What will I study?
Your course structure
The Bachelor of Arts requires the successful completion of 24 subjects (300-points), including at least one major. Most students study eight subjects each year (usually four subjects in each semester) for three years full-time, or the part-time equivalent.
Most Arts majors require 100 points of study (usually eight subjects) for attainment. This means out of your 300-point program, you have the opportunity to achieve two majors in your course
Completing your major
If you are taking Art History as a major, you must complete:
- One level 1 (usually first year) elective subject and one Arts Foundation subject
- 37.5 points (usually three subjects) of level 2 elective subjects (usually at second year)
- 25 points (usually two subjects) of level 3 elective subjects (usually at third year)
- One level 3 (usually third year) capstone subject
If you are taking Art History as a minor, you must complete:
- One level 1 compulsory subject (usually first year) and one Arts Foundation subject
- 25 points (usually two subjects) of level 2 elective subjects (usually at second year)
- 25 points (usually two subjects) of level 3 elective subjects (usually at third year)
Breadth is a unique feature of the Melbourne Model. It gives you the chance to explore subjects outside of arts, developing new perspectives and learning to collaborate with others who have different strengths and interests — just as you will in your future career.
Some of our students use breadth to explore creative interests or topics they have always been curious about. Others used breadth to improve their career prospects by complementing their major with a language, communication skills or business expertise.
Explore this major
Explore the subjects you could choose as part of this major.
Who we are and what we do is all tangled up in our identity. This subject considers how identities are constructed and maintained through mediated processes of self and other. The subject investigates the myriad demands and devices that figure in constructing our senses of self and other (including language, leisure, beliefs and embodied practices). By exploring identity in diverse contexts, across time and place, the subject maps varying conceptions of self and other and how these conceptions are constructed and maintained. A key focus is on how these mediated conceptions of self and other are translated into material practices of inclusion, exclusion, discrimination, violence and criminalisation.
Language plays a central role in the central disciplinary areas in the humanities and social sciences. This subject gives students tools for thinking about language in a range of disciplines, including linguistics, history, sociology, politics, literary studies, anthropology, language studies, psychology and psychoanalytic theory. It shows how language can be analysed as a system, but also how language features centrally in politcal and social contexts: for example, in the processing of the claims of asylum seekers, in developing views of ethnicity, race and nation, and in colonialism; and in the construction of gendered and sexual identity. The role of language in the psyche, and the process of acquisition of languages in children and in adults, are also important topics. Knowing how to think about language, and familiarity with the main thinkers who have discussed language in a range of humanities and social science disciplines, provide an indispensable basis for study in any area of the Arts degree.
The idea of power is a way to grasp the character of social relations. Investigating power can tell us about who is in control and who may benefit from such arrangements. Power can be a zero-sum game of domination. It can also be about people acting together to enact freedom. This subject examines the diverse and subtle ways power may be exercised. It considers how power operates in different domains such as markets, political systems and other social contexts. It also examines how power may be moderated by such things as regulation and human rights. A key aim is to explore how differing perspectives portray power relations and how issues of power distribution may be characterised and addressed.
Reason, many believe, is what makes us human. Until recently, most scientists and philosophers agreed that the ability to use the mind to analyse and interpret the world is something intrinsic to the nature of our species. Reason has a long and extraordinary history. We will explore a number of inter-related themes: the nature of reason from Ancient Greece to our contemporary world; the ever shifting relationship between reason and faith; reason's place in the development of scientific experimentation and thinking; shifting perspectives about the uses of Reason and, finally, how reason relates to theories of the mind, exploring the tensions between reason, the passions and the will.
Reason will take you on a journey from Plato's cave to the neuro-scientists' lab. We will visit revolutions in science, thinking and politics. We will explore the impact of some of the great philosophers of history, including Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Bentham, Coleridge, Marx, Nietzsche, Foucault and many more besides. By the end of this subject you will have a deep understanding of the importance of the idea of reason to human history and philosophy. You might, even, be able to answer the question: 'does reason exist?'
Reason is an Arts Foundation Subject and we will argue that understanding the history and philosophy of reason provides great insights into many aspects of the humanities from political philosophy to understanding history. We will, of course, be paying particular attention to the foundational skills that will help you successfully complete your Arts major: particularly critical thinking and argument development.
