Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2012-2013 (archived)

Module EDUC2391: Objects of Desire: Oriental Art and its Histories

Department: Education

EDUC2391: Objects of Desire: Oriental Art and its Histories

Type Open Level 2 Credits 20 Availability Available in 2012/13 Module Cap 30 Location Durham


  • Any ONE of the following modules: EDUC 1011, EDUC 1441, EDUC 2331, EDUC 2371 if not taken as a corequisite.


  • EITHER EDUC 1011, EDUC 1441, EDUC 2331 or EDUC 2371 if not take as a prerequisite Or EDUC 3261, EDUC 3301 or EDUC 3302.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • To provide students with a critical introduction to the study of Oriental Art
  • To enhance students' appreciation of 'internationalism' in the visual arts
  • To explore the nature of cultural influence and cultural exchange between East and West
  • To engage students in the practical process of art history
  • To enhance students' employability through experience of handling, explaining and presenting cultural objects
  • To engage students in problem-based learning and use of I.T.


  • "Objects of Desire: Oriental Art and Its Histories" explores the history of cross-cultural relations between Western Europe and the 'Orient' in the modern period as reflected in the visual arts. The module is grounded in the cultural theory of writers such as Said and Homi Bhabha and studies the arts of North Africa, the Near East, the Indian Sub-Continent and the Far East, principally China and Japan. The module reflects not only upon the history, practice and development of Islamic, Indian and Far Eastern art forms (i.e. upon the original meanings that art objects possessed for the cultures in which they were created), but also upon the ways in which Western Europe has modified those meanings in the context of colonial expansion in the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. It is the story of what happens to art objects when they cross cultural divides and the ways in which their meanings shift and alter at different times and in different places. In addition the module explores cross-cultural influences: the ways in which 'Oriental' art has, at particular times and under impelling historical conditions, impacted upon the visual arts of the West as well as the ways in which Western European mediums and forms of representation have affected artistic taste and practice of the 'Oriental' cultures under investigation. The module is taught partly through a standard lecture programme with student-led presentations and partly through what is known as a 'problem based learning approach' to education in which students learn for themselves through a personal investigation of one piece of 'Oriental' art, an 'object of desire', chosen by them from the collections of Durham University's Oriental Museum.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • Students will be able to: understand the broad history and development of 'Oriental' art
  • become familiar with the key ideas that have underpinned its practice and form
  • appreciate the processes by which cultural influence and exchange take place
  • understand how the art of one culture and can impact upon the artistic practice and taste of another
  • develop their understanding of 'internationalism'
  • learn how the meanings of cultural artefacts are contingent upon their context at any one point in time
  • value the role of relevant critical literature and cultural theory in forming judgements
  • demonstrate specific knowledge of one 'oriental' culture of their choice
  • gain fluency in subject specific terminology
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will learn how to: handle cultural artefacts in the museum/gallery environment
  • access the meanings of cultural artefacts through problem-based learning
  • engage in sophisticated object and image analysis
  • think critically about cultural influence and exchange
  • present cultural artefacts and their meanings through personal presentation and through the use of I.T.
  • support views with appropriate use of argument, example and associated reading
  • practise as art historians in the workplace
  • value the artistic production of other cultures
Key Skills:
  • Students will: improve group presentation skills
  • hone written and verbal communication skills
  • develop I.T. skills through use of Powerpoint and Podcast
  • employ relevant critical and professional terminology
  • develop critical and argumentative faculties
  • support interpretations with relevant evidence
  • develop innovative research skills
  • practise skills of object and image analysis
  • assess and weigh competing critical and interpretative viewpoints
  • construct considered opinions
  • value the role of existing scholarship and critical theory
  • learn to work on their own initiative and to set their own goals
  • develop a sense of personal responsibility

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 weekly lectures in which open discussion of ideas and art works is encouraged. The proposed Lecture Programme for the module is attached to this document as a hard copy. The curriculum is also developed through a series of student-led presentations in which specific themes and issues relating to 'Oriental' art are examined in detail. The lectures and presentations use a variety of teaching materials and approaches: digital projection and Powerpoint, CD and DVD, handouts, Duo, Discussion Board, Directed Study and Site Visits (e.g. the Durham University Oriental Museum, Durham Cathedral and, where possible, galleries and museums for relevant exhibitions).
  • In addition, the module also employs an innovative problem-based learning approach in which the student becomes responsible for their own learning by undertaking a research project into one piece of 'Oriental' art, an 'object of desire', chosen from the collections of the Oriental Museum. The project involves studying the material construction of the art-work, exploring its style and form and discovering its meanings and significance for the culture in which it was created. The project then involves an extended study of provenance: how, why and under what conditions the art-work was removed from its original context and finally came into the collections of the Oriental Museum. In exploring this 'narrative' it will be seen that the art-work has acquired a range of different meanings at different times and in different contexts. The project is thus a case study of the processes and practices of cross-cultural influence and exchange. This aspect of the module is assessed by the submission of a Podcast which presents the research project to a notional museum / gallery audience. The student must also submit an evidence trail in the form of a 'research log', a written record of their notes, ideas, reading and research findings, made throughout the year and upon which the Podcast has been based.
  • The taught aspect of the module is assessed by a 90-minute examination accounting for 30% of the module mark. The research aspect of the module is assessed by the submission of the Podcast discussed above, which accounts for 70% of the module mark. The assessment criteria and tutor's responses to the Podcast focus partly upon subject-specific knowledge, but principally address the subject-specific skills and key-skills that the module seeks to develop and which are outlined above.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Seminar Presentations & Tutorials 20 Weekly 1 hour 20
Site Visits 2 Annual 2 hours 4
Directed Study 30
Object Research / Preparation of Podcast 126
Total 200

Summative Assessment

Component: Assessment Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Podcast 100%
Component: Examination Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 90 minutes 100%

Formative Assessment:

Formative assessment for this module comprises: i) One student-led presentation on an aspect of Oriental art with oral feedback assessing presentation skills, skills of visual analysis and the ability to deploy critical theory and methodology ii) A mid-year tutorial regarding the progress of the Podcast project at which oral feedback is given Informal formative assessment includes: question and answer in lecture sessions, verbal feedback to lecture contributions, verbal feedback after any group work.

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