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The Arts: Questioning the Contemporary World


  • Credit value: 30 credits at Level 3
  • Convenor: Professor Joanne Leal
  • Assessment: a 1000-word essay (40%) and a 1500-word essay (60%)

Module description

In this module you will explore how studying the arts can give you new perspectives on contemporary social issues.

Taking a number of recent events, debates and social phenomena as case studies, you will be introduced to different objects of study, some produced recently, others in the past, some originating in English-speaking contexts, others from non-English speaking cultures. You will learn how to approach these objects of study in a variety of different ways and think about how examining them might provide you with new insights into, or new ways of thinking about, some of the most pressing questions that concern us today. These questions include:

  • how we meet the challenges of globalisation and environmental crisis
  • how we define ourselves and others in rapidly changing social contexts
  • how we count the benefits and costs of living in an increasingly digitalised reality.

Each unit will begin with a lecture that will introduce the topic. In subsequent weeks you will work in detail with objects of study that engage in a variety of ways with that topic.

Learning objectives

By the end of this module, you will be able to:

  • understand the relationship between the arts and the contemporary social world
  • think critically about this relationship
  • work with a variety of skills relevant to the interpretation of different kinds of object, including those from different historical periods and a variety of cultural contexts
  • demonstrate communication skills that allow for participation in classroom debates
  • display academic essay writing skills
  • demonstrate basic skills relating to independent research.