Art History and Cultural Studies (2014 entry)

BA (Hons), 3 years, UCAS: VRH9
Typical A level offer: AAB-ABB

Subject overview

Why art history?

Art history is about how we see and have seen the world around us. Art historians explore buildings, paintings, sculptures and a variety of other types of objects including dining implements, clothing, furniture and ceramics. Looking closely at how such things were made, used and thought about, we consider how individual objects operate as works of art and we investigate the meanings objects have within their individual social contexts. 

We explore the ways in which certain works of art reflect and comment on social life, how they shape human interaction and how they offer visual pleasure. Studying the history of art provides us with vital tools not only for understanding how we communicated by visual means in the past, but also for comprehending how we communicate visually in our own time. In addition, the discipline is crucial for identifying key works of the past that require conservation and preservation in the present.

Why art history at Sussex?

Art history at Sussex is ranked in the top 10 in the UK in The Times and Sunday Times Good University Guide 2014, and in the top 20 in the UK in the Complete University Guide 2015 and The Guardian University Guide 2015.

Rated in the top 3 in the UK for research in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). 100 per cent of our research was rated as recognised internationally or higher, with 70 per cent rated as internationally excellent or higher, including 45 per cent rated as world leading. 

Excellent facilities, including a comprehensive lab and student working space that is the envy of many larger institutions.

A small, friendly department with a close-knit community of students and staff.

All second-year students are encouraged to go on a supervised study trip abroad (an additional fee applies), providing opportunities to explore works of art in their original location. 

Unusually for a UK university, we cover a wide range of periods and places from Byzantium to Renaissance Italy and contemporary America. 

For more information, refer to Department of Art History: Showcase.

Why cultural studies?

Culture is everything: it’s the way we dress, the websites we surf, the people we engage with and the words we use. Studying culture is about understanding the often complex way our everyday life is constructed. Cultural studies at Sussex is ideal for you if you wish to develop a critical understanding of the history and theory of culture. 

Why cultural studies at Sussex?

Our high-quality research pushes the boundaries in cultural thinking: cultural studies at Sussex was rated joint 8th in the UK for research in the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). 100 per cent of our research was rated as recognised internationally or higher, and 75 per cent rated as internationally excellent or higher. 

Our lecturers bring expertise and cutting-edge thinking from departments across the University. You will be taught by the most innovative, as well as the most rigorous, researchers in their fields. 

You take Cultural Studies alongside another subject, which will develop your critical thinking, give you a new set of skills in a second area of knowledge and increase your potential in the workplace.

Sussex is distinctive in that we spend as much time examining popular culture as we do high culture and ordinary culture. We combine interdisciplinary frameworks so that you will examine culture from a variety of different perspectives, ranging from the historical to the anthropological to the geographic.

We promote a political approach to cultural issues and put emphasis on developing critical thinking in particular on gender, nation, class and ethnicity.

Course content

The cultural studies element of this degree aims to develop your awareness and understanding of a wide range of cultures and their contexts. Art history complements this approach by considering the relationship between visual materials and the cultures that make and use them. 

You take art history core modules in the first two years, followed by a focused module on art in context and a thematic module in the final year. You also take cultural studies core modules over the three years.

We continue to develop and update our modules for 2014 entry to ensure you have the best student experience. In addition to the course structure below, you may find it helpful to refer to the Modules tab.

Core content

Year 1

Modules lay the groundwork for your study and help you make informed choices in Years 2 and 3. Topics include art on site • methods and approaches in art history • objects of art • stories of art • visual cultures

Year 2 

You develop your study of methods and approaches and also study sites of art. Modules on periods in art history examine the art of an era from different critical views and perspectives. These special period options offer a range of subjects and current topics and currently include 19th-century art and society • art and society in the contemporary world • art and society in Renaissance Italy • art in 18th-century Europe • art in Late Antiquity • Dutch art of the 17th century • Surrealism to Conceptualism

The second-year trip abroad enables students to work together intensively on site in a European city (an additional fee applies)

Final year

The topic art in context allows the focus on a short period of art history, or a particular place. Options offered include subjects such as 16th-century Venice • art after 1945 • art in the time of Raphael and Michelangelo • Byzantine art 843-1204 • origins of Modernism • Paris 1904-14 • the image of slavery 

A thematic topic is also taken and leads to a dissertation and presentation. Choices currently include topics such as architecture and interiors • art and empire • art in its literary context • commemorative art • photography in context • pre-Raphaelitism • representing women

How will I learn?

Modules are taught by a mixture of lectures, seminars and workshops. In Year 1, you write essays, give presentations to the tutor and other students, keep portfolios of your work, and undertake group projects.

In Year 2, you keep a logbook during the fieldtrip abroad, recording your work with both text and illustration in preparation for writing it up once back home. In your second and final years, you write longer essays, work towards dissertations and do assessed oral presentations. All of these help to pull together your skills in using visual material, organising text, and communicating through written and oral means.

For more information, visit Studying at Sussex.

What will I achieve?

  • an understanding of the way different types of art have been made, used and discussed in a variety of historical and cultural contexts
  • experience of using different approaches, methods and theories of art in a critical fashion
  • knowledge of how institutions and structures such as museums or television series influence the production, consumption and display of works of art
  • a developed sense of the cultural diversity of things that we look at today and have looked at in the past
  • experience in communicating your ideas and arguments orally, and working effectively with others
  • an understanding of how you learn and how you can go on learning in the future.

We continue to develop and update our modules for 2014 entry to ensure you have the best student experience. In addition to the course structure below, you may find it helpful to refer to the Modules tab.

