Durham University
Programme and Module Handbook

Undergraduate Programme and Module Handbook 2022-2023 (archived)

Module CLAS1721: Greek Art and Architecture

Department: Classics and Ancient History

CLAS1721: Greek Art and Architecture

Type Open Level 1 Credits 20 Availability Not available in 2022/23 Module Cap Location Durham


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Excluded Combination of Modules

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  • To equip students with a broad overview of the basic developments in Greek art during the period c.1000 to 31 BC.
  • To give students some understanding of a selection of the most important or best-known objects and monuments of ancient Greek culture.
  • To help students to acquire skills in looking at visual material (including painting, sculpture and buildings) in different ways and in using art-historical terminology and the language of visual criticism.
  • To enable students to start to evaluate ancient art and architecture and to make independent stylistic, aesthetic and historical judgments in order to be able to assess visual evidence for the ancient world.
  • To enhance students' study of literary and historical modules relating to the Greek world by helping them to acquire an understanding of how to approach visual material and how to assess its relation to ancient culture and society, as well as of how works of ancient Greek art and architecture have been used, studied and appreciated up to the present day.
  • To provide a combination of lectures, seminars, essay tutorials and optional field trips as a basis for student learning.
  • To develop knowledge and practise evaluative skills through essays and seminar presentations and to test these skills by essay and written examination.


  • The module studies the forms and meanings of ancient Greek art from the Early Iron Age to the end of the Hellenistic era. It is intended to be accessible to all first-year students with a general historical knowledge of the ancient Greek world, and at the same time to offer an opportunity for students who have studied the art and architecture of ancient Greece at school level to develop and enhance their understanding of the subject.
  • The module adopts both a chronological and a thematic approach, considering a range of material, including vase paintings, freestanding and architectural sculpture, and architecture and focusing on the various approaches to such visual material.
  • The module will involve close visual analysis of a selection of objects and buildings from across the Greek world.
  • Specific subjects covered may include: 1. General consideration of approaches to images, of the reception and early scholarship on ancient Greek art and architecture, and of general issues of methodology and terminology 2. Burials and pottery from the Geometric period 3. Orientalising art of the eighth and seventh centuries BC 4. The origins and uses of the Doric and Ionic orders of architecture 5. The cities and sanctuaries of Archaic and Classical Greece 6. The development of freestanding statuary and architectural sculpture between the Archaic and Hellenistic periods 7. The characteristics of Classicism in architecture, vase painting, and sculpture 8. Late-Classical vase painting and sculpture 9. Public architecture of the fourth century BC 10. The rise of allegorical and baroque sculpture in the Hellenistic world 11. The portraiture of Alexander the Great and his Successors 12. The developments in urban and religious architecture of the Hellenistic period 13. The decorative arts, including metalwork, gems and mosaic 14. Late Hellenistic sculpture with reference to its cultural-historical context.
  • A range of different kinds of visual material will be studied, such as sculpture, vase painting, architecture, and mosaic, as well as selected extracts of literary sources in translation. Vase painting and sculpture are studied in Michaelmas term, and architecture and architectural sculpture are studied in Epiphany Term.

Learning Outcomes

Subject-specific Knowledge:
  • A knowledge of vase painting, freestanding and architectural sculpture, religious and public architecture, and the decorative arts of the Greek world between c. 1000 and 31 BC, based on an acquaintance with individual examples and some literary evidence.
  • Awareness of the main issues of scholarly debate relating to Greek art and architecture, including the classification and evaluation of artifacts, the status of architects and artists, and the reception of art and architecture in its own time and at later periods by users and viewers.
Subject-specific Skills:
  • An ability to handle a range of methodologies appropriate for a preliminary understanding of a diverse range of visual artifacts and structures.
  • A readiness to look at images in painting and sculpture and at ancient buildings and to inquire into their meaning, and an ability to use a critical vocabulary appropriate for the evaluation of visual material and to make stylistic and aesthetic judgments.
  • An ability to analyse individual works of art in terms of form and content, to identify and evaluate the construction of meaning in specific examples, and to make stylistic and contextual comparisons between them.
  • An ability to evaluate the impact of historical events and ideas on artistic changes and reflect upon the complex relations between different art