Mediterranean Fantasies: Revivals and Utopias, 1919-1939 (V4157)

30 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

You'll study the role of the Mediterranean in art and visual culture between the two world wars (1919–1939). In particular, you focus on how modern artists re-used the Mediterranean and Levantine past and how such encounters were intertwined with political relations across Southern Europe, Northern Africa and the Near East.

Many avant-garde artists in Europe turned to classicist aesthetics and ideals to overcome the shocks and traumas that followed the First World War. However, rather than dismissing this shift as yet another aesthetic revival, you will look at this ‘return to order’ in relation to the historical context of the colonial re-organisation and the cultural anxieties of the period between the two world wars.

You'll analyse how modern art was influenced by the Mediterranean as a reference for antiquity, orientalist and primitivist fantasies by studying diverse figures and movements such as:

  • Henri Matisse’s arabesques
  • Jean Cocteau’s classicism and Ithell Colquhoun’s uses of Greek mytholog
  • Fascism’s exportation of the Renaissance
  • Nazi propaganda architecture
  • Egyptomania in art deco.

You'll learn how to question the colour of the dominant narrative of European modernism, by looking at artistic and cultural exchanges in cities such as Paris, Algiers, Berlin and Istanbul.

You also study the growing body of literature on Turkish and North African modernisms, and look at artists such as Cemal Tollu, Hale Asaf and Azouaou Mammeri.

You'll develop a methodology to interrogate the hybridisation of the modernist canon and its institutions by taking into account the questions posed by critical race theory and postcolonial theory 


33%: Practical (Workshop)
67%: Seminar


70%: Coursework (Essay)
30%: Examination (Unseen examination)

Contact hours and workload

This module is 300 hours of work. This breaks down into 36 hours of contact time and 264 hours of independent study.

This module is running in the academic year 2019/20. We also plan to offer it in future academic years. It may become unavailable due to staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of such changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.