Core content

Year 1

You learn what is distinctive and exciting about cultural studies by engaging in practical activities, attending lectures, participating in seminars and responding to your set reading. Ideas of key theorists are introduced and give insight into the complexity of commonplace aspects of life 

Year 2 and final year

You engage with popular culture as an important social phenomenon that alters across time and geographical region. Debates about taste, identity and cultural power are central to the study of popular cultural practices

In the second half of Year 2 and your final year, you will be able to devise your own route through specialist options on topics such as the body • race and ethnicity • cultural belonging • globalisation and culture • technology and everyday life. Your study culminates in completion of a dissertation inspired by one of these topics. This allows you to identify your own area of research, and to demonstrate the depth of your knowledge and the effectiveness of your communication skills

How will I learn?

Learning and teaching are varied and aim for you to be able to develop an enquiring and critical approach to the world around you. You will be encouraged to use scrapbooks as well as written notes to help your learning, and produce photoessays, learning diaries, essays and presentations. You will be assessed individually as well as in groups. In this way you develop a rich portfolio of skills, gain confidence in presenting ideas effectively, and develop ways of working collaboratively and independently, all of which will serve you well in the workplace.

For more information, visit Studying at Sussex.

What will I achieve?

  • an understanding of ‘culture’ as a contested term referring to the variety of ways meaning, identity and ideas are formed
  • an understanding of historical and cross-cultural perspectives on contemporary issues and the way that power operates in society
  • an ability to contribute to critical thinking and debates on culture, and an understanding of the range of interdisciplinary approaches to the study of culture
  • intellectual skills in research design and methodology, understanding, summarising, synthesising, criticising and analysing material
  • practical skills in IT, oral and written presentation, team work, working independently, and personal and time management.

Please note that these are the modules running in 2014.

Back to module list

Art on Site

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 1

This module provides you with the opportunity to learn how to make in-depth studies of objects, across historical time and about particular centres of production. The spring term lectures prepare you for field work to be undertaken as part of the module. This will includes grasping the first principles of the relations that develop between artists and their patrons, the relationship between artistic production and a particular geographical site and the way that meanings can evolve in particular places.

Culture Across Space and Time

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 1

This module examines the relationship of culture to place, difference and identity. Drawing on key theoretical debates and case studies, culture will be explored in the context of social change and crises, incorporating topics such as:

  • the impact of globalisation and transnationalism on everyday life
  • the impact of consumption on behaviour and life choices
  • the changing relations of multiculturalism, racism and marginalisation
  • and the representation of culture in public spaces.

Throughout the module cultural issues will be deciphered through the prism of racial, ethnic, class and gender relations at local and global levels.

Everyday Life: Ordinary and Extraordinary

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 1

This module explores 'doing culture' in everyday life. If the 'everyday' refers to the mundane, the unremarkable - to the forms of life routinely taken for granted - it is also through the practices of everyday life that we experience who we are, how our lives are invested with meanings and we engage with change. In the modern world (especially in the developed north), it is difficult to think about cultures of everyday life without also considering the media: its contribution to the structuring of daily life; its varied use in daily life; and its discursive construction and engagement with aspects of everyday life. The module introduces critical approaches to everyday life, including those engaging with media, before concentrating on a series of case studies. Topics are likely to be organised around the twin foci of 'embodiment' and 'mobility' and include, for example: getting dressed, meal times, time for love, driving and shopping. You will have the opportunity to reflect on your own experiences and to consider, where appropriate, media in relation to everyday life. In addition to this the module will also provide historical and cross-cultural material and encourage study of other cultures.

Methods and Approaches to Art History I

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 1

Visual culture embraces a wide range of issues and meanings. This module provides an introduction to the study of visual material and the different approaches that scholars have taken in undertaking research into visual culture. Centred on a common module document, the module includes study skills workshops providing instruction on how to use visual analysis effectively, how to read primary and secondary sources critically, and how to synthesise, summarise and reference accurately. The generic skills teaching will arise from the teaching of thematic topics and will consider a range of objects and spaces from a variety of periods and cultures. The module assumes a high level of IT literacy.

Practising Cultural Studies

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 1

This module introduces you to the ways in which cultural studies as a theoretical approach can be used to explore aspects of life in the 'globalised world' of the 21st century. The first weeks are devoted to mapping and debating some of the terms cultural studies draws on. In the second half of the term you will try out cultural studies approaches in cross-cultural contexts through the exploration of three selected areas. These may include a social issue (eg migration or 'culture on the move'), a topic engaging with personal experience (eg 'passionate attachments' whether for people, things or ideas), or a topic engaging with cultural objects (eg focusing on the competition in relation to culture – the Turner prize, Booker or Young Musician of the Year on the one hand, Strictly Come Dancing or Master Chef on the other). You will undertake focused cross-disciplinary study through carefully directed research tasks and reading on these topics. Teaching and learning will involve a mix of lectures, seminars, workshops, screenings, individual and group work. Assessment is by submission of an exercise, essay, and group presentation.

Stories of Art I

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 1

This module is a 10-week lecture-based module. It aims to introduce you to a wide range of works of visual art across time and across cultures, considering many different kinds of works of art – paintings, sculptures, architecture, prints, drawings, and the so-called decorative and applied arts – and acknowledging that such objects raise a wide range of questions that can be answered in many different ways. The module is based on the principle that there are stories of art, rather than one single story of art.

Stories of Art II

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 1

Stories of Art II is a 12-week lecture-based module. It continues from Stories of Art I in forming part of the first year teaching to provide a first experience of the study of the history of art at undergraduate level.

You will be intraduced to a wide range of works of visual art across time and across cultures. It considers many different kinds of works of art (including paintings, sculptures, architecture, prints, drawings and the so-called decorative and applied arts) and acknowledges that such objects raise a wide range of questions that can be answered in many different ways. The module is based on the principle that there are multiple stories, rather than one single story, of art.

