History and Philosophy of Art - MA
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With modules covering art from the medieval period to the present day, this MA provides a structured introduction to the postgraduate study of the history and philosophy of art. You share your year between our Canterbury campus and Kent’s Paris School of Arts and Culture
The programme offers particular focuses on contemporary art, photography, Renaissance art, medieval art, 18th-century British painting, 19th-century French painting, modernism, aesthetics and the philosophy of art and film. You may elect to take a Philosophy of Art & Aesthetics pathway, which draws on the expertise of our Aesthetics Research Group.
A cross-cultural, interdisciplinary programme, you spend your first term at our Canterbury campus with full access to its excellent academic and recreational facilities. In the spring term, you relocate to the Paris School of Arts and Culture where you study at the Columbia Global Center (known as Reid Hall) in a historic corner of Montparnasse. You visit Paris in the autumn term, where you meet our Paris staff and are taken on a tour of the city. We offer advice and support to help you relocate to Paris.
This programme can also be studied in Paris only or Canterbury only.
The programme is intended for graduates in art history, philosophy and cognate subjects, such as fine art. It gives you the opportunity to pursue your interest in visual art at advanced level, to develop a high level of expertise in topics in history and philosophy of art and to prepare for doctoral research in history of art or philosophy of art.
To find out more about History of Art at Kent, follow our blog, Artistry.
Studying at the Paris School of Arts and Culture
The Paris School of Arts and Culture is a specialist, postgraduate centre located in the heart of Paris. We offer interdisciplinary, flexible programmes, taught in English, which take full advantage of all the cultural resources Paris offers. Study trips to the city’s museums, art exhibitions, archives, cinemas and architectural riches are an integral part of your studies.
The interdisciplinary nature of the School means you can choose modules from outside your subject area, broadening your view of your subject. As part of our international community of students and staff, you can take part in regular seminars and talks, write for the student-run literary magazine or help to organise our annual student conference.
About the Department of History & Philosophy of Art
The History & Philosophy of Art Department within the School of Arts, provides opportunities for graduate study with well-established researchers in the fields of art history, philosophy of art and aesthetics. Staff research covers contemporary art and aesthetics, modernism, theories of art, the historiography of art and the Cold War; biographical monographs, the photograph (in its historical, contemporary and critical contexts), and the historical interplay of image, theory and institutions from the Renaissance to the present (especially European and North American).
Developing areas of interest include the cultural and historical significance of the print, and the role of performance and new media in contemporary art practices, which draw upon our links with other subjects within the School of Arts and the Faculty of Humanities. In particular, postgraduates have the opportunity to participate in the activities of the multidisciplinary Aesthetics Research Centre and the Art History and Visual Cultures Research Centre. There is also a full programme of visiting speakers from across the constituent subject areas within the School of Arts, which includes Film and Drama.
A first or second class honours degree in a relevant subject (or equivalent)
All applicants are considered on an individual basis and additional qualifications, professional qualifications and relevant experience may also be taken into account when considering applications.
Please see our International Student website for entry requirements by country and other relevant information. Due to visa restrictions, students who require a student visa to study cannot study part-time unless undertaking a distance or blended-learning programme with no on-campus provision.
English language entry requirements
The University requires all non-native speakers of English to reach a minimum standard of proficiency in written and spoken English before beginning a postgraduate degree. Certain subjects require a higher level.
For detailed information see our English language requirements web pages.
Need help with English?
Please note that if you are required to meet an English language condition, we offer a number of pre-sessional courses in English for Academic Purposes through Kent International Pathways.
Duration: 1 year full-time
The following modules are indicative of those offered on this programme. This list is based on the current curriculum and may change year to year in response to new curriculum developments and innovation. Most programmes will require you to study a combination of compulsory and optional modules. You may also have the option to take modules from other programmes so that you may customise your programme and explore other subject areas that interest you.
This module will introduce you to key concepts that are central to understand fundamental debates in history and philosophy of art as well as art criticism. Some examples of key concepts are the notion of originality, influence, race, the aesthetic, fiction, beauty, gender and taste. The key concepts discussed in the seminars are subject to change.
