Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)


Department: Education


Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap None. Location Durham


  • None.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • To explore the relationship between European visual culture of the 1920s and 1930s by reference to the socio-political context that gave rise to it.
  • To compare and contrast the practices of two opposed cultural strategies, the ‘rational’ and the ‘irrational, that arose at this time.


  • Cow on the Roof explores the development of the visual arts (art, architecture, design, film and performing arts) in Europe during the interwar period of the 1920s and 1930s. The experience of the First World War polarised artists into two distinct camps: those who sought to play a role in reconstructing war-torn Europe by employing ‘rational’ and ‘classical’ means and those who saw the war as the result of a corrupted bourgeois culture that had to be torn down by means of the ‘irrational’. These two opposed ‘cultural strategies’ are explored through a series of case studies drawn from Paris in the 1920s (Purism, Dada, Surrealism, the Ballets Russes and the impact of Jazz and Negrophilia), post-war Holland (Neo-plasticism & De Stijl), Nicholson, Nash, Moore and Hepworth in England, the Russian Revolutionary context (Constructivist art and theatre, Soviet film and Socialist Realism) ending with a study of the arts in the German context from Weimar Germany of the 1920s to Hitler’s National Socialism of the 1930s.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students should be able to demonstrate:
  • Knowledge of the key ideas that shaped artistic practice in the period 1919-1939;
  • Familiarity with artistic practices across mediums at this time;
  • Fluency in using subject specific terminology;
  • Awareness of the way in which the socio-political context of the interwar period shaped the theory and practice of artists;
  • Understanding of the relationship between theory and practice;
  • Detailed knowledge of the work of specific arts practitioners.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students should be able to:
  • Undertake a sophisticated pictorial analysis of an art work;
  • Develop interpretative responses to the visual arts;
  • Think critically about the socio-political, economic and cultural contexts in which modern art has been created;
  • Support views with appropriate use of argument, example and associated reading;
  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of opposing critical and historical methodologies;
  • Negotiate opposing critical and methdological views of the art works in question.
Key Skills:
  • Use relevant critical and professional terminology;
  • Develop critical and argumentative faculties;
  • Support interpretations with appropriate evidence ;
  • Develop research skills;
  • Practice skills of visual analysis;
  • Assess and weigh differing points of view;
  • Construct a considered opinion;
  • Enhance written communication skills.

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

  • The module is taught through a series of informal lectures in which open discussion of ideas and art works is encouraged. The curriculum is developed through group work activities in which the students examine themes and issues as they are expressed in particular examples of art works. The lectures use a variety of teaching materials: digital projection and Powerpoint, CD and DVD, handouts, Duo, Discussion Board, and Directed Study. Site visits will be organised where and when possible (e.g., Galleries and Museums for relevant exhibitions, Sage and local theatres for relevant music and stage work and Tyneside Cinema for relevant film material).
  • Assessment is provided through a 2000 word summative due for submission at Easter. This allows the students time to develop their subject knowledge and their understanding of the key ideas that the module seeks to address. Students are provided with a selection of essay titles and are required to write to one of them. The assignment titles, the assessment criteria, and the tutor’s responses to the assignments, focus partly on ‘subject-specific knowledge and skills’ but principally address the ‘subject-specific skills’ and ‘key’ skills outlined above. The assignment will be the main vehicle for the assessment of ‘subject specific’ and ‘key’ skills which the module seeks to develop.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 21 weekly 2 hours 42
Site Visits 1 annual 2 hours 2
Preparation and Reading 156
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 40%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Assignment 2000 words 100%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 60%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 2 hours 100%

Formative Assessment:

Informal formative assessment will take place during group work sessions and will include the assessment of presentation skills, skills of visual analysis, and the ability to deploy critical theory and methodology. Formative student feedback is provided through: i) informal verbal feedback on assignment planning (if requested); ii) verbal feedback to lecture contributions iii) verbal feedback at the end of group work iv) answers to all questions asked by students.

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