module specification

JC7103 - Writing about Art (2019/20)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2019/20
Module title Writing about Art
Module level Masters (07)
Credit rating for module 10
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 100
82 hours Guided independent study
18 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 80%   Written Text(s)
Oral Examination 20%   Seminar Presentation
Running in 2019/20

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
No instances running in the year

Module summary

Students will engage critically and creatively, with a range of approaches to writing about art, for different audiences and contexts, for example: artists’ writings; art criticism; curatorial and educational texts (such as catalogue essays and gallery interpretation), and press and publicity materials. The module will take the form of a writing workshop that encourages students to write reflectively about artworks.

Module aims

The module aims are to:

  • Develop technical understanding of the different types of formal characteristics of key art writing, including texts by artists and art critics, curators, gallery educators, and press/publicity staff.
  • Encourage comprehension of the idioms of artistic writing and theoretical discourse
  • Enable students to think critically about their own writing and reasoning in relation to whom it is addressed and for what purpose.


Students will be introduced to a range of art-writings, to enable them to engage with critical texts, artists’ writing, curatorial statements and educational texts. The module presents text as a written engagement with art and a variety of audiences, from specialist readers to gallery visitors. It sets out to support students to develop their communication skills and broaden their curatorial strategies.

Learning and teaching

The Learning and Teaching strategy for the module is to both inform students and actively engage them in a critical discussion and research related to the themes. This is achieved through:

Lecture presentations, seminars, writing workshops, tutorials. Students are encouraged to make maximum use of the resources available to them in terms of the IT provision both within the Faculty and the library. Blended Learning /weblearn includes the provision of course and module information on the web, lecture notes, feedback, and blogs are used to enhance independent learning.

In addition to contact-time, students will engage in self-directed study to enable them to complete the modules assessment requirements.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the module, students should be able to:

  1. Demonstrate an understanding of the applications and range of approaches to writing about art.
  2. Situate selected idioms of art writing and modes of address within their discursive fields.
  3. Illustrate how selected writing strategies communicate meaning to different audiences and reflect on these critical relationships in their own creative and critical writing.

Assessment strategy

Assessment includes a combination of formative and summative methods. Students will submit:
Seminar Presentation of Ideas in Development (20%) (15 minutes)
Written Text(s) (80%) (indicative word count 2000)

Students will be assessed on the basis of a written text on a particular artwork, exhibition or curatorial position, negotiated with their tutor; the research for this text will be discussed in a seminar presentation given by the student.

Work will be assessed against the learning outcomes in relation to the following criteria:

  • Appropriate use of research methods
  • Quality of analysis and interpretation
  • Subject knowledge and relevance
  • Quality of communication and presentation
  • Management of own learning and personal professional development


The following are indicative only. Refereed journals/articles and electronic resources: issued according to syllabus.

Barthes, R. (1977) 'The Death of the Author', in Image-Music-Text, Fontana.
Barthes, R. (1983) Barthes: Selected Writings, edited & with introduction by Susan Sontag, Fontana Pocket Readers.
Frei, L. (2007) The So-Called Utopia of the Centre Beaubourg, Bookworks.
Fusco, M. (ed.) (2008) The Happy Hypocrite: For and About Experimental Art Writing, Bookworks.
Hickey, D. (1997) Air Guitar: Essays on Art and Democracy, Art Issues Press.
Hickey, D. (1994) The Invisible Dragon: Four Essays on Beauty, Art Issues Press
Hughes, R. (1991) Nothing if Not Critical: Selected Essays on Art and Artists, Harvill/HarperCollins.
McEvilley, T. (2005) The Triumph of Anti-Art: Conceptual and Performance Art in the Formation of Post-Modernism, McPherson.
Schjeldahl, P. (2008) Let's See, Writings on Art from the New Yorker, Thames & Hudson
Wallis, B. (ed.) (1987) Blasted Allegories: An Anthology of Writings by Contemporary Artists, MOCA and MIT