module specification

DN6026 - The Body, Perception and the Senses (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module status DELETED (This module is no longer running)
Module title The Body, Perception and the Senses
Module level Honours (06)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
210 hours Guided independent study
90 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 2019/20

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
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 you 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 (phenomenology, 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 you 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’.

Prior learning requirements

Pass and completion of prior level

Module aims

The module will enable you 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 your own individual sensory relationship to differing contexts and understand how that affects your evaluation of what you experience


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.
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.

Learning and teaching

Students will have weekly lectures which will be complemented by seminars for which they will have prepared materials for discussion (they will be required to read texts, supplied on Weblearn in advance, and to bring in objects and images for analysis). The skills of time-management and self-directed study are central to the learning experience by level 6 as students increasingly manage their own learning.
As part of their assessment, students are required to blog each week on Weblearn, posting illustrations and writing approximately 600-word texts on key ideas explored in the weekly learning sessions.

Learning outcomes

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

  • use key texts, images and artefacts to develop your understanding of how the senses mediate people’s perception of their environments and objects or phenomena within them
  • research how differing socio-cultural and historical contexts affect sensory appreciation and perception
  • question your own sensory relationship 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. & 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. & 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. (1993) The Merleau-Ponty Aesthetics Reader: Painting and Philosophy, Evanston, Ill.: 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.