Topics in Art History

The details
Philosophical, Historical and Interdisciplinary Studies (School of)
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Thursday 05 October 2023
Friday 15 December 2023
10 October 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module will consider the notion of `genius`, the travails of the artist Auguste Rodin's reputation, and the complications of historiography, by reading both primary and secondary sources.

The module will explore the theme of sex that pervades his work and reputation It will look at how Rodin's `modernity` is tied to the ways in which he utilised industrial production, the site-less-ness of his `monuments`, and the focus on chance and accident visible on the surface of his sculptures.

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To provide students with a grounding in the work of Auguste Rodin specifically and modern sculpture more generally.

  • To introduce students to specialised debates in past and recent literature in the history of art.

  • To raise student awareness of different methods of approaching the discipline through cutting edge and innovative research.

  • To stimulate students to develop skills in written communication through essay and oral communication and debate in seminars.

  • To encourage students to reflect upon research at post-graduate level and beyond.

  • To cultivate a critical attitude to the use of art-historical resources.

  • To develop an understanding of the role of critical debate in research.

  • To foster the participation of students in research-led discussions of challenging subjects.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students will be expected to be able to:

  1. Display in-depth knowledge of the issues surrounding the work of Auguste Rodin specifically and modern sculpture in general.

  2. Display detailed knowledge of the art historical texts studied in the module.

  3. Develop a critical assessment of at least some of the views examined in class and articulate their own views on the same topic.

  4. Write a well-researched paper on a subject related to either Auguste Rodin, modern sculpture or his/its legacy.

Module information

French sculptor Auguste Rodin (1840-1917) is known as both the most important sculptor of the nineteenth century and the first modern sculptor. He was one of the only artists ever to be compared during his lifetime to Michelangelo, and yet after his death his work quickly fell out of favour, considered too literary and sentimental.

It was only in the 1960s that Rodin was `rediscovered` by art historians, and now his entire oeuvre--including sculptures in marble and bronze, drawings, prints, and photographs--is being re-examined.

Learning and teaching methods

This module will be delivered via:

  • One 2-hour seminar per week.
  • One reading week with no seminars.

Discussion will be encouraged throughout.


  • Baudelaire, C. (1981) ‘Why Sculpture is a Bore’, in Selected writings on art and artists. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 97–100, 439–442.
  • Baudelaire, C. and Mayne, J. (1981) Art in Paris, 1845-1862: salons and other exhibitions. 2nd ed. Oxford: Phaidon.
  • Butler, R. (1980) ‘1886–1889—Major Success at Georges Petit, in the Salons, and at the Exposition Universelle’, in Rodin in perspective. Englewood Cliffs, N.J: Prentice-Hall, pp. 58–77.
  • Rilke, R.M. (1986) Rodin and other prose pieces. London: Quartet.
  • Steinberg, L. (1972) Other criteria: confrontations with twentieth-century art. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Hunt, L. (1991) Eroticism and the body politic. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Rodin, A. (2015) Metamorphoses in Rodin’s studio. Edited by N. Bondil and S. Biass-Fabiani. Montreal, Quebec, Canada: Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
  • Krauss, R. (1981) ‘The Originality of the Avant-Garde: A Postmodernist Repetition’, October, 18. Available at:
  • Elsen, A.E. and Haas, W.A. (1982) ‘On the Question of Originality: A Letter’, October, 20. Available at:
  • Potts, A. (2000a) The sculptural imagination: figurative, modernist, minimalist. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Getsy, D. (2010a) Rodin: sex and the making of modern sculpture. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Krauss, R. (1979) ‘Sculpture in the Expanded Field’, October, 8, pp. 30–44. Available at:
  • Display and displacement?: sculpture and the pedestal from Renaissance to post-Modern / edited by Alexandra Gerstein (no date). London: Paul Hoberton.
  • Kang, M. and Woodson-Boulton, A. (2008) Visions of the industrial age, 1830-1914: modernity and the anxiety of representation in Europe. Aldershot: Ashgate Pub.
  • Patrizia Di Bello (2018) Sculptural Photographs?: From the Calotype to Digital Technologies. Taylor & Francis Group. Available at:
  • Albert E. Elsen (no date) In Rodin’s studio?: a photographic record of sculpture in the making.
  • Varnedo, K. (1981) ‘Rodin’s Drawings’, in Rodin rediscovered. Washington: National Gallery of Art, pp. 153–190.
  • Buley-Uribe, C. (2007) ‘The Work in Its Ultimate Form’, in Auguste Rodin: Drawings & Watercolours. London, UK: Thames & Hudson, pp. 24–67.
  • Ruiz-Gomez, N. (2017) ‘Against the Grain: Rodin’s Experiments with Paper’, in Ecstasies drawings by Auguste Rodin. Kobenhavn Statens museum for kunst, pp. 171–202. Available at:
The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course.
The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students.
Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Coursework weighting
Coursework   4000 word essay     100% 

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Natasha Ruiz-Gomez, email:
PHAIS Postgraduate Queries:



External examiner

Dr H Camilla Smith
University of Birmingham
Lecturer in Art History
Available via Moodle
Of 16 hours, 16 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s), module, or event type.


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