module specification

DN6026 - The Body, Perception and the Senses (2018/19)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2018/19
Module title The Body, Perception and the Senses
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 30
School The Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design (The Cass)
Total study hours 300
219 hours Guided independent study
81 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 50%   A 2000-word essay on one methodological approach to the body, perception and the senses.
Coursework 50%   A selection of five illustrated blog postings, comprising an e-portfolio of c3000 words on the theme of 'the body'.
Running in 2018/19 No instances running in the year

Module summary

This level 6 module, Body, Perception and the Senses, provides a way of theorising discourses around the body and the senses.  It draws on both historical and recent theoretical debates, often of a transdisciplinary nature, that will allow students to think in new ways about how the body is lived in the world. Beginning with eighteenth-century aesthetic theory and the importance of the senses, it will examine critically the centrality of vision in Western culture through a variety of different approaches (phenomeonology, feminism, queer theory etc), before considering the development of new technologies of vision in the nineteenth century and contemporary theories of embodiment in the digital environment. The module will use cultural approaches to the study of the senses to assess theories suggesting that aspects of perception (sight, hearing, sense of smell, etc.) can be known, measured and therefore manipulated and used in the designed environment for a variety of purposes.

The two assessments will help students to think in a critical way about the body and the senses: the first is on a methodological approach to the body and the senses, and the second is an e-portfolio of images, with commentary, on the theme of ‘the body’.

The module will enable students to:

• understand the sensory relationship of people to their environments drawing on a range of critical approaches;
• analyse examples of  bodily and sensory perception of the world in specific socio-cultural and historical contexts, using a range of methodological approaches;
• reflect on their own individual sensory relationship to differing contexts and understand how that affects their evaluation of what they experience.

Prior learning requirements

Pass and completion of prior level


Students will meet weekly for lectures and seminars and will go on study trips to museums, galleries and other institutions that are responsible for shaping our notions of ‘the body’ in society (these could include The Wellcome Collection, The Hunterian Museum, the Old Operating Theatre, etc), as well as contemporary exhibitions that deal with these issues. LO1, LO2

The syllabus will typically include a number of methodological approaches (for example, ethnographic, phenomenological, feminist, queer theory) and students will be asked to select one of these in order to write a 2000-word essay for their first assignment. The second assignment is built up over the whole module and requires students to upload short visual analyses each week on to Weblearn to assemble an illustrated portfolio of ‘bodies’.  These illustrations will be accompanied by a text of approximately 600 words and students will receive formative feedback from the tutor on this work via Weblearn. Students will then improve their work and select five examples to go forward for final assessment, which should be about 3000 words in total. LO2, LO3

Balance of independent study and scheduled teaching activity

Scheduled teaching ensures that independent study is effective and addresses the learning outcomes and assessment tasks. Students are expected to, and have the opportunity to, continue with their studies outside of scheduled classes. There will be a range of learning strategies deployed and individual learning styles will be accommodated. The module’s learning outcomes, its contents and delivery, have been scrutinised and will be regularly reviewed to ensure an inclusive approach to pedagogic practice.

The module and course utilise the University’s blended learning platform to support and reinforce learning, to foster peer-to-peer communication and to facilitate tutorial support for students. Reflective learning is promoted through assessment items and interim formative feedback points that ask students to reflect on their progress, seek help where they identify the opportunity for improvement in learning strategies and outcomes, and make recommendations to themselves for future development. Throughout the module, students build a body of work, including reflections on progress and achievement.

The School’s programme of employability events and embedded work-related learning within the curriculum supports students’ personal development planning. Through these initiatives, students are increasingly able, as they progress from year to year, to understand the professional environment of their disciplines, the various opportunities available to them, and how to shape their learning according to their ambitions.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this module, students will be able to:

1. use key texts, images and artefacts to develop their understanding of how the senses mediate people’s perception of their environments and objects or phenomena within them;
2. research how differing socio-cultural and historical contexts affect sensory appreciation and perception;
3. question their own sensory relationships to differing contexts.

Assessment strategy

The module has two assessments.  The first (weighted at 50%) requires students to select a methodological approach to explore ways of thinking about ‘the body’ and the senses in society.

The second assessment is built up over the duration of the module: students will post a weekly blog on Weblearn with illustrative material and texts of about 600 words, discussing and critiquing key debates around the issues of the body, the senses, and the centrality of vision in Western society.  Taken together, these will comprise a critical portfolio of ‘the body’. The tutor will comment regularly on these postings, which the student is then free to improve to go forward to final assessment. The final submission will comprise five selected postings, of about 600 words each, totalling about 3000 words.


Browne, K. and Nash, C. J. (2016) Queer Methods and Methodologies: intersecting Queer Theories and Social Science Research, London: Routledge.
Butler, J. (1990) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity, London: Routledge.
Crary, J. (1990) Techniques of the Observer, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT.
Danius, S. (2002) The Senses of Modernism: Technology, Perception and Aesthetics, New York: Cornell University Press.
Haraway, D. (1991) Simians, Cyborgs and Women: the Reinvention of Nature, Abingdon: Routledge.
Howes, D. (2004) The Empire of the Senses, Oxford: Berg.
Howes, D. (2014) A Cultural History of the Senses in the Modern Age, 1920-2000, London: Bloomsbury.
Jagger, A.M. and Bordo, S. (1989) Gender/Body/Knowledge, New Brunswick: N.J.:Rutgers University Press.
Jay, M. (1993) Downcast Eyes: the Denigration of Vision in Twentieth-Century French Thought, Berkeley: University of California Press.
Johnson, G. The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Painting and Philosophy, Evanston, Illinois: Northwestern University Press.
Robinson, H. (ed.) (2001) Feminism: Art: Theory, an Anthology 1968-2000, Oxford: Blackwell.
Weiss, G. (1999) Body Images: Embodiment as Intercorporeality, London: Routledge.
The journal Senses and Society, published by Taylor and Francis has many useful articles.