Art and the City

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

Sites of Art follows on from Stories of Art. The module is concerned with the physical and social contexts for the production and consumption of works of visual art and is built around two geographical case studies, the city of Rome and our local region of Brighton and Sussex.

Methods and Approaches to Art History 2

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

The interrelationship between text and image is one of the critical issues in visual culture from classical antiquity to the present day. From Chinese calligraphy, which blurs the divide between painting and writing, and medieval manuscripts where pictures appear in margins of the text to contemporary advertisements that use graphics and photography, these connections have influenced our attitudes towards images and information. This module asks how objects as diverse as Chinese porcelain or a Dyson vacuum cleaner, a pair of jeans or a designer dress, acquire meaning and value, both in the past and in the present. It raises questions about materials and techniques: how things were made and what form affects how they look. This module takes one or a number of places and periods to explore the way text and image functioned in society and the different interdisciplinary approaches required to study the two together.

Theory Taste and Trash A

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

This module introduces cultural studies students to theories of good taste and popular culture. It gives a historically-­rooted account of how the study of popular culture came to be established in British higher education, and considers the key theoretical approaches that helped to shape those studies. The module explores the meeting of popular culture and 'the academy', and the intriguing questions it continues to pose concerning hierarchies of taste, questions of value, and definitions of educational worth.

A series of lectures will offer you a historical overview and an introduction to the influence of key writers, theorists and approaches, while the module seminars will encourage you to engage critically with significant texts in the field (from writers such as Hall, Bourdieu and Bakhtin). You will test the interpretive frameworks these texts offer by undertaking some case study analyses of contemporary popular cultural texts and practices (in fields such as television, music, the leisure industries and youth culture).

Culture and Performance

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

The module focuses on the anthropological master trope of "culture" and on the political dimensions of representing culture or "cultures". We consider how anthropological understandings of "culture", as well as anthropologists' modes of analysing and representing it in anthropological work, developed over the 20th century, partially in conversation with other disciplines. We also examine how "culture" operates as a key idea in the public domain, used by politicians, community and human rights activists, artists, scientists, museum curators and others in relation to a wide range of issues and debates when distinctions between "ourselves" and "others" are at stake. Finally, we look at some activities within the cultural domain (such as music, dance, theatre, verbal artistry) which have a performative dimension, and consider how anthropologists have approached these activities to address questions about structure and agency, embodiment, experience, art and aesthetics, creativity, power and protest.

Culture, Race and Ethnicity

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

This module explores the relationship between ideas of culture, race and ethnicity both historically and in contemporary society. You will examine a range of empirical examples that demonstrate how the concepts have been used – sometimes separately, sometimes in interlocking ways – in political projects or movements. There will be particular focus on contructions of 'whiteness'. Examples may include the use of race in 19th-century colonial administration, the politics of ethnicity in postwar London or the rise of the new right in contemporary Europe.

Gender, Space and Culture

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

Why is space important to our understanding of communication? How do subjects travel through space in order to construct narratives of identity? How are spaces moralised, sexed and gendered? How do they accrue significance or symbolism?

In the last decade there has been a convergence across many academic disciplines to comprehend spatiality. Social spaces are never empty or static, they are full of the shifting dynamics of power and politics. On this module you will study to what extent gender is articulated in public and private spaces, so that they may be considered to be predominantly feminine, masculine, queer or transgendered. You will also examine how spaces and places are dynamic, unstable and mutable in relation to competing social differences. We will look at a variety of sites of the everyday, from the domestic to the visual, from bodies to landscape and virtual realities using key theoretical concepts such as 'performativity', 'representation' and 'transectionality' to interpret how our culture is thoroughly imbued with gendered and spatialized assumptions.

Topics may include: thinking about gendered journeys such as package holidays or migration; the boundaries and borders of the self; the national and the global; social inclusion and exclusion; and representations of the feminized underclass, or the masculinized professional. We will also consider queer cultural geographies as represented in films; 'freaky bodies' and transexuality online; and the spatial politics of protest on the streets and in the home.

Period in Art History: Statues to Saints: The Art of Late Antiquity

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

The module begins in 313, with the Edict of Milan, when Constantine the Great declared Christianity to be the official religion of the Roman Empire, and runs until 565, the death of the emperor Justinian I. This period covers what is known as "Late Antiquity" or "Early Christianity" or even "Early Byzantium". These labels indicate that what we are dealing with is a world in transition between "Roman" and "Byzantine", "pagan" and "Christian". The module revolves around the issue of the transformation from a pagan to a Christian Roman Empire in this period of Late Antiquity and asks whether "pagan" and "Christian" are the most useful labels to apply. Works of art from a variety of different media are considered, ranging from mosaics and wall paintings to ivories and manuscripts.

Period in Art History: Art and Society: Art after 1945

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

This module examines developments in western art from 1945 to the present, placing them in a variety of social and cultural contexts. It begins with Pop Art and its relation to 1950s consumerism, before charting the rise of conceptual art practices in the context of 1960s counter-culture. It goes on to explore the emergence of post-modernism, and the challenge presented to a predominantly white, male, Eurocentric art establishment by identity politics and feminism in the 1980s. The module concludes by looking at `relational' art practices in the 1990s and 2000s, along with the rise of the art biennial.

Period in Art History: Dutch Art of the 17th Century

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

This module examines how the particular characteristics of the northern European schools of 17th-century art have been defined and argued about. The critical tradition has taken sides on a number of issues, namely how far an apparent attention to realism disguises complex meanings, whether religious painting was still important in a post-Reformation society, on the role of optical illusion, and on portraiture and landscape as evocations of the nation-state. All these issues are constantly referred back to a standard of quality and rules for debate set down elsewhere, in Renaissance Italy. The main body of material will be taken from 17th century Dutch painting, but with constant reference to the art of the Spanish Netherlands in order to examine how far the region to the south provided a conduit to the art and criticism of Italy and whether it makes sense to see the two countries as a cultural whole.

