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Practices and Debates in Art History


Admission requirements

See Teaching and Examination 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. Students will have to prepare readings and organize a colloquium focusing on art historical and interdisciplinary debates on key works of art.

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 art works;

  • position oneself in relation to these;

  • develop skills in oral presentation while defending viewpoints and arguments with regard to art works;

  • present an analytical scholarly paper related to the course objectives.


Please consult the timetable on the MA Arts and Culture website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture and seminar course with analysis and discussion of readings.

Course Load

The total course load is 140 hours (5 ec):

  • attending seminars and a one day colloquium: 4 hours per week x 7 weeks = ca 35 hours;

  • studying compulsory readings for seminars = 420 pages a 7 pages per hour = 60 hours;

  • preparation for the colloquium, ca 15 hours (group discussions and critical reading of texts);

  • preparing and writing of course portfolio: 30 hours (editing course notes, rereading texts, collecting research material, searching for additional literature, composing and writing of course portfolio 5000 words).

Assessment method

  • presentation at the colloquium, evaluation and class assignments (30%);

  • written course portfolio of 5000 words, excl. notes and references (70%).

ResMa students that take this course will write a paper that reflects the demands of the Research Master. That is, they will have to formulate more complex and original research questions than the MA students, include a critical positioning towards the state of the art of its subject, and produce a longer paper (7000 words including bibliography instead of 5000 words).

Re-examination via the course portfolio

Colloquium presentations take place on October 22nd form 9-17hrs in Lipsius 1.48.


Blackboard will be used for a few additional readings with the lectures (next to the course book) and visual presentations.

Reading list

Course book:

  • Donald Preziosi, The art of art history: a critical anthology, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2009 (second edition, 624 pages). ISBN13: 9780199229840; ISBN10: 0199229848 Paperback.

Please make sure to have the course book before the course starts. There will be reading assignments from the course book throughout the entire course, twice a week.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: Please see the website Study in Leiden for information on how to apply/register for this course.


  • Paper due Monday 3 November 2014, 17.00 PM.


Dhr. Prof. dr. T.R.A. (Timo) de Rijk