Art history

Mediterranean Fantasies: Revivals and Utopias, 1919-1939

Module code: V4157
Level 6
30 credits in autumn semester
Teaching method: Seminar
Assessment modes: Essay, Coursework

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.

Module learning outcomes

  • Demonstrate detailed and coherent critical evaluation of the visual culture relating to this subject within its historical context.
  • Develop an independently researched critical approach to the subject and present it in a variety of written and oral formats.
  • Demonstrate critical understanding of the differing approaches of current art-historical scholarship about this subject.