Theory, Methods and Debates in Art History - 1st semester


1. To understand the foundations and the development of Art History as a discipline;
2. To acquire a thorough knowledge on Art History’s core theoretical and methodological approaches;
3. To understand the main debates that these approaches have been raising (both within the discipline and in the broader field of human and social sciences);
4. To grasp the relation between those debates on core theoretical and methodological approaches and specific developments in art history writing (both national and internationally);
5. To master theoretical and methodological references and debates in order to be able to conceive a critically informed indepth research project in Art History;
6. To ponder course contents over a written essay.

General characterization





Responsible teacher

Joana da Cunha Leal


Weekly - 3 letivas + 1 tutorial

Total - Available soon

Teaching language





1. The Art of Art History: A Critical Anthology (ed. D. Preziosi). - Oxford e New York: Oxford University Press, 1998
2. Critical Terms for Art History (ed. Robert Nelson and Richard Shiff). – Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996
3 A Companion to Art Theory (ed. Paul Smith and Carolyn Wilde). - Oxford e Malden: Blackwell, 2002
4. Davis, Withney, A general theory of visual culture. – Princeton e Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2011
5. Didi-Huberman, Devant limage. – Paris: Minuit, 1990
6. Iversen, M., Melville, S., Writing art history: disciplinary departures. – Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010
7. Is Art History Global? (ed. J. Elkins) – New York: Routledge, 2007
8. Marxism and the History of Art. From William Morris to the New Left (ed. Andrew Hemingway). London: Pluto Press, 2006
9. The Subjects of Art History: historical Objects in Contemporary Perspectives (ed. M.A. Cheetham, M.A. Holly and K.Moxey). - Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998

Teaching method

Lectures given by the teacher and invited researchers, followed by analysis and discussion of key texts (pre-appointed) prepared by the students, and by the final presentation of the thematic essay written by each student (15-18 pags).

Evaluation method

The assessment of this course is based on 3 elements:
1) a written test (30%);
2) the final written essay (40%)
3) seminar discussion on classes and presentation and discussion of the final essay (30%)

Subject matter

1. The foundations of Art History (Vasari, Winckelmann and Hegel). The requirements of a scientific discourse versus the autonomy of the artistic sphere.
2. First theoretical and methodological approaches: a) from Burckardt cultural history to the Viena School; b) the Warburgian roots of the Bildwissenschaft and Panokskys iconology; c) maxist aesthetics and the social history of art; Psychology of art.
3. Structuralism and the developments of semiotics.
4. Art and society: critical theory, sociology of art and reception aesthetics.
5. From the idea of «crises» in/of the discipline to new theorical and methodological debates: feminist art history (Pollock) and the new art history (T.J. Clark); R. Krauss writing and the October project; the raising of the visual studies and its reception.
6. Current art history writing.