Period in Art History: Florence 1400-1500

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

Florence 1400-1500 considers issues of making works of art in this Renaissance city, focussing on how works of painting and sculpture were designed and produced. We will look at the workshop tradition, asking what this means for our ideas about originality and art, and explore factors that impinged on the making of works in addition to skill and creativity (which were separate categories in the Renaissance), such as politics and economics. We will consider how the language and techniques we use to talk about works of art, and study how works, particularly paintings, were discussed in the period. In particular, we will think carefully about issues of quality and about how we characterise differences between one work and another.

Period in Art History: From Picasso to Warhol: Painting and Sculpture 1920-1970

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

This module examines some of the major tendencies and practitioners of art in Europe and North America from the early 1920s to the 1970s. You will begin with exploring Surrealism and its artworks in relation to the writings and films of the movement, and continue through Action painting and Abstract Expressionism, to the figurative work of the 1940s and 1950s in Europe, to Pop, Minimal and Conceptual Art.

Key artists to be examined include Joan Miro, Andre Masson, Luis Bunuel, Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso, Alberto Giacometti, Francis Bacon, Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Andy Warhol, Gilbert and George and Robert Smithson.

Period in Art History: Selling yourself: 18th Century Art and Society

15 credits
Spring teaching, Year 2

This module considers the production of visual culture in the 18th century within its social contexts. Rather than simply looking at a list of artists, you will consider the visual arts against the backdrop of contemporary social and ideological issues: commerce and luxury, urbanization and the rise of industry, the impact of empire and colonialism.

The approach will be a thematic one, looking at topics such as the representation of labour, the image of the family, the cult of individualism, the representation of war, as well as the more conventional genres of portraiture, landscape or history painting. You will also relate the visual arts to 18th century literary culture: the rise of the novel, georgic and pastoral poetry, and developments in social philosophy.

Period in Art History: Victorian Art

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

You will examine art of the Victorian period and the themes of artistic identities and the art market, the global relations of culture and the representation of the body and of difference. It considers a wide range of images of modern life in paint and in print, including urban and rural spaces, domesticity, work and leisure and explores critical interpretations of the subject.

Period in Art History:Palaces, Churches, Piazzas: Art and Society in Renaissance Italy

15 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 2

This module examines Italian art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, focusing particularly on its role in constructing and maintaining social relationships. It encompasses a range of Italian urban and courtly centres, exploring how distinctive regional contexts influenced the design, content and location of works of art. Investigating the networks of people involved in commissioning and creating art objects, it explores how viewers engaged with them in civic, sacred and domestic settings. The module considers the traditionally privileged 'art' of the Renaissance - painting and sculpture - in relation to luxury 'arts' - ceramics, glass, metalwork and textiles - to investigate the changing visual and material culture of Italy in this period. Finally, it addresses the term 'Renaissance', examining how this concept has been historically constructed and reinforced.

Art in Context: Art and Politics in Britain 1979-the present

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module examines the place of politics in recent British art. Starting with Thatcher's Britain, we will look at a number of critical art practices in the 1980s, including those associated with the new colour photography and black art movements. We will go on to address the self-professed entrepreneurialism of young British art against the backdrop of Thatcherism and the recession of the early 1990s. We will explore the co-option of the young British artists (yBas) as part of New Labour mythology and the impact of globalisation upon the perceived 'Britishness' of British art. The module concludes with the re-emergence of political art in the past ten years made in response to the Iraq War and to the current government's cuts to public spending.

Art in Context: Inhuman Bondage: the Image of Slavery 1750-1850

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module will focus on the impact of slavery and the slave trade on western visual culture, until recently a subject little considered in art-historical scholarship. You will consider not only the iconography of slavery and the representation of enslaved Africans and slave plantations, but also how the ideologies of slavery infused the commercial society that was the context for artistic production, asking to what extent art and aesthetics directly or indirectly were implicated in the slave trade. Of central concern will be the role of visual imagery in the campaign for the abolition of the slave trade in the late 18th century.

You will look at a wide variety of visual culture, not just works of 'fine' art, but also prints, textiles, applied and decorative arts, and furniture, to assess the significance of this conventionally overlooked, but important and problematic subject.

Art in Context: Michelangelo and Raphael: Art of the Papal Court in the 15th and 16th centuries

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

In Rome at the beginning of the 16th century Popes Julius II and Leo X, their courtiers and followers commissioned buildings, paintings and sculpture that politically argued the power of the Papacy and artistically sought to rival the achievements of the ancients. You will examine some of the major projects of the time, looking at the intellectual rationale for these works and their relationship to the contemporary discoveries of the fabric of the ancient city.

Art in Context: Paris the Crucible of Modernism 1900-20

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module concentrates on a single decade in one centre of art production: Paris during the forging of Modernism. You will track the careers of particular artists, critics, composers and writers in detail and examine appropriate critical and analytical frames of references for them in relation to the social and cultural history of the period.

Among those figures who to be examined are Henri Matisse, Claude Debussy, George Braque, Guillaume Apollinaire, Pablo Picasso, Constantin Brancusi, Andre Derain and Giorgio de Chirico.

Art in Context: The Museum and its Objects

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module uses the expertise of a specialist from one of the national museums, who will be present as part of an academic exchange. Currently, the exchange is with the Victoria and Albert Museum, but it may include specialists from other museums in future years.

The focus of this module is on a particular body of material drawn from the collection of the museum, dating from a specific time and place. This is employed as a basis for you to study issues in museology and museum history, as well as in art history and the history of culture.

