From Decorative Arts to Material Culture (V4005)

30 credits, Level 6

Spring teaching

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.


100%: Seminar


30%: Practical (Presentation)
70%: Written assessment (Dissertation)

Contact hours and workload

This module is approximately 300 hours of work. This breaks down into about 36 hours of contact time and about 264 hours of independent study. The University may make minor variations to the contact hours for operational reasons, including timetabling requirements.

We regularly review our modules to incorporate student feedback, staff expertise, as well as the latest research and teaching methodology. We’re planning to run these modules in the academic year 2023/24. However, there may be changes to these modules in response to COVID-19, staff availability, student demand or updates to our curriculum. We’ll make sure to let our applicants know of material changes to modules at the earliest opportunity.


This module is offered on the following courses: