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Practices and debates in Art History


Admission requirements

See MA Arts and Culture programme and Exam regulations.


Current debates in the field of art history centre around such topics as art history versus visual culture and material culture studies; the Euro-American focus of the discipline and the globalizing world; the relationship between history, architectural history, and cultural heritage; the relationship between art and science; the notion of design and decorative arts as a form of material culture. Through these specialist debates runs the issue of two main ways of studying art, i.e. historical (that is primarily informed by the historical study of primary sources) versus theoretical (that is primarily informed by a variety of theories). Topics of debate will be exemplified and debated in a series of seminar meetings. Three viewpoints have our special interest:

  • Works of Art, Architecture, Design, and the notion of globalization

  • Art and Agency

  • Art and Science and the engagement of the artwork

Students will prepare readings and assignments for panel discussions in class.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • acquire insight into a variety of theories, debates, and practices in Art History

  • analyse and understand various scholarly positions and their consequences for the meanings and agency of artworks

  • position oneself in relation to these

  • develop skills in oral discussion while defending viewpoints and arguments with regard to artworks

  • present a scholarly paper that is related to the course objectives


Mondays 10.15 – 12.30 and Thursdays 15.15-17.30; see the timetable on the Arts and Culture website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture and Seminar course

Attendance is compulsory. Students are allowed to miss a maximum of two seminars.

Assessment method

  • Oral panel presentation and class assignments (25%)

  • Written course portfolio of 3.000 words, excl. notes and references (75%)


Blackboard will be used for readings with the lectures (next to the course book).

Reading list

Course book: Donald Preziosi, The art of art history: a critical anthology, Oxford: Oxford University Press 1998.

Please make sure to have the course book before the course starts. There will be reading assignments from the course book each week.


Students are requested to register through uSis, the registration system of Leiden University for this course. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.
Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Students who are not in the MA Arts and Culture programme, but who would like to take this course as an optional course, please contact the Co-ordinator of studies.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs

Not applicable

Contact information

Dr. M.H. Groot


  • General introduction MA and start of this course on 10 September, 10.15-12.00 AM;

  • The course runs in block 1 between 10 September and 18 October;

  • Paper due Monday 29 October 9.00 AM.