- First Peoples in a Global Context12.5
First Peoples in a Global Context
This subject will provide students with an introduction to the complexity, challenges and richness of Australian Indigenous life and cultures. Drawing on a wide range of diverse and dynamic guest lecturers, this subject gives students an opportunity to encounter Australian Indigenous knowledges, histories and experiences through interdisciplinary perspectives. Across three thematic blocks - Indigenous Knowledges, Social and Political Contexts and Representation/Self-Representation - this subject engages contemporary cultural and intellectual debate. Social and political contexts will be considered through engagement with specific issues and a focus on Indigenous cultural forms, which may include literature, music, fine arts, museum exhibitions and performance, will allow students to consider self-representation as a means by which to disrupt and expand perceptions of Aboriginality.
Humans grapple with representations of themselves and their contexts. They also like to imagine other possible worlds. We use words, language, images, sounds and movement to construct narratives and stories, large and small, about the trivial and the profound, the past and the future. These representations can help us to understand worlds but they can also create worlds for us. This subject explores how different genres such as speech, writing, translation, film, theatre and art generate representations of social life, imagination and the human condition. A key aim of the subject is to develop a critical appreciation of how language, images and embodied gestures are used to construct empowering and disempowering discourses.
- Art History: Theory and Controversy12.5
Art History: Theory and Controversy
This subject introduces the study of art history by focusing on the work of art through a number of case studies drawn from a Western cultural and historical context. It develops a broad understanding of the historical and aesthetic characteristics of artworks produced during selected artistic periods (for example Medieval, High Renaissance, baroque, rococo, neoclassical, contemporary art). The subject draws attention to the varying contexts informing works of art, including the relationship between art and its methods of production and preservation. its engagement with society and installation in museum settings; and the different ways in which viewers respond to art and interpret the meanings and messages which it conveys. Students should develop a range of approaches to understanding art, from issues of censorship and art, to gender and sexual identity in art, and art and politics. The subject provides students with a fundamental grounding in art history, and in the broader critical and analytical skills necessary for the study of art in later years.
- Modern Art: The Politics of the New12.5
Modern Art: The Politics of the New
This subject explores a selection of artists, movements and themes in art from the late 19th century to the present day. It will examine such topics as cross-cultural interaction and its impact on art, the advent of new artistic techniques including photography and installation art, the depiction of the self in modern and contemporary art, the relationship of art to its physical, social and political context, and the ways in which visual images help to define individual and social identities. On completing the subject students should have an understanding of the history of modern art, have acquired a set of basic skills in visual analysis, and understand some of the principal methodologies employed in the discipline of art history.
- Australian Art12.5
This subject provides a scholarly introduction to the history of art in Australia, at the same time incorporating new perspectives, approaches and ideas. It demonstrates ways of interpreting Australian art through its relationship to historical events and contemporary thought. Topics considered will include the perceptual values known as the picturesque and the sublime in topographical and landscape painting respectively, the concept of terra nullius and how the indigenous inhabitants were represented, women artists of the 19th and early 20th centuries, Australian Impressionism, artists abroad, neo-classicism, the art of war and the Anzac legend, modernism in Sydney and Melbourne and the growing awareness of new European movements such as Expressionism, Cubism, and Surrealism. A lively and comprehensive look at what's topical in Australian art history, including the art polemics of the 1940s and 1950s, Australian Pop Art and the swinging 60s.
- European Renaissance Art12.5
European Renaissance Art
The subject explores the art and culture of Renaissance Europe between 1300 and 1600, with a particular focus on Italy, France, and Spain. This is one of the most pivotal periods in the history of art, when many of our contemporary ideas about art and artists were coming into being. Topics to be covered include the life and practice of individual artists, including such figures as Leonardo, Titian, and Holbein; the rise of art theory,; collecting and the birth of the museum; and the role of power and desire in the making and reception of art. Readings include both Renaissance texts and contemporary art history and theory. Tutorials will examine issues related to a given week’s lecture, or focus on related and object-based teaching in University and Melbourne collections.
- Art and Revolution12.5
Art and Revolution
What does the art of nineteenth-century Europe tell us about the society that made it? This period was marked by immense social and cultural change: political upheaval; rapid industrialisation; an expanding colonial empire; a society altered by shifting attitudes to class, race, gender, bodies, senses and emotions; rapid urbanisation (and dislocation) as people moved from countryside to city. Artists responded to these changes in revolutionary ways of their own, defying the traditional approaches of the academy and creating their own modes for representing their world. From Romanticism and Orientalism to Impressionism and the avant-gardes of the late-nineteenth century, these artists’ shifting representations of social relations, the landscape, the human body, and sexual and gender identity fundamentally altered both the function of visual art and the role of the artist. In this subject, students will explore how painting and sculpture of nineteenth-century Europe was instrumental in creating new identities and new modes of being in and imaging the world amid the conditions of modernity and the emergence of Industrial capitalism. Although the primary case study will be France, art from other European countries will also be discussed. Engaging with recent scholarship, students will be encouraged to question and critique the ways in which art has the capacity to embody, reflect, and challenge ideologies of its time.