The module will focus on Paris as a centre of artistic experimentation. The city served as the launch pad for key artistic movements from the mid-19th century through to the period after the Second World War (Impressionism, Cubism, Surrealism, etc.), and as a magnet for budding and established artists from all around the world. The module will take advantage of the great museum collections that encapsulate such developments (Musées d'Arte Moderne and d’Orsay, Rodin and Picasso Museums, Beaubourg, Quai Branly, etc.) and also of the major exhibitions on show in Paris in any given year.
'Paris: Portfolio' contributes to the MA in Creative Writing in Paris. The objective of ‘Paris: Portfolio’ is to produce work inspired by the cultural, historical and aesthetic location of the city, taking regular writing exercises, field trips and prompts as a starting point. This module aims to enable students to develop their practice of writing through both the study of a range of contemporary examples and practices, and constructive feedback on their own work. Each week, students read a selection of work, in a variety of forms (fiction, non-fiction, poetry, prose poetry, hybrid texts; as well as artworks, TV, film and other media). Students will work on a specific exercise and submit it for workshopping each week, which they will draw upon to produce a portfolio of creative work for the main assessment. They will be encouraged to read as independent writers, to apply appropriate writing techniques to their own practice and to experiment with voice, form and content. The approach to the exemplary texts will be technical as well as historical. At every point in the module, priority will be given to students’ own development as writers. It is an assumption of the module that students will already have a basic competence in the writing of poetry or prose, including a grasp of essential craft and techniques. The purpose of this module will be to stimulate students towards development and honing of their emerging voices and styles through engaging with various literary texts and techniques, and to consider how their work can develop with large chunks of time for independent study, reflection and exploration of a city like Paris.
Among the various paradigms from which diasporic writing should be distinguished is the literature of exile. Exile is often the consequence of political pressure or disaffection with a society rather than the result of the larger and often spatially and chronologically extended migratory movements which led to the emergence of diasporic communities. While both paradigms may intersect, the concerns and motivations of diasporic and exilic literatures usually differ.
A historically and culturally significant geographical, and frequently also imaginary, point of intersection between the diasporic and the exilic paradigms is the metropolis of Paris. In this module, our comparative focus will be on diasporic and exilic literatures and on the significance of the diasporic or exilic space of the French metropolis, both as production context and as informing literary production. Writers to consider include: American expatriates in 1920 (like Gertrude Stein, Ernest Hemingway, Henry Miller, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Djuna Barnes), in the Post World War II era (like Richard Wright and James Baldwin), and other writers who chose exile in Paris (like Heinrich Heine, Oscar Wilde, Rainer Maria Rilke, Samuel Beckett)
In this module students will focus on generating material, understanding their own writing process through practice and identifying their strengths and interests (literary and otherwise), with an emphasis on workshopping each week. They will work towards a fully realised and developed piece of writing, which may be self-contained or a part of a longer project. They may be continuing to work on an existing project, or starting something new. In seminar/workshops, they will give and receive constructive criticism, and work on editorial exercises to revise and refine their writing. Seminars will focus on reading selected extracts, process- and craft-focused texts, and reflective essays as a basis for class discussion. Seminar leaders will identify recommended reading tailored to individual students' interests and development.
The module is conceived as open to all Humanities MA students in Paris. It examines the medium of film, considering its specific qualities as an art and industrial form and the particular ways in which it is influenced by and influences other artistic and cultural forms in turn of the 20th century Paris. The emphasis of the course varies from year to year, responding to current research and scholarship, but it maintains as its focus the aesthetic strategies of film in contrast with other arts, technological developments, and historical change, particularly as they are developed in the growth of Paris as a city. The course also addresses the strategies used by the cinema to communicate with its historical audience. The course explores both the historical place of the cinema within the development of twentieth-century urban culture in Paris as well as how this historical definition informs the development of the cinema.
This module introduces students to the art and cultures of Latin American countries such as Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Mexico and Cuba. Students will explore non-Western artistic traditions, practices and theoretical frameworks, and consider art's relation to society. The art works considered are drawn from various countries across Latin America and represent a wide range of visual art forms (with a focus on the art of the Twentieth Century) and assess both their formal analysis and their historical context. Attention will also be given to the Latin American diaspora and transatlantic exchanges. In the course of these investigations issues relating to imperialism, colonialism and post-colonial frameworks across theory and practice will be closely studied, as well as the challenges artists face in negotiating expressions of national identities and problematics versus the adoption of international styles; and the role of collections, exhibitions and art institutions within and beyond national borders.
