knowledge of how some key concepts are used in different cultural and historical contexts
  • Have developed an understanding of the importance of a range of critical thinkers
  • Have begun to think about issues surrounding knowledge production in academic and popular contexts
  • Have demonstrated some knowledge of the critical methods which link many of the disciplines within the School

Intellectual skills

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

  • Provide analyses of primary sources from a range of disciplinary positions
  • Use existing knowledge to assess the cogency and coherence of the arguments of others
  • Develop and present a coherent argument with appropriate use of evidence and awareness of a range of alternative views         
  • Have developed written and oral skills of communication in starting to structure essays, listening and putting forward students’ own view and seminar discussion

Practical skills

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

  • Demonstrate familiarity with library and other information resources at Manchester                                       
  • Evaluate, organise and present complex material, both primary and secondary                                               
  • Demonstrate consistency and rigour in method and argument                                                                         
  • Exercise some autonomy in the management of your own learning

Transferable skills and personal qualities

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

  • Communicate clearly in written forms
  • Evaluate your own position in trying to understand others and reflect on your own learning
  • Participate appropriately in a learning group
  • Display an understanding of diverse religious viewpoints

Employability skills

- Exercise some autonomy in the management of your own research and time - Work to a brief

Assessment methods

Essay 50%
Source analysis 50%


Feedback methods

Feedback method

Formative or Summative



Written Feedback on Source Analysis


Written feedback on essay




Recommended reading

  • Jostein Gaarder, Sophie’s World: A Novel about the History of Philosophy (London, 1996)

Further reading list supplied by individual lecturers

Study hours

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

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Kamran Karimullah Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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