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

30 credits, Level 6

Autumn teaching

In this module you will study the role of the Mediterranean in art and visual culture between the two world wars (1919-1939). In particular, they will focus on how representations of Mediterranean antiquities are 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 in order to overcome the shocks and traumas that followed WWI. What can this ‘return to order’ in art tell us about the colonial re-organisation and the cultural anxieties of the period between the two world wars?

Associated with ‘sultry climates’, sexual and political utopias, but also considered as the repository of antiquities associated hegemony and empire, the Mediterranean represents both a symbolic signifier and a contested contact zone to decolonise the history of modern art. Seminars will involve the examination of diverse figures and movements such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Giorgio de Chirico, Chana Olroff; but will also engage with the growing body of literature on Turkish and North African modernism, by studying artists such as Cemal Tollu, Hale Asaf and Azouaou Mammeri.

You will learn how to question the colour of the dominant narrative of European modernism, by taking into account the questions posed by critical race, decolonial and postcolonial theory to rethink the canon of modern art.


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 33 hours of contact time and 267 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.