The MA in History of Art at the University of Leeds
is distinctive for the degree of theoretical and methodological sophistication to which students are exposed, pursuing interrogations into the formation of art history as an academic discipline and forging new critical approaches in the study of art and culture.
The MA is renown for its pioneering methodological work in feminist scholarship; critical social-historical approaches to studying art and culture; postcolonial theory; the intersections between aesthetics and politics, history and philosophy; and critical questions of materiality and value. The MA enables students to understand how issues of practice, subjectivity, history, global politics, and memory have been constantly reframed.
We have an open and flexible model of ‘art history’, encompassing (in addition to the traditional art media) work on architecture, landscape and environment, photography, film, fashion/clothing, visual, sonic and material culture. Unusually, Leeds brings together students from art history, art practice, critical cultural theory, and museum/gallery studies – thus benefitting from a vibrant dialogue between differing perspectives. The high quality, critical creativity and originality of the work produced by our students has been acknowledged by external appraisers.
Indicative of the range of work undertaken by our staff, current optional modules include: The Margins of Medieval Art; Unfinished Business: From Trauma to Cultural Memory; Aesthetics & Politics; Cities & Film; Assessing the French Revolution; Reading Sexual Difference; (In)tangible Heritage, (In)tangible Histories; Capitalism-Critique-Contemporary Art; Feminism, Modernity & Representation; Modernity & the Jews; The Voice in Cultural Theory; Losing Perspectives: Reflections on ‘non-Western’ Arts; British Architecture in the Long 18th Century; Movies, Migrants & Diasporas. Students may also negotiate an individually-tailored module with staff members via the Individual Directed Study option (in specialist areas, such as, nineteenth century Russian, Soviet and Nordic art; Soviet Socialist Realism; ideas about materials in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe; romantic and contemporary landscape.)
Through the options and the core module, students encounter first-hand the texts and debates that reveal art history's complex legacies, that they understand how art history has found itself increasingly figured within a wider field of competing claims and knowledge formations and that they are able to trace how contemporary problems (intellectual, political and institutional) bear on the ways art history – in its expanded sense - is currently practised.
Graduates now work in the public, private and voluntary sectors - as curators and education staff in museums and galleries (private and public), working for national heritage organisations, as university administrators, as teachers, in arts marketing, public relations, journalism, and publishing. Our graduates have taken their skills into cognate fields or have applied their advanced critical-creative abilities to gain highly-sought positions in fields as diverse as the insurance industry, independent style editing, freelance writing on fashion, arts and culture. A very significant number continue their studies as research students and have secured major scholarships to pursue their research topics, such as AHRC scholarships. A large proportion of our former research students are now forging academic careers in the UK, Europe, Asia, USA, and Canada.
The MA in History of Art is a modular degree with core and optional elements. Students aim to successfully complete 180 credits. Students undertake 30 credits of core module, three 30-credit optional modules, 10 credits of Essential Research Skills, and a 50-credit dissertation on a subject of their choice.
Optional modules (see above) are selected from the wide array of topics on offer in the School. Students are able to select modules from across the range of individual staff expertise, or to focus their studies in one of the areas for which Leeds is renowned for which are being developed in response to new questions in the study of the visual arts and culture. These allow students to specialise in their own areas of interest and do further work on many periods and themes in art history and cultural theory. Although the vast majority chose options offered within the School, they may, by arrangement, also select their option from the wider University array. Optional modules often contribute to the subject of the dissertation.
Throughout the year, students undertake Essential Research Skills training in preparation for the research and writing required for the essays and, ultimately, their dissertation. As a key part of this module, in semester 2, students present their working ideas for their dissertation at a school-wide symposium - one the highlights of the year -where they benefit from feedback from their peers and academic staff. All masters students complete a dissertation (c. 15,000 words), which is supervised on a one-to-one basis.