You will undertake some general reading in the history of museums and debates in museology. Further reading is provided by the specialist in the field addressed.

Art in Context: Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese: art in 16th Century Venice

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module will focus on the art produced in Venice during the 16th century. You will look at the particular context for the patronage of art in Venice and examine how Venice's important position within global trade networks influenced the art produced there. In addition to exploring particular qualities of light and colour in Venetian painting, you will investigate how architecture, textiles, metalwork and glass contributed to create a distinctive Venetian visual culture.

Class and Popular Culture

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

While constructions of gender, sexuality, 'race' and ethnicity in popular media and culture have been subjected to increasing academic scrutiny in the last decade or so, class has been largely left off the agenda. This module attempts to redress this neglect. It centres on theorisations of class in the cultural sphere, and on a series of debates over the representation of class in a range of examples from popular culture.

You will consider both strategies of 'othering' groups such as the working class and underclass, and also representations of the 'invisible', taken for granted norm of middle-class identity. Topics covered may include: emotions and class - shame, hate, and envy; news, television reality shows and television drama; and embodiment, education, aspiration and respectability.

Comedy and Cultural Belonging

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

Comedy is, above all, a cultural form that invites its audiences to feel that they belong – to a social community, a class, a locality, a nation, a subculture, a gender, a sexual identity, an ethnic group, a community of interest, or a complex intersection of several of these. This module explores the relationship between comedy and belonging by considering a number of conceptual fields, such as: theories of the comedic; questions of identity formation; notions of representation and stereotyping; structures of power and resistance; the sexual politics of jokes; concepts of carnival and excess; the idea of a 'national sense of humour'; the use of comic strategies by 'minority' groups; the complexities of camp; and the role of class in cultural consumption. The initial focus would be on 20th-century British popular comedy, and the comic texts and practitioners studied might include Alan Bennett, Mike Leigh, Victoria Wood, the music hall tradition, the Ealing comedies, the Carry On films, Morecambe and Wise, The League of Gentlemen and The Royle Family.

Consuming Passions

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module explores consumption practices within specific social, cultural and historical contexts. It will build upon other modules you have undertaken throughout your degree and enable you to draw interim conclusions to processes through which people make sense of objects – and other culturally significant things – and how they are appropriated into everyday life. It also explores consumption as a basic human activity through which people engage with and understand their position in the world. It will locate social, historical and culturally specific consumption practices within wider processes of identity-creation and differentiation. Finally, consumption will be discussed in the context of the development of 'consumer cultures' and globalisation.

'Consuming Passions' will take a dynamic and deliberately interdisciplinary approach to a number of key concepts central to the study of 'culture'. It will draw upon and critically examine the variety of ways in which cultural and sub-cultural groups acquire, interpret, use and develop such things as film, music, food, sexuality, fashion, literature and art, and include the study of material and visual cultures.

The weekly topics are related and have been chosen deliberately to interact with one another in intriguing and unexpected ways. You are strongly encouraged to make original and imaginative leaps and connections during seminar discussions and in both your coursework and your extended essays, in which you may also re-examine, in greater depth, some of the topics you may have encountered in earlier modules.

Contemporary Social Theory (Aut)

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module provides a critical assessment of the some of the most prominent sociological theorists in the late twentieth century. This period can be described as post-classical in the sense that the various schools of classical sociological theory associated with Marx, Weber, Durkheim and their later followers gave way to a range of new approaches such as those linked to post-structuralism, such as Foucault - as well as to new interpretations of the classical approaches, such as social constructionism, western Marxism and critical theory. The central aim of the module is to show how contemporary thinkers have understood the major transformations in modern society (ie from industrial to post-industrial society, globalization, new social movements such as feminism, environmental movements, identity politics). This will involve a consideration of some of the most important debates in sociological theory, such as the debates about modernity versus postmodernity, structure versus agency as well as the influence of psychoanalytic social theory emanating from feminist theory and from post-structuralism.

The weekly topics include:

  • Social Constructionism
  • Foucault and Govermentality
  • Habermas and Critical Theory
  • Recognition Theory (Honneth)
  • Marxism after Postmodernism
  • Bourdieu and Recent French Sociology
  • Poststructuralism and Psychoanalysis: Derrida, Lacan, Deleuze
  • Bauman’s Postmodern Ethics
  • Network Theory: Latour and Castells
  • Theories of Modernity
  • Cosmopolitanism and Social Theory
  • Culture and Social Theory (performativity, Alexander).

Cultures of Colonialism

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module introduces you to the colonial practices, discourses and cultures across the nineteenth century British Empire and their legacies. It examines the British metropole and its colonies within a single analytical framework, tracking the exchange of people, ideas and objects along the networks that connected them. Initially you will cover the main approaches to the study of British colonialism, including traditional imperial history and postcolonialism. The latter part of the module investigates cultural, social and political impacts of British colonialism at specific sites across the empire, including India, North America and New Zealand.

Landscape, Nature and Representation

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module focuses upon the representation of landscapes and nature, and considers the ways in which representations are sites through which ideas, visions and imaginations are set to work. You will assess the production and impact of such representations, critically analysing a range of textual sources from a variety of origins which claim to represent landscape and natures. This will incorporate art, literature, music, the media and cartography.

Music, Media and Culture

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

This module explores the relationship between music and media of all kinds, and questions the ideological structures underpinning the consumption of music in western society. The module focuses on the relationship between musical production and media technologies (the microphone, phonograph, radio and film), the changing role and place of music in society - understood through an analysis of media technologies, the meaning and nature of music and media reception in society, and the political economy of the music industry.

