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2022/23 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

ARTF2111 Bodies of Difference: Gender, Power and the Visual Arts

20 creditsClass Size: 25

Module manager: Dr Elspeth Mitchell

Taught: Semester 2 (Jan to Jun) View Timetable

Year running 2022/23

Pre-requisite qualifications

At least 20 credits from any ARTF-coded module or appropriate equivalent in a relevant discipline. In the latter case, students are advised to get in touch with the module leader to discuss eligibility prior to enrolment.

This module is approved as a discovery module

Module summary

Gender is a major social axis of power, creating hierarchical difference on the basis of sex. It is the site of our embodied identities. It shapes the scenes of cultural representation, which in turn shapes us. This module explores a range of feminist, postcolonial and queer theories of the embodiment of gender, its performance, performativity and representation in art and visual culture, showing the relations between the two.The module addresses shifts in the representational schema of the woman's body by means of the study of a range of feminist perspectives that offer a critical framework for thinking about the body, embodiment and difference in all its intersectional complexity. This module also covers a range of theories and concepts that are vital to our understanding of the power and dynamics of gender and the body that are operative in art history and visual culture. It is in this sense that we will move toward the recent critical feminist theories and art practices that have revisited and challenged the conventions and representations that encoded ‘woman’ as a sign and as the image of desire. Through this module we will ask: how is subjectivity embodied? How can such subjective embodiment be figured and reconfigured in representation? How does difference structure both embodiment and subjectivity?


This module aims to provide a study of gender and the visual representation of the body in art and visual culture by means of three kinds of work:
1) the exploration of theories of gender and embodiment;
2) case studies in art and visual culture of representation gender and the body;
3) the engagement with the theories and concepts that are vital to our understanding of the power and dynamics of gender in art history and cultural representation.

Learning outcomes
By the end of the module students will be able to:
- Analyse images, texts, and cultural practices
- Understand and apply theories of gender, difference and the body
- Explain and describe the development of feminist critique of art and visual culture
- Understand the methodologies that have been developed to analyse the ‘work’ of gender in visual representation.
- Demonstrate research skills
- Critically reflect on own research and learning

Skills outcomes
Methodological skills integral to the study of art history and visual cultural analysis.

Verbal and written fluency in constructing a logical and coherent argument.

Co-ordination and dissemination of a range of historical, contextual visual information.

Further development of independent work toward the portfolio assessment, in-class discussion, and the final essay.


The module engages with topics such as:
Gender and Creativity: The Artist’s Body: New York, 1950s, a case study in art and film
The Gaze, the Image, the Spectator: Case Study: Classic Feminist Film Theory and Its Revisions
The Psychosomatic body: Case Study: Hysteria—Charcot and Freud to Cinema and Cindy Sherman (via Laura Mulvey)
The Unruly Body: abjection and the carnivalesque in contemporary art
Performativity and the Gendering of the body: Queering the body
Race, Gender, Trauma and Bodies of Resistance: interventions from Black feminist theory and practice
The Cyborg Body: future or threat?
The Manipulated Body: surgical interventions and changing concepts of the desirable body

Teaching methods

Delivery typeNumberLength hoursStudent hours
Private study hours180.00
Total Contact hours20.00
Total hours (100hr per 10 credits)200.00

Private study

Students are expected to complete the reading and portfolio task set for each week to support a level of independent study and preparation for lectures and seminars.

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

The in-class discussions allow ongoing monitoring of student progress. There will be a formative review of the portfolio tasks mid-way through the module to offer feedback.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
PortfolioSubmission of 4 of the weekly tasks and reflective statement on learning and research (500 words per weekly task or visual equivalent, e.g. 5 images)40.00
Essay1 x 3000 word essay60.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

The weekly portfolio tasks are to encourage a level of critical reflection on their own work that develops across the weeks. It includes a ‘critical reflection’ which acts as a statement on their learning and research.

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 03/05/2022


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