Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Postgraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2018-2019 (archived)

Module CLAS44330: Baroque Modes: Classical Excess and its Reception in Literature and the Visual Arts

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS44330: Baroque Modes: Classical Excess and its Reception in Literature and the Visual Arts

Type Open Level 4 Credits 30 Availability Available in 2018/19 Module Cap None.


  • None


  • None; but CLAS42230 ‘The Classical Tradition: Art, Literature, Thought’ strongly encouraged

Excluded Combination of Modules

  • None


  • In accordance with the general aims of the MA programmes in the Department of Classics & Ancient History, to promote self-motivated and self-directed research, in the sub-disciplines of Art History and Classical Reception.


  • The module examines modes of heterodoxy and excess in classical literature and the arts and the way in which they have been received in the post-classical world, heavily influencing the modern concept of the Baroque.
  • This module examines what characterizes ‘Baroque’ style, as opposed to other kinds of visual and literary presentation, and the impact that this has had upon modern art-historical narratives.
  • The module builds on previous knowledge of ancient literature and/or ancient art to consider what characterizes Baroque style.
  • The module also builds on previous knowledge of classical reception to explore how perceptions of ancient art and literature have influenced modern ideas about the ‘Baroque’.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • By the end of the module, students should have acquired a close familiarity with a range of ancient and modern works of art and literature and be capable of understanding how they have been or might be seen as encapsulating Baroque style.
  • By the end of the module, students should also have acquired a close familiarity with a range of post-classical works and should be capable of understanding their connections with ancient forms.
  • Students should be able to understand and appreciate the major trends and debates in modern scholarship, and some of the theoretical material on which these modern debates rest.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • Students will develop skills relevant to the handling of visual and literary material and classical reception. In particular, they will be asked to develop an understanding of the distinctive features of Baroque modes in painting, sculpture, and architecture.
Key Skills:
  • The analytical and interpretative skills required for the successful completion of this module are transferable to any field which demands close attention to written and visual detail, intellectual debates, and historical study. The module also requires students to understand and evaluate scholarly debates, including theoretically dense materials. It also requires the effective use of library and IT resources; good oral and written presentation skills; and independent research skills.

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

  • Teaching will be by fortnightly seminar (4 in term 1, 4 in term 2), structured around a student presentation on the topic for the week. This will ensure that individuals engage in independent research and thought on the topics for which they make a presentation, as well as providing the opportunity to develop oral presentation skills and articulate arguments. 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 two hours long rather than (e.g.) weekly and one hour sessions in order to allow and encourage significant preparation, and detailed discussion.
  • The module will also include a day’s field trip to the Bowes Museum, an unrivalled collection of Baroque material in the vicinity, and to Castle Howard as part of the day, not only a seminal Baroque work of architecture, but a rich repository of both antique and post-antique Baroque sculpture.
  • Students will be encouraged to attend undergraduate lectures in appropriate subjects (for example, CLAS2811 Dialogues with Antiquity and HIST3243 English Architecture in the Age of Christopher Wren) where available.
  • Formative assessment will be based on an essay on a work of ancient ‘Baroque’ art or architecture written up from the seminar presentations – one during the year.
  • Summative assessment will be by one 5,000 word essay on a work of ‘Baroque’ art or architecture either in the collection of the Bowes Museum or using appropriate resources in the Bowes Museum, discussing its relation to contemporary and classical theories of the ‘Baroque’, to be submitted at the end of the year. These exercises will foster the ability to provide clear and detailed written articulation of how particular artists use visual and rhetorical techniques to express their meanings; secondly, they will place such close visual analysis within the wider contexts of the history of art and architecture and of classical reception, absorbing relevant scholarly debates in both fields; thirdly, they will provide practice in the use of appropriate conventions and style when setting out written research; and, finally, they 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 4 in Michaelmas Term, 4 in Epiphany Term 2 hours 16
Field Trip 1 Once in Epiphany Term 9 hours 9
Preparation and Reading 275
Total 300

Summative Assessment

Component: Essay Component Weighting: 100%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 5,000 words 100%

Formative Assessment:

• Oral presentation and participation in class debates. • One essay (to be submitted early in Epiphany Term). This essay is to be written up from oral presentations made in one of the seminars in Michaelmas 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