Race, Ethnicity and Identity

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

This module focuses on theories of race, ethnicity and identity. It applies diverse theoretical approaches to race, ethnicity and identity to historical and contemporary ethnographic contexts. As well as examining the way in which racial and ethnic identities have been constructed across time and space, the module interrogates these constructions with specific reference to: the development of anthropology; slavery and colonialism; scientific racism; postcolonial political regimes; postcolonial feminism; conflict and genocide; identity-based mass violence; diaspora, transnationalism and the Black Atlantic; contemporary understandings of race and racism in its myriad forms; and multicultural lives and hybridity.

This module will be assessed by a 7,000-word dissertation.



The Politics of Representation

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

This module considers the political implications of the ways in which media texts, institutions and practices represent social and cultural identities, such as gender, sexuality, class, ethnicity, age, nationality, regionality and (dis)ability.It does so through examining both fiction (eg popular TV genres, feature films) and non-fiction (TV news, current affairs, press reporting) media genres in order to explore the power-relations of media representation.In addition to scrutinising popular mainstream texts, the module also investigates the viability and validity of media interventions made by 'minorities' in an attempt to counter prevailing stereotypes.

Topic in Art History: Architecture and Interiors

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

This module examines the relationship between changes in architectural style and practice, and the concept of the interior in the European and American world from the 15th century to the present. How are the concepts of outside and inside related through architecture and how does architecture organise the interior in particular ways? The module takes a historical and social path, but you will be encouraged to build on this through dissertation and presentation.

Topic in Art History: Art and Empire

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

This module consists of an in-depth consideration of the visual arts in relation to imperialism. It will thus pick up on Edward Said's important intervention in proposing a critical relation between 'culture and imperialism'. This module will look at the ways in which the visual arts were influenced and informed by the material processes and ideologies of empire – from imperial/colonial war to architectural settlement. It will consider not just how artists reacted, referred to and exploited empire in their work (by, for example, taking the opportunity to cultivate new markets in newly colonised territories), but how empire was represented to domestic audiences and informed visual and aesthetic dismodule.

Topic in Art History: Art and its Literary Context

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

This module takes an interdisciplinary perspective on the links between visual and literary imaginations. Depending on the tutor, the module may look at any one of a variety of periods from the medieval to the 21st century. A typical module may focus on the late 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, in one of the great capitals of Modernist experimentation - London. The presence of international artists and writers such as Henry James, John Singer Sargent, Ezra Pound and Henri Gaudier-Brzeska will be examined, as well as the distinctive developments in painting and writing around the Bloomsbury Group, the Vorticists, the Camden Town Group and the London Surrealists.

Topic in Art History: Commemorative Art

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

This module considers the visual culture of the death ritual and, in particular, examines how monumental art seeks to represent and sustain the memory of the deceased. The module moves freely between different cultures and periods, working towards the final dissertation and the assessed presentation, responding both to your individual interest and to the availability of primary and secondary material. In particular, you will be encouraged to consider the many and varied (but little-studied) resources in those subject areas which are available in local and national collections. The module starts with a consideration of a number of relevant theories: genres and hierarchies within art-historical discourse; the roles of mourning and commemoration within the contexts of theology and sociology; and, varied anthropological accounts. Case studies will include: war memorials and other public memorials; the church monument; the engraved headstone and other tomb-markers; monuments to princes and other rulers; mourning costume; the organising, representation and recording of funeral; coffins and their furniture; and cenotaphs and other empty tombs.

Topic in Art History: From Decorative Arts to Material Culture

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

This module considers the traditional categorisations of the arts into 'fine' and 'decorative' and how this distinction has characterised scholarly approaches to them. Art history's recent engagement with methodologies from the field of material culture has revived interest in objects that had been relegated to the ranks of 'applied art', revealing original contexts and functions that had previously been overlooked. You will explore how the relationship between different art forms was conceived in the past, investigate the range of methods used by art historians to study art objects, and consider how these categories have informed their display in museums.

Topic in Art History: Photography in Context

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

The module provides an interdisciplinary perspective on the place of photography in American and Western European culture from the medium's invention in the 1830s to the present. It pays particular attention to the relationship between photography as art and its applications within mass culture. We consider the different contexts in which photographs are encountered and how these affect issues of status and meaning, along with the impact of technological changes upon the production and dissemination of photographic images. We also examine how historic photographic traditions have been extended and disrupted by more recent practices.

Topic in Art History: Representing Women

30 credits
Spring teaching, Year 3

This module looks at attitudes to women as represented in art within an extended time period. It considers how concepts of gender and gender roles remain constant or change over time, and at how art and texts come together to form a composite picture of women's cultural status. It will also explore how feminist methodologies may or may not be of value in examining images.

Transnationalism and Identity

30 credits
Autumn teaching, Year 3

This module explores the complex and multiple effects of transnational migration on everyday geographies of home, identification and belonging. The focus will be on the diverse ways in which social and cultural identities are performed in a mobile context. Particular attention will be given to the spatialisation of such identities at a variety of scales (e.g. body, home, community) and the relations between them. Theoretical and empirical research drawn upon in the module will reflect the heterogeneity within and across diasporic groups in terms of class, gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity. You will learn that migrant identities are contingent on historical and geographical context and will situate discussions of the negotiation of belonging within debates on postcolonialism, multiculturalism and cosmopolitanism.

Back to module list

The University is expanding the range of opportunities it offers to undertake placements as part of your studies. Placements provide you with the opportunity to gain new perspectives, experience and skills that employers are looking for. 

