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module specification

CP5013 - Critical & Contextual Studies 2 (Art) (2022/23)

Module specification Module approved to run in 2022/23
Module title Critical & Contextual Studies 2 (Art)
Module level Intermediate (05)
Credit rating for module 30
School School of Art, Architecture and Design
Total study hours 300
75 hours Scheduled learning & teaching activities
225 hours Guided independent study
Assessment components
Type Weighting Qualifying mark Description
Coursework 33%   Essay
Coursework 33%   Case Study
Coursework 34%   Dissertation Exercise
Running in 2022/23

(Please note that module timeslots are subject to change)
Period Campus Day Time Module Leader
Year City Tuesday Afternoon

Module summary

Critical and Contextual Studies 2 continues to orient and critically engage students in the history and theory of their discipline, its extent and conventions, and its broader social and material context in culture and contemporary practice. It builds on studies undertaken in Level 4 and prepares students as independent thinkers, capable of selecting an appropriate topic and producing a sustained piece of independent study in the form of a dissertation in Level 6.

The module continues to situate the student within the process of constructing knowledge about their discipline, its history, context, and its professional and ethical dimension. It rehearses the analytical and discursive skills students need to become knowledgeable about the authorities, objects and methods in their field; to understand the roles, locations and responsibilities of important players whilst examining the broader ethical questions relevant to their discipline; and to become conversant with current debates across the subject area. This process may be approached from the point of view of the producer or consumer, the critic or the professional, the academic or the practitioner.

Students are encouraged to think creatively and to take responsibility for the development of their own learning. The module recognises that the student is also an active contributor in the process: what students bring to the construction of knowledge counts – and how effectively they construct this knowledge depends on how well they understand the field of their discipline.

Prior learning requirements

Completion and pass (120 credits) of previous level


The module offers a sequence of three intensive teaching blocks structured to include surveys in the history of their discipline, research and writing workshops, seminars, library sessions, visits and tours in addition to guided independent learning. Each of these blocks culminates in a summative assessment. Assessments include a range of different modes of written assignments such as presentations, case studies and essays.

The syllabus and assessments are designed to support the development of academic skills, including inductions to using libraries and archives, critical reading skills, presentation skills, writing skills, working with feedback, avoiding plagiarism, referencing, as well as note taking, planning and time management skills.

The following themes and activities are indicative:

Where are We in this? LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

… examines the place of the creative actor within, on the one hand, a network of institutional, economic and textual framing; on the other hand, theories of materiality, production, distribution and reception of meaning that call into doubt the role of the creative's capacity to maintain ideas of intention and control in production.

Surveying the Field LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5

.. examines a range of contemporary critical topics that inform the work of contemporary practitioners; examines the major critical voices that respond to production and inspire further production; examines the presence of the critical interpretive community; explores and encourages research techniques; develops the capacity of students to write an extended response as critical writing, including fluency, text-type and appropriate citation methods.

Something to Say LO1, LO2, LO3, LO4, LO5
… allows students the opportunity to develop their own topic as part of preparation for the L6 dissertation. Students have guided study visits to libraries, archives, exhibitions and special collections aimed at developing a topic and refining the students capacity to use on site research facilities. Students are encouraged to develop topics of exploration that align with their own studio practice.

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 successful completion of the module students will be able to:

1. research and formulate a comparative knowledge of different aspects of their discipline, its specialisms and broader contexts; and to distinguish how their work relates to and arises from previous work in their discipline;
2. deploy critical and analytical skills in oral and written discussions; and to develop, structure and communicate an argument or similarly rigorous and evidenced line of enquiry
3. produce cogent oral/visual and written presentations, using appropriate scholarly methods, conventions and protocols;
4. demonstrate an understanding of the ethical and professional responsibilities appropriate to their practice;
5. demonstrate an understanding of the relationship between the theories and practices of art, its creative application and architectural design.

Assessment strategy

The module is assessed in a sequence of summative assessments submitted at the end of each teaching block. Students receive formative tutorials before each submission, and feedback during the first session of the following block. This helps students to build and improve skills as the syllabus progresses and distributes time spent preparing for assessments evenly throughout the year. Assessments comprise different types of written texts and modes of presentation, for example:

The three assessment items (Coursework 1, 2 and 3) include different types of written texts: for example an essay or a case study, any of which should rehearse skills required for the dissertation the following year:
1. Essay (2500 – 3000 words)
2. Case study (1000 – 1500 words)
3. The third assessment item includes a written component and be equivalent in ambition, scope and scale to the essay or case study and rehearse skills required for the dissertation the following year

The word-count for the whole module is between 4000 – 7500 words.  The order of assessment types is not developmental.

Overall module assessment criteria:
1. Breadth and depth of knowledge of an aspect of the subject area;
2. Clarity and coherence in presenting an argument or similarly rigorous line of enquiry;
3. Deployment of critical and analytical skills in oral and written discussions;
4. Cogency of oral/visual and written presentations, and appropriate use of scholarly methods, conventions and protocols;
5. Understanding of critical context, ethical dimensions, and the broader construction and limits of knowledge.

Students must pass all three coursework components individually at 40% in order to be eligible for the award.


The bibliography will depend on the student’s field of study and specific topic; hence not all readings pertain to all students.

Core Readings

Documents of Contemporary Art [series], London: Whitechapel Gallery
Vilém, F. (2000) Towards a Philosophy of Photography, London: Reaktion Books
Hoptman, L. J. (2014) The Forever now: Contemporary Painting in an Atemporal World, NY: MOMA
Silverman, K. (2015) The Miracle of Analogy, or, The History of Photography, Stanford: Stanford University Press
Leitch, V. B. (2010) The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, NY: W.W. Norton
Soutter, L. (2013) Why Art Photography, London: Routledge

Further Reading
Abbing, H. (2014) Why are Artists Poor?: The Exceptional Economy of the Arts, Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press
Barthes, R. (1993) Camera Lucida, New York: Vintage
Bishop, C. (2004) 'Antagonism and Relational', MIT Press Journals October 2004 Issue 110 pp. 51–79
Danto, A. (1964) 'The Artworld', The Journal of Philosophy Vol. 61, No. 19, American Philosophical Association Eastern
Joselit, D. (2009) 'Painting Beside Itself' October Volume - | Issue 130 | Fall 2009 p.125-134
Sontag, S. (2003) Regarding the Pain of Others, New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Laruelle, F. (2011) The Concept of Non-Photography, Falmouth: Urbanomix
King, E. A. and Levin, G. (eds) (2006) Ethics and the Visual Arts, New York: Allworth Press Thornton, S. (2009) Seven Days in the Art World, London: Granta
Graw, I., and Lajer-Burcharth, E. (2016) Painting Beyond Itself: The Medium in the Post-Medium Condition, Berlin: Sternberg Press

Journals, Websites and Databases
a-n, The Artists Information Company
Critical Inquiry, Chicago: University of Chicago Press