Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2014-2015 (archived)


Department: Classics and Ancient History


Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2014/15 Module Cap


  • Some knowledge of ancient art and architecture at Levels 1-3 is normally required. Reading knowledge of Classical Latin would be advantageous, but is not essential.


  • None.

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None.


  • In accordance with the general aims of the MA in Classics, to promote self-motivated and self-directed research in the sub-discipline of classical archaeology and the disciplines of art history for students who have received appropriate grounding in their undergraduate studies.


  • 1. Writing about architecture: theoretical considerations; the work in its historical and social context; issues of reception.
  • 2. Book 1: principles of architecture and urban design; the architect and his public; the nature of architecture as an art or an intellectual discipline; planning a city.
  • 3. Book 2: building materials; the invention of building; materials of construction; the significance of Mausolus and Alexander.
  • 4. Book 3: temples; the authority of the artist; symmetry and proportion; the Ionic Order.
  • 5. Book 4: the Orders of Architecture; the Corinthian Order; the Doric and Tuscan Orders; shape, spacing and orientation.
  • 6. Book 5: public Buildings; fora and basilicas; theatres; porticoes, palaestras and ports.
  • 7. Book 6: private Buildings; cultural ethnicity and geographical latitude; interior view planning; the decor of the house.
  • 8. Books 7-10: interior decoration (Book 7). Architecture and water (Book 8). Mechanics: clocks and machines (Books 9-10).

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • The module builds on previous knowledge of Roman architecture, focusing on Vitruvius' written treatise on architecture (the only surviving architectural treatise from antiquity) and its significance both for the architecture of Imperial Rome and for later Classical architecture from the Renaissance onwards. By the end of the module, students should have acquired a close familiarity with this text, some knowledge of Renaissance and early modern texts relating to Vitruvius, and relevant examples of material culture from both periods, and should be capable of using this knowledge to reconstruct both classical and post-classical ideas about architecture.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will need to develop the analytical skills relevant to the handling of written evidence for ancient Roman, Renaissance and early modern architecture as well as aesthetic and art-historical skills appropriate for dealing with material and visual culture. In particular, they will need to understand the relation between written prescriptions for architecture and surviving archaeological and architectural evidence.
Key Skills:
  • The analytical and interpretative skills required for the successful completion of this module are transferable to any field which requires analysis of a body of material involving both written and visual elements, a sensitivity to aesthetic or design issues, and a capacity to make inferences about historical ideas on the basis of material culture. It also requires the effective use of library and IT resources; and good written presentation skills.

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

  • Teaching will be by fortnightly seminar, which will be structured around a student presentation on the topic for the week. This will ensure that individuals engage in independent research and thought (viz. on the topics for which they make a presentation), and that they gain practice in articulating their conclusions. The presentation will be followed by a discussion in which there is an onus on everyone to engage in thought about the scope of the evidence and the coherence of the interpretation presented, encouraging critical reflection. The seminars are fortnightly and 2 hours long rather than (e.g.) weekly and one hour sessions in order to allow and encourage significant preparation, and detailed discussion.
  • Although not in any way a requirement for the module, students will be encouraged to apply for the complementary City of Rome postgraduate course at the British School of Rome. This is an annual 8-week course in April and May for postgraduates at Masters or early Doctoral level studying classical archaeology, art history, ancient history (both Greek and Roman) and the transformation of antiquity in the Middle Ages and the modern period. The deadline for applications for places on this course is typically in early November before the course, so students wishing to take part will need to apply early in their MA year.
  • Students will be encouraged to attend undergraduate lectures in appropriate subjects where available and where they provide an appropriate source of relevant material, for example my own Level 3 module on Urbs Roma.
  • Formative assessment will be based on essays written up from the seminar presentations – two during the year. Summative assessment will be by one 5,000 word essay to be submitted at the end of the year. These exercises will foster the ability to provide clear and detailed written analysis of visual material and art-historical issues and to make relevant comparisons between Vitruvius’ text or later texts and surviving archaeological or architectural evidence, will provide practice for the use of appropriate conventions and style in setting out written research and identification of suitable topics for further research at a doctoral level, and will ensure that research and assimilation of secondary literature is carried out at the appropriate level.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Seminars 8 Fortnightly 2 hours 16
Preparation and Reading 284
Total 300

Summative Assessment

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

Formative Assessment:

Two essays (one to be submitted in Michaelmas and one in Epiphany Term).

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