Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module THMN43730: Seeing and Believing: Art, Theology and Hermeneutics in Social Context

Department: Theology and Ministry

THMN43730: Seeing and Believing: Art, Theology and Hermeneutics in Social Context

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To enable students to engage imaginatively with the relation between Christian tradition and context by means of sustained and critical dialogue with selected examples of Western art, and by means of the development of an understanding of the processes of hermeneutical imagination.


  • Topics covered will include:
  • The understanding of key movements in the history of Western art, including icons and iconoclasm, the Renaissance, the Dutch Golden Age, abstract and post-figurative art
  • The political and social context behind the making of selected examples of Western art, by artists as diverse as Piero della Francesca, Vermeer, Picasso, Rothko
  • The hermeneutics of art: reading and being read by an image
  • The political and theological use and abuse of art: orthodoxy, heterodoxy and protest
  • The religious nature of non-religious art
  • The character and function of cultural icons in a post-Christian context
  • The function and use of visual image in worship and mission

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the course the student will:
  • have a conceptual understanding of the history of Western art and of its development in the context of social, political and theological factors
Subject-specific Skills:
  • be able to engage critically with the ‘reading’ of a piece of art, its political sub-texts and its theological meanings
  • have begun to identify original and creative ways of integrating the use of the visual in the context of ministry and mission.
Key Skills:
  • have explored the nature of the skills of reading art and their relationship to transferable ministerial skills of attentiveness and interpretation.
  • have demonstrated the capacity to integrate the skills of visual and verbal/textual hermeneutics

Modes of Teaching, Learning and Assessment and how these contribute to the learning outcomes of the module

  • enter text as appropriate for the module

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 9 Weekly 2 hours 18
Seminars 9 Weekly 1 hour 9
Fieldwork 1 3 hours 3

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

Feedback will be given on student led discussions and seminars, and written feedback on a 2500 word essay.

Attendance at all activities marked with this symbol will be monitored. Students who fail to attend these activities, or to complete the summative or formative assessment specified above, will be subject to the procedures defined in the University's General Regulation V, and may be required to leave the University