- Art, Market and Methods12.5
Art, Market and Methods
This subject deals with the creation and the reception of the work of art. It commences in 15th century Italy with an examination of the organisation of artists' workshops and concludes by analysing the relationships between contemporary artists, their materials and markets. Topics in the subject are varied but will focus around certain key issues: the changing status of the artist, the determination of authenticity and value, and the role of materials and markets in the construction of meaning.
- Avant-Garde and Postmodern Art12.5
Avant-Garde and Postmodern Art
This subject examines avant-garde and postmodern art and film during the 20th century. A variety of artistic theories, movements and artists from Europe and North America will be considered. The social, historical and theoretical context in which diverse avant-garde and postmodernist aesthetics were formed will be studied using historical sources and contemporary theory. Students will become familiar with issues such as the relationship of art and politics, utopian models of art, nationalism and the arts, as well as the shifting ways in which theories of gender, race and sexuality informed artists' work.
- Sexing the Canvas: Art and Gender12.5
Sexing the Canvas: Art and Gender
What do pictures want in relation to sex and sexuality? How is art gendered? How do painters use the materiality of oil on canvas to make gendered critiques of the history of art and its cultures? Structured around the rich collections of the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV), each class will focus upon a specific work considering what insights a gendered analysis of it can provide. Lectures will be delivered in front of the paintings in situ in the gallery. Curatorial and expert academic staff from the NGV and the University of Melbourne will provide the lectures which will address a range of works drawn from the 18th century to the present. We will consider how gender, sex and sexuality impact on both the production and the reception of art and how artists utilise sexual codes at specific historical moments. Themes surrounding discourse, equality, ideology, and protest, will be addressed. We will consider how curatorial practises reinforce sexual difference through considering the artworks currently on display and how these produce meaning when they are taken as an aggregate in the context of an exhibition. We will study how works are conceptually framed by the information that the gallery provides about them through audio-guides, catalogue entries, hanging, and labelling. The subject will introduce you to key ideas from a number of thinkers including Judith Butler, Barbara Creed, Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigiary, Michele Foucault, W.J.T.Mitchell, Nicholas Chare, Svetlana Alpers, Michael Baxandall, Lynda Nead, Fred Orton, Griselda Pollock, Carol Duncan and Lisa Tickner.
- Art in Medieval Europe12.5
Art in Medieval Europe
This subject provides an introduction to the art of medieval Europe, from the Roman Empire (c. 300) to the late Middle Ages (c. 1400), surveying the major artistic developments across the period wth particular emphasis on Italy. It focuses on the function of imagery in specific historical and physical contexts, and considers the lives and motives of patrons, audiences as well as artists. Lectures introduce broad themes and topics, including: early medieval attitudes toward the classical past; European perceptions of Byzantium and Islam; political imagery in medieval courts; the cult of relics; the rise of devotional imagery; the emergence of the 'artist'; and the origins of the independent easel painting (the canonical vehicle of modern art). Tutorials focus on key art works from a range of media (including wall paintings, panel paintings, mosaic, sculpture, ivories, metalwork, tapestry, illuminated manuscripts, and stained glass), and include site visits to University of Melbourne collections and to the National Gallery of Victoria.
- Arts of East Asia12.5
Arts of East Asia
This subject will introduce students to the mediums, genres, and vocabulary of pre-modern Chinese, Japanese, and Korean visual culture. Weekly lectures and tutorials will focus on either a specific medium (ink painting, calligraphy, ceramics, timber frame architecture, urban landscape, gardens) or a theme (tombs, Buddhism, Confucianism, genre painting, narrative painting) and through case studies, the political, social, and cultural factors that inform and shape works of art will be considered. The objects and sites under consideration will sometimes raise historical questions about the impact of one tradition upon the others, allowing us to see East Asia as a culturally connected macroregion; in other cases, the lectures will bring together works that require us to think critically about how we analyze and interpret the history of artistic production. Ultimately, this subject will provide students a foundation and framework to consider the history of East Asian art, as well as the tools by which to consider the dimensions and character of the common narratives applied to this history.
- Theory and Practice of Art History12.5
Theory and Practice of Art History
This capstone subject examines the theory and practice of art history. Through a survey of the different approaches to the study of art which have emerged since the early modern period the subject will provide students with a fundamental grounding in the methodologies of the discipline. Students will also learn the broader critical and analytical skills necessary for the study of art at higher levels. The subject introduces students to the issues involved in applying art historical methods to real world contexts both within the academic environment and in industry contexts such as the museum sector. The subject will involve students in the research and interpretation of works of art encountered in University of Melbourne collections.
