Global Opportunities

FIN3042 : Fleshful Things: The Body and Visual Art

Semester 2 Credit Value: 20
ECTS Credits: 10.0


Throughout history the human body has been as an object of fascination to artists. Our bodies act as the sensory interface between our inner selves and the world we inhabit, and it is through the body that our experience of the world is mediated and understood. Yet this apparently straightforward relationship is complex. In many ways, the body is an overdetermined cultural object, subject to a set of shifting sociocultural, psychological, aesthetic and scientific values which complicate and destabilize its status. The twentieth century experienced what has been described by historians as a ‘corporeal turn’ as advances in psychology, sexuality, anthropology, medicine and politics fundamentally transformed the sociocultural status of the body. The sustained attention paid to the body by artists in the twentieth and early twenty-first centuries reflected this sociocultural shift. Not only was corporeal representation at the forefront of avant-garde practice, but, by mid-century, the body itself had become the medium as performance-based practice and video art transformed the nature of art making. This course will provide a thematic overview of the body in visual art in the period 1900-2000 by exploring corporeal representation in a variety of modern and contemporary artists, ranging from Antonin Artaud to Bill Viola.

The course will explore the diverse range of ways in which the body has been represented in visual art in the period c.1900 – 2000. It will provide a thematic approach to understanding the various ways (socio-political, medical, aesthetic and cultural) in which the body has appealed to artists, paying particular attention to the central role the body plays in artistic and cultural discourse as an object of knowledge that is an once personal and subjective yet also institutionalised and objective. The course will examine how the twentieth century revolutionised the human body and its representation. It will show how developments in politics, medicine, sexuality, technology and culture reshaped artistic interpretations of the body and its socio-cultural meanings. Students will gain an understanding of how artists use the body to express ideas about (among others) aesthetics, the self, society, healthcare and mortality. Students will also acquire knowledge of different aesthetic, historiographic, sociological and interdisciplinary approaches to studying the body in art.

This module is available to incoming Study Abroad and Exchange students studying Fine Art. Incoming Study Abroad and Exchange students primarily studying other disciplines are not able to take this module as an outside subject.

Outline Of Syllabus

The syllabus will examine the artistic representation of the human body and broadly cover the period 1900-2000. It will cover the following topics:

1)       Introduction to the Body
2)       The Ageing Body
3)       Ephemeral Bodies
4)       Performative Bodies
5)       Differently Abled Bodies
6)       Political Bodies
7)       The Animal Body
8)       Post-human Bodies
9)       Debates

Teaching Methods

Teaching Activities
Category Activity Number Length Student Hours Comment
Structured Guided LearningLecture materials111:0011:00pre-recorded supplementary lecture materials delivered online to support PIP teaching.
Guided Independent StudyAssessment preparation and completion150:0050:0010 hours for formative, 40 hours for essay
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesLecture111:0011:00PIP lectures.
Guided Independent StudyDirected research and reading113:0033:00Lecture and seminar preparation.
Scheduled Learning And Teaching ActivitiesSmall group teaching111:0011:00PIP seminars.
Structured Guided LearningStructured non-synchronous discussion41:004:00Student discussion groups on Canvas.
Guided Independent StudyIndependent study180:0080:00N/A
Jointly Taught With
Code Title
Teaching Rationale And Relationship

1. Lectures: to allow definition of the scope of the syllabus, an introduction to a body of knowledge, and modelling of the level and nature of the analysis required. PIP lectures will be supplemented with online material (in the form of pre-recorded lecture materials, relevant videos, etc.) to make the module content more accessible, manageable and digestible.

2. Seminars: to encourage interaction and the development of cognitive and key skills; to allow preparation and presentation of directed research on specific issues and case studies. Seminars help to foster collegiality among the cohort and are an important supplement to the teaching delivered by group discussions.

3. Canvas discussion groups: to allow for more innovative, interactive and cross-curricular teaching.

Nb. In person lectures and seminars can move to synchronous and asynchronous online delivery as required in response to pandemic-related restrictions.

Assessment Methods

The format of resits will be determined by the Board of Examiners

Other Assessment
Description Semester When Set Percentage Comment
Essay2M1002500 words
Formative Assessments
Description Semester When Set Comment
Case study1MN/A
Assessment Rationale And Relationship

The essay affords the student the opportunity to conduct academic research into a topic of their choice relating to the module content, with the question(s) set by the module leader. The questions encourage students to engage closely with the key topics, critical ideas and practices studied on the module curriculum. The assessment will be supported by critical discussions undertaken during the seminars and/or discussion boards. The assignment is designed to develop critical thinking, the ability to develop an argument, writing skills, visual analysis and theoretical comprehension.

The Case Study written exercise offers students the chance to hone writing and analytical skills in advance of the essay in a formative and less pressurised context. The formative nature of the assessment will permit faster feedback, allowing the case study analysis to feed fully into the summative essay.

Reading Lists