Voluntary placements 

Some subject areas offer you an opportunity to choose to undertake a placement (for one full year) that you can apply for once you have started your course here. Normally, full-year placements occur between the second and final year of a course. It is University policy that students on a year-long placement (usually 40 weeks) should normally receive payment for their work. For voluntary placements, the University organises and manages the process through which students apply for and undertake placements. To support you, our Careers and Employability Centre runs an eight-week Placement Preparation Programme

Research placements 

Some courses in the sciences – such as the MChem in Chemistry (research placement), the MPhys in Physics (research placement) or the MSci in Zoology (research placement) – offer research placements for high-performing students, where you spend the summer vacations throughout your studies working in research groups at Sussex, giving you the opportunity to get involved in research from the very start of your studies. You receive a stipend to cover living expenses during your summer vacation placement each year. 

Integrated placements 

Some subject areas require you to take a professional/industrial placement as an integrated and pre-defined part of a course. Normally, full-year placements occur between the second and final year of a course. Other subject areas offer opportunities for students to gain work experience, focused on a particular topic, as part of some taught modules. 

Key facts

  • enhance your employability: more than 80 per cent of employers surveyed said they actively sought graduates who had studied abroad (QS Global Employer Survey Report 2011)
  • one of the best-supported study abroad programmes in the UK
  • develop an international perspective at an overseas university in Asia, Australia, Europe or North, Central and South America 

Visit International and Study Abroad: Destinations

Career benefits of studying abroad

Studying abroad makes you stand out from other students when entering the job market. Following a period living and studying abroad, you will return with increased confidence and independence, adept at problemsolving and decision-making. You will have made a new network of friends and may have improved your current language skills or learnt a new language. Employers highly rate these skills as they can be applied in today’s global career paths.

Sussex recognises the value of language skills in preparing its students to become global citizens: as well as our dual-language courses (vist the Languages subject area), we offer students in most subjects the opportunity to take language electives as part of their single-honours courses (visit Sussex Choice: make the most of your course).

After studying abroad, some of our graduates have gone on to careers as translators • sales and marketing professionals • international recruitment consultants • Refugee Projects co-ordinator for the British Red Cross abroad • a CNN presenter • international mortgage administrators • teachers of English in Venezuela, Spain, Germany, Japan and France.

We offer a huge range of destinations across Asia, Australia, Europe, and North, Central and South America. 


Erasmus +We offer one of the best-supported European study abroad programmes of any UK university. Pioneered independently by Sussex in the 1960s, our study abroad scheme is supported by the European Commission through Erasmus+. Students on this programme usually benefit from nonmeans- tested grants. 

Visit British Council: Erasmus

Study abroad duration and destinations

If you are taking a course with an American Studies component, a dual-language course, or one of our joint courses involving a language, you spend Year 3 of your four-year course abroad. Students from most other courses can apply to do a study-abroad period during their degree. 

View our course listings at Undergraduate study

American Studies students study at one of a range of universities across North America. Language-degree students study at a university in Europe (or La Réunion or Québec, Canada, for French, and Latin America for Spanish) where their language of study is spoken. Language students can also apply to the language assistant scheme managed by the British Council for their year abroad.

Visit British Council: Language assistants

A growing number of overseas universities now have courses taught in English, which enables Sussex students without the necessary language skills to study abroad. Students can also take Erasmus Intensive Language Courses in-country before their term starts.

The University is increasing the opportunities for students to go on short-term non-credit-bearing Summer Schools overseas. In 2013, a number of students benefitted from summer programmes in China and Hong Kong.

For more information on study abroad opportunities, email

Visit Study abroad for Sussex students

Entry requirements

Sussex welcomes applications from students of all ages who show evidence of the academic maturity and broad educational background that suggests readiness to study at degree level. For most students, this will mean formal public examinations; details of some of the most common qualifications we accept are shown below. If you are an overseas student, refer to Applicants from outside the UK.

All teaching at Sussex is in the English language. If your first language is not English, you will also need to demonstrate that you meet our English language requirements.

A level

Typical offer: AAB-ABB

International Baccalaureate

Typical offer: 34 points overall

For more information refer to International Baccalaureate.

Access to HE Diploma

Typical offer: Pass the Access to HE Diploma with at least 45 credits at Level 3, of which 30 credits must be at Distinction and 15 credits at Merit or higher.

Specific entry requirements: The Access to HE Diploma should be in the humanities or social sciences.

For more information refer to Access to HE Diploma.

Advanced Diploma

Typical offer: Pass with grade B in the Diploma and A in the Additional and Specialist Learning.

Specific entry requirements: The Additional and Specialist Learning must be an A-level (ideally in a humanities or social science subject).

For more information refer to Advanced Diploma.

BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma

Typical offer: DDD-DDM

For more information refer to BTEC Level 3 Extended Diploma.

European Baccalaureate

Typical offer: Overall result of at least 77%

For more information refer to European Baccalaureate.

Finnish Ylioppilastutkinto

Typical offer: Overall average result in the final matriculation examinations of at least 6.0

French Baccalauréat

Typical offer: Overall final result of at least 13/20

German Abitur

Typical offer: Overall result of 2.0 or better

Irish Leaving Certificate (Higher level)

Typical offer: AAAABB-AABBBB

Italian Diploma di Maturità or Diploma Pass di Esame di Stato

Typical offer: Final Diploma mark of at least 81/100

Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers

Typical offer: AAABB-AABBB

For more information refer to Scottish Highers and Advanced Highers.

Spanish Titulo de Bachillerato (LOGSE)

Typical offer: Overall average result of at least 8.0

Welsh Baccalaureate Advanced Diploma

Typical offer: Pass the Core plus AB in two A-levels

For more information refer to Welsh Baccalaureate.

English language requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall, with not less than 6.0 in each section. Pearson's Test of English (Academic) with 62 overall with at least 56 in all four skills.

For more information, refer to alternative English language requirements.