- European Art & Absolute Power 1660-181512.5
European Art & Absolute Power 1660-1815
This subject examines the visual culture of Europe in the period 1660–1815, from the reign of Louis XIV of France to the end of the Napoleonic wars. We will consider several significant centres of power in France, England, Italy and the Holy Roman Empire to study how powerful political, religious, social and cultural factors shaped changes in the production, patronage and reception of images, objects and buildings. We will also consider how European contact with cultures around the globe led to a fascination with the foreign other that indelibly shaped European visual culture at this time. Close study of artworks in local collections – including paintings, prints, furniture, ceramics, glass, metalwork and textiles – will explore how these objects were deployed in the construction of social identity in the courts and cities of eighteenth-century Europe.
- Contemporary Art12.5
This subject examines international contemporary artistic practice. Through case studies of specific artworks students will be introduced to the theories that informed, shaped or were employed by critics and curators in recent decades. A broad variety of media will be considered, including painting, sculpture, installation, performance, photography, video and multimedia technologies. Students may explore issues such as: the relationship of regional and global cultures, the diversity of identities within contemporary culture, the growing awareness of the art of minority groups, the impact of new technologies, media forms and ideologies on culture, and the impact of globalisation on networks of exhibitions, artists and curators. Artists’ responses to social debate on issues such as race relations, immigration, the environment, censorship, republicanism, and gay and lesbian politics will be considered. In addition, changes in the infrastructure and institutions of the culture industry - galleries, museums, publishing and media - may be examined.
- Contemporary Aboriginal Art12.5
Contemporary Aboriginal Art
Starting with the acrylics of the Western Desert (Papunya) and ending with the most recent developments in new media, the field of contemporary Aboriginal art will be surveyed. Issues such as copyright and appropriation, the art market, women’s art practice, curating and collection policy are debated in this subject and key works in painting, sculpture, printmaking, and photography are studied and discussed. By the end of semester students should have a familiarity with the main issues concerning the interpretation of Aboriginal art in Australia and have a broad knowledge of the pictorial practices of prominent contemporary Aboriginal artists. Guest lectures by artists, academics and industry professionals, as well as visits to art galleries and museums, are a feature of this subject.
- The Medieval Image: Art and Culture12.5
The Medieval Image: Art and Culture
Taking the so-called ‘late Middle Ages’ (approximately 1300–1520) as its focus, this subject confronts a set of seemingly simple questions: what is an image, who makes images, and how do they circulate in the world? It examines the roles images played during this period from a variety of perspectives, including mystical devotion, market conditions, the emergence of print technology, (im)materiality, artisanal craft traditions, and political frameworks in which conflicting attitudes toward image-making were developed. More broadly,students in this upper-level subject will investigate different art historical approaches to this period and scrutinize the way art history as a discipline orders images, objects, and art temporally.
- Global Renaissance12.5
This class focuses on artistic encounters between European cultures and other world cultures between about 1300 and 1650. The goal is to place the art and culture of Europe into an expanded geopolitical sphere, and to explore particularly important and representative moments within the larger exchange of people, objects, ideas, and materials in the early-modern period. Readings will be drawn from both period sources and contemporary art history; and tutorials will focus whenever possible on objects in University and Melbourne collections.
- Studying Contemporary Art Abroad25
Studying Contemporary Art Abroad
This subject is taught on location in a major art centre (the subject may be taught in one year in New York, or in other destinations as appropriate) using social, economic, geographical and cultural effects of the respective arts centre as a case study of culture in action. Students will be introduced to the key institutional components of the art centre studied: this may include as appropriate: urban and rural fabrics, museums, cultural sites, galleries, alternative spaces, corporate collections, auction houses, art magazines and studies, depending on the art centre. Students will study the history, context, display and consumption of art, allowing consideration of recent developments in museology, arts policy and cultural tourism. The subject develops a broad understanding of the historical and aesthetic characteristics of artworks produced during selected artistic periods. The subject draws attention to the varying contexts informing works of art, including the relationship between art and its methods of production and preservation, its encouragement with society and installation in museum settings, and the different ways in which it conveys. Students should develop a range of approaches to understanding art, from issues of censorship and art, to gender and sexual identity in art, art and politics, space and meaning. The subject provides students with a fundamental grounding in art history and/or architectural history, and in the broader critical and analytical skills necessary for the study of art in later years. Students wishing to enrol in this subject must consult the notes below.