This module explores the natural environment as the subject matter of aesthetic attention and value, as well as creative interventions into nature such as landscaping, gardens and land art. Differing contemporary approaches to understanding the aesthetic value of nature and the natural environment will be explored, as well as older concepts, such as the picturesque, natural beauty and the sublime, that were important in the first attempts to think of the natural environment as site of aesthetic experience and value. The issues of climate change and environmental degradation will provide a backdrop throughout the module, providing increased focus upon the aesthetic value of nature, the natural environment and the interventions of land artists.
This module will introduce students to the history and theory of curating through a series of detailed case studies from the early modern period to the present day. These will focus on how collections have been formed and maintained, the nature of key institutions in the art world like museums and galleries, and in particular it will examine the phenomenon of the exhibition. Different approaches to curating exhibitions will be examined, and the responsibilities of the curator towards artists, collections, and towards the public will be analysed. Broad themes in the theory of curating and museology will be examined. Wherever possible the case studies chosen will draw on the resources and expertise of partner organisations, such as Canterbury Museums and the Institute for Contemporary Art.
This module explores the dynamic relationship between the cult of relics and Gothic art. It will begin by retracing the aesthetics of devotion across Western Christendom, culminating in the creation of towering Gothic cathedrals. Throughout history, the design of cult images could reveal sacred presence, testify to miracle-working powers, and explicate the significance of a holy place using visual narratives. Through pilgrimage, gift-giving, and even theft, people acquired relics and 'invented' new cults. The success of a relic cult would benefit from the design of a magnificent reliquary, the depiction of pictorial programmes (in glass, sculpture, and painting), and the placement of the relic within a spectacular architectural setting. Together we will explore the development of Gothic art in light of changing devotional needs. Using a number of diverse case studies, students will acquire a wealth of historical information and develop a variety of intellectual approaches to function and significance of visual culture. Beginning with Paris and its surrounding cathedrals, we will extend our analysis to Gothic Canterbury, London, Castile, Prague, Siena, and Florence. Above all, this course will encourage students to think critically about the influence of art in the religious imagination.
France is the setting and inspiration for many plays first written and performed for London's professional theatres, 1576-1642. Whether in the history cycles that depicted Anglo-French diplomacy and war, or in the comedies and tragedies that revealed the ebb and flow of life in England’s near-neighbour, France as a site and space held a vivid place in the English imagination. This module is oriented around trans-national exchange (of ideas, people, goods, services) in early modern plays by Marlowe, Shakespeare, and other dramatists. France, and Paris in particular, will be read as a site of political unrest and religious fervour and debate, with the plays analysed in parallel to historical studies of the French Wars of Religion and networks of Anglo-French exchange during this period. Analysing the literary and historical contexts to these plays, the module will encourage students to think deeply about the dramatists’ creative engagement with issues such as national and religious identity, trans-national intellectual exchange, and the politics of difference.
This module gives students the opportunity to write a dissertation of 14,000 words on a topic of their choosing relating to history of art or philosophy of art and aesthetics. It enhances students' research, writing and presentation skills, and allows them to gain specialised knowledge thus advancing both their academic and professional development. The process of defining a topic and writing the dissertation is closely supported through meetings during the Autumn and Spring Term, and by the student’s dissertation supervisor. Supervision is usually by staff with direct research expertise in the student’s chosen topic.
Teaching and assessment
Assessment is by two assignments per module and the dissertation.
This programme aims to:
- provide you with a focused programme of taught postgraduate study in history and philosophy of art
- provide you with a taught foundation for subsequent postgraduate research
- enable you to acquire or deepen your knowledge and understanding of the historical and contemporary topics within the history of art and philosophy of art
- enable you to develop your art historical and philosophical skills beyond that expected of an undergraduate
- enable you to develop, articulate and defend art historical and philosophical ideas as they relate to art
- enable you to engage with historical and contemporary theoretical thought about the arts from art historical and philosophical perspectives.