For more information about the admissions process at Sussex:

Undergraduate Admissions,
Sussex House,
University of Sussex, Falmer,
Brighton BN1 9RH, UK
T +44 (0)1273 678416
F +44 (0)1273 678545

Fees and funding


Home/EU students: £9,0001
Channel Island and Isle of Man students: £9,0002
Overseas students: £17,0003

1 The fee shown is for the academic year 2014.
2 The fee shown is for the academic year 2014.
3 The fee shown is for the academic year 2014.

To find out about your fee status, living expenses and other costs, visit further financial information.


The funding sources listed below are for the subject area you are viewing and may not apply to all degrees listed within it. Please check the description of the individual funding source to make sure it is relevant to your chosen degree.

To find out more about funding and part-time work, visit further financial information.

Care Leavers Award (2014)

Region: UK
Level: UG

For students have been in council care before starting at Sussex.

First-Generation Scholars Scheme (2014)

Region: UK
Level: UG

The scheme is targeted to help students from relatively low income families – ie those whose family income is up to £42,620.

First-Generation Scholars Scheme EU Student Award (2014)

Region: Europe (Non UK)
Level: UG

£3,000 fee waiver for UG Non-UK European Union (EU) students whose family income is below £25,000

Sussex Excellence Scholarship (2014)

Region: UK, Europe (Non UK), International (Non UK/EU)
Level: UG

Merit-based scholarship for undergraduate students

For more information on scholarships go to the Scholarships web pages.

Careers and profiles

This course prepares you for employment in museums and galleries, and for fields such as publishing, the media and public relations.

Recent graduates have taken up a wide range of posts with employers including: event organiser at the Watts Gallery • exhibition assistant at Momart • music intern at the Whitechapel Gallery • patrons administrator at the Tate • personal assistant to managing director at R Holt & Co Ltd • trade analyst at AKA Events • social media intern at Loudhouse • account executive at Katch PR • freelance director at RSA UK (Ridley Scott Associates).

Specific employer destinations listed are taken from recent Destinations of Leavers from Higher Education surveys, which are produced annually by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

A degree in cultural studies provides an excellent foundation for any career demanding high-level communication skills, creative problem-solving and a questioning attitude. Our graduates have gone on to careers in:

  • cultural curating: festival organisation and promotion, heritage and museum industry, arts administration
  • cultural research: researching for television and other media, for marketing companies, advertisers and public relations
  • cultural policy: non-governmental organisations and community organisations
  • postgraduate study in cultural studies and related disciplines.

Careers and employability

For employers, it’s not so much what you know, but what you can do with your knowledge that counts. The experience and skills you’ll acquire during and beyond your studies will make you an attractive prospect. Initiatives such as SussexPlus, delivered by the Careers and Employability Centre, help you turn your skills to your career advantage. It’s good to know that 92 per cent of our graduates are in work or further study (Which? University).

For more information on the full range of initiatives that make up our career and employability plan for students, visit Careers and alumni.

Colin's career perspective

Colin McKenzie

‘My three years at Sussex couldn’t have been happier. I made some of my closest friends there and the Art History course was more fulfilling than I had thought possible.

‘Then, as now, Sussex enjoyed a fantastic reputation for art history. It was an incredibly strong department where I experienced some inspirational teaching.
I particularly enjoyed and benefited from the contextual options I took alongside my main subject – an approach that really broadened my outlook and interests.

‘My degree has served me very well, giving me skills and knowledge that have proved invaluable throughout my career. But of equal importance,
I think, is the way that Sussex influenced my life view, as a place that was liberal, passionate, caring, political and truly international.’

Colin McKenzie
Director of the Charleston Trust

Contact our School

School of History, Art History and Philosophy

The School of History, Art History and Philosophy brings together staff and students from some of the University's most vibrant and successful departments, each of which is a locus of world-leading research and outstanding teaching. Our outlook places a premium on intellectual flexibility and the power of the imagination.

How do I find out more?

For more information, contact the subject coordinator:
Art History, Arts A, 
University of Sussex, Falmer, 
Brighton BN1 9QN, UK
T +44 (0)1273 678001 
F +44 (0)1273 678434
Department of Art History

School of Media, Film and Music

The School of Media, Film and Music combines rigorous critical and historical studies of media, film, music and culture with opportunities for creative practice in a range of musical forms and the media of photography, film, radio, and interactive digital imaging.

How do I find out more?

For more information, contact the admissions tutor:
Cultural Studies, 
Silverstone 220, 
University of Sussex, Falmer, 
Brighton BN1 9RG, UK
T +44 (0)1273 872621
+44 (0)1273 877219
Department of Media and Film

Visit us

Campus tours

Not able to attend one of our Open Days? Then book on to one of our weekly guided campus tours.

Mature-student information session

If you are 21 or over, and thinking about starting an undergraduate degree at Sussex, you may want to attend one of our mature student information sessions. Running between October and December, they include guidance on how to approach your application, finance and welfare advice, plus a guided campus tour with one of our current mature students.

Self-guided visits

If you are unable to make any of the visit opportunities listed, drop in Monday to Friday year round and collect a self-guided tour pack from Sussex House reception.

Jonathan's staff perspective

Jonathan Bridges

‘Sussex provides world-leading teaching and excellent academic facilities, with a vibrant student life in a fantastic location. All of this meant that I left Sussex with a unique set of experiences and a degree that has prepared me for my future.

‘Joining Student Recruitment Services at the University has enabled me to share my experiences of Sussex with others. Coming to an Open Day gives you the opportunity to meet our research-active academics and our current students, while exploring our beautiful campus. But don’t worry if you can’t make an Open Day, there’s plenty of other opportunities to visit Sussex. Check out our Visit us and Open Days pages or our Facebook page to find out more.

‘I’ve loved every moment of my time at Sussex – these have been the best years of my life.’

Jonathan Bridges
Graduate Intern, Student Recruitment Services


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