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2023/24 Undergraduate Module Catalogue

MUSS3520 Contemporary Aesthetics

20 creditsClass Size: 1

Module manager: Dr Matthew Pritchard

Taught: Semester 1 (Sep to Jan) View Timetable

Year running 2023/24


MUSS2520Aesthetics and Criticism

This module is mutually exclusive with

MUSS3540Contemporary Aesthetics

This module is not approved as a discovery module

Module summary

The module aims to give students a grounding in contemporary aesthetics through various current music-related theoretical topics and broader schools of 20th-21st century philosophical thought. ‘Contemporary’ here is taken in a broad sense to include texts and thinkers perhaps more than half a century old in some instances, but whose ideas remain crucial to theorizing the present moment in music aesthetics. Students will be equipped with the skills and knowledge to bring these modes of thought to bear on a variety of contemporary practices. These artistic practices will be drawn from a variety of musics, and may even lie partially outside music (in cases such as multimedia or sound art); in their own writing and seminar contributions students should feel free to consider any aspect of present-day musical practice that seems appropriate. As in MUSS2520, sessions will rely on the prior reading and assimilation of set texts, and will alternate between staff-led sessions and topics introduced through student presentations.


The module gives students a grounding in recent thinking in aesthetics through a representative selection of thinkers and to equip them with the skills and knowledge to bring these modes of thought to bear on a variety of contemporary musical practices. Students will be encouraged to explore areas of artistic practice which are new to them and/or to use the modes of aesthetic thought studied in the course as a springboard to examine thinkers only covered tangentially.
More generically, the module seeks to give students the tools to assimilate large quantities of complex information and to be capable of re-presenting this information in an abbreviated form. Moreover, it encourages students to develop skills in the application of ideas drawn from one field into another, learning ways in which apparently diverse areas can impact upon one another.

Learning outcomes
1. Demonstrate an understanding of various schools of contemporary aesthetic thought.

2. Find clear and cogent applications of philosophical/cultural theory to current musical practices.

3. Summarize and carefully evaluate complex, wide-ranging debates on a number of topics central to contemporary music and musicology.


The core syllabus content will be delivered – jointly with MUSS3540 – through 11 2-hour seminars in semester 1, adopting a broadly discussion-based format, with some lecture, student presentation and workshop elements, and utilising set readings. The first of these sessions, in addition to providing an introduction to course content, will also furnish advice and practice tasks covering essential reading and writing skills – those of the level required to comprehend and critique more advanced theoretical texts covered in the module. Otherwise, semester 1 sessions will alternate between those focussed on a particular figure or movement within contemporary philosophical aesthetics or cultural theory, which will be closely guided by the module leader, and those dealing with topics of more direct relevance to music or musicology, in which the discussion will be led by a group of students. The module is assessed through an essay showing how one of the areas of theory studied could be fruitfully applied to music.

Teaching methods

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

Private study

Preparation for class seminars – 60 hours
Research and essay writing – 120 hours

Opportunities for Formative Feedback

Student progress during the semester will be monitored through student-tutor interaction and group discussions during seminars, with staff and peer feedback on students’ ideas for the essay being provided in a workshop hour within one of the later sessions in term.

Methods of assessment

Assessment typeNotes% of formal assessment
Essay4,500-5,000 words100.00
Total percentage (Assessment Coursework)100.00

Normally resits will be assessed by the same methodology as the first attempt, unless otherwise stated

Reading list

The reading list is available from the Library website

Last updated: 28/04/2023 14:43:21


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