Knowledge and understanding
You will gain knowledge and understanding of:
- aspects of the historical development of art, movements, styles and genres, especially from the Renaissance to the present day
- the works of a range of significant artists of different periods and cultures
- a range of different visual art forms and techniques, such as painting, sculpture, printmaking, photography, installation and video
- the cultural, social and historical contexts in which artworks are produced, used and understood
- art historical methods and theories used to study art
- substantive areas of current research in art history
- the impact of philosophies of art and aesthetics on the visual arts
- aspects of the history of aesthetics and the philosophy of art in the western tradition
- aspects of contemporary aesthetic theory and issues in the philosophy of art
- various positions taken on key issues in contemporary aesthetics and philosophy of art
- the range of philosophical issues arising in relation to a particular medium of fine art
- primary and secondary philosophical writings on art and aesthetics relevant to contemporary philosophy of art.
You develop intellectual skills in:
- a high degree of independent thinking, particularly in relation to the ideas, issues and debates within art history and the philosophy of art
- advanced research skills relevant to the preparation of essays, dissertations and seminar assignments.
- an advanced ability to evaluate a range of both primary and secondary sources and conceptual frameworks appropriate to research in the history and philosophy of art
- a highly developed ability to synthesise diverse materials and ideas to further a specific art historical or art philosophical position
- an ability to analyse and interpret texts and arguments in a manner that demonstrates advanced skills of critical evaluation
- an ability to critically reflect at an advanced level upon both one’s own ideas and positions.
You gain subject-specific skills in:
- advanced skills of observation, analysis and interpretation of visual artworks, drawing on your knowledge of visual traditions and conventions
- the use of concepts and methods specific to the history and theory of art
- the capacity to locate and evaluate evidence from relevant visual and textual sources, and interpret it in relation to art historical enquiries
- the ability to construct highly effective arguments to defend or challenge a position held by yourself or others
- the ability to critically engage at an advanced level with some major thinkers and intellectual traditions within art history and the philosophy of art
- advanced skills of constructive debate and defence of ideas
- a high degree of critical reflectiveness upon assumptions and beliefs
- advanced skills of oral presentation and defence of ideas and positions.
You will gain the following transferable skills:
- the ability, at an advanced level, to organise information clearly, respond to written sources, present information orally, adapt style for different audiences, use images as a communication tool, present arguments cogently and effectively in written or spoken form
- the ability, at an advanced level, to identify and access relevant materials and synthesise them into a broader piece of work
- the ability to produce written documents, undertake online research, communicate using email and process information using databases
- the ability to listen effectively and so to learn from and participate constructively in discussion
- the ability to organise and manage supervised, self-directed work
- the ability to work in flexible and independently minded ways, showing self-discipline and self-direction
- problem-solving: the ability to identify and define problems, explore alternative solutions and discriminate between them
- focus and attentiveness to detail: the ability to work diligently, to fulfil briefs and deadlines, and to take responsibility for your own work.
- The ability to gather, organise and deploy ideas in order to formulate arguments cogently and express them effectively orally and in written form.
The 2023/24 annual tuition fees for this course are:
- Home full-time £9500
- EU full-time £13500
- International full-time £18000
For details of when and how to pay fees and charges, please see our Student Finance Guide.
For students continuing on this programme fees will increase year on year by no more than RPI + 3% in each academic year of study except where regulated.* If you are uncertain about your fee status please contact email@example.com.
Your fee status
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General additional costs
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In the Research Excellence Framework (REF) 2021, 100% of our Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies research was classified as ‘world-leading’ for impact and environment.
Following the REF 2021, Music, Drama, Dance, Performing Arts, Film and Screen Studies at Kent was ranked 9th in the UK in the Times Higher Education.
The Department has a collective interest in developing interdisciplinary projects, including projects informed by art history, curation and the philosophy of art or aesthetics. Shared areas of research interest include: photography, art theory from the Renaissance onwards; modernism and contemporary art.
Aesthetics Research Centre
The Aesthetics Research Centre coordinates, enables and promotes research in philosophy of art and aesthetics at the University of Kent. Its focus is on the dynamic and growing field of philosophy of art and aesthetics in the analytic tradition, and it is deeply committed to making connections and exploring synergies between that tradition and other approaches to thinking about art and culture, including those from other philosophical traditions, the humanities more broadly, the sciences, and all forms of art making and cultural production. ARC comprises a vibrant community of staff and postgraduate students across the School of Arts and Philosophy, and its activities include an annual programme of research seminars, workshops, symposia and conferences.
Histories: Art, Drama and Film Research Group
The Histories Research Group promotes and co-ordinates research amongst the growing community of staff and PG students active at Kent in the field of Visual and Cultural Histories. The Histories research culture brings together staff and post-graduate students from across the School of Arts whose research involves a cultural historical approach to their field. Whether it is in theatre, film or art history, the Histories group promotes and enables cultural historical research by holding a regular research seminar and supporting student-led initiatives, such as organizing conferences. For the range of world-leading research carried out by members of the Histories research group - from Raphael to Doris Day.
Other Research Centres within the School:
Performance and Theatre Research Group
The Performance and Theatre Research Group’s mission is to create a warm and dynamic research community, welcoming everybody from fresher to professor. We are a delightfully broad church, with well-established expertise in a very broad range of subjects, including theatre history, performance and health, theatre and cognition, physical acting, applied theatre, performance and philosophy, performance and politics, European theatre, Greek theatre, Modernist theatre (especially the Bauhaus), theatre and adaptation, audience studies, cultural industries, variety theatre, puppetry, dance theatre, popular performance and stand-up comedy. As well as traditional academic research, we have led the field in creative practice-based research – and continue to do so.
Film, Media and Culture Research Group
The Group’s main objective is to support and produce cutting-edge research in the areas of film, media and culture. A broad and welcoming church for the manifold approaches to our subject, we specialise in research that is collaborative, of high impact, international and interdisciplinary in scope. We recognise film, media and cultural activity is best understood comprehensively in terms of aesthetic shapes, social roles, discursive formations, cultural meanings, psychological effects and/or economic realities, and best explained through attention to both institutional imperatives and individual agencies. Drawing together scholars from across the University – including Arts, European Culture and Languages, Digital Arts and Engineering, History, English and American Studies, Law, Sociology and beyond – the Group furnishes a lively, member-led research culture that serves as a forum for Kent-based researchers and as a beacon for the international community. Through our journal Film Studies and pioneering research projects and outputs we actively seek to shape the field, open lines of communication with the local community and engage with colleagues worldwide.
Staff research interests
Full details of staff research interests can be found on the School's website.
Arts postgraduates have gone on to work in a range of professions, from museum positions and teaching roles to marketing and gallery assistants. Our graduates have found work with Tate Britain, the V&A, Museum of Childhood and other arts, culture and heritage-related organisations.
As a student on a split Canterbury/Paris programme you will be able to study French for free with our online Language Express modules. The module covers French for beginners, so you can get up to speed before moving to Paris in your second term, with the option to continue developing your language skills alongside your studies in Paris.
If you are interested in joining the French Language Express modules, please email: firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a large and wide-ranging library holding for History & Philosophy of Art, covering the fields of painting, sculpture, architecture, photography, aesthetics and contemporary visual communications. There is a substantial stock of periodicals, online access to e-journals and a slide library with well over 100,000 images, covering areas such as contemporary art, visual cultures, garden history and the film still, as well as traditional media. Kent is ideally located for access to galleries in London and on the continent.
In 2010, we moved into the purpose-built, and RIBA award-winning, Jarman Building located at the centre of the Canterbury campus. The new building is home to the Studio 3 Gallery and a range of teaching and social spaces as well as a dedicated postgraduate centre.
All postgraduate students are offered research skills training and the opportunity to take part in reading groups and research seminars at departmental, school and faculty level. Research students have the added opportunity for funded conference attendance. There is also a dedicated student support office at our Canterbury campus, which can offer support and guidance throughout your studies, in addition to an office in Paris.
In recent years, several members of the History & Philosophy of Art Department, both full-time and part-time, have been awarded University prizes for excellence in student support, curriculum innovation and research-based teaching – an ethos which we seek to extend to the postgraduate community.
Dynamic publishing culture
Staff publish regularly and widely in journals, conference proceedings and books. Among others, they have recently contributed to: British Journal of Aesthetics; Art History; History of Photography; Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism; Journal of Visual Arts Practice; and The Philosophical Quarterly.
Global Skills Award
All students registered for a taught Master's programme are eligible to apply for a place on our Global Skills Award Programme. The programme is designed to broaden your understanding of global issues and current affairs as well as to develop personal skills which will enhance your employability.
Learn more about the application process or begin your application by clicking on a link below.
You will be able to choose your preferred year of entry once you have started your application. You can also save and return to your application at any time.
Apply for entry to:
United Kingdom/EU enquiries
MA at Canterbury and Paris
T: +44 (0)1227 768896
International student enquiries
T: +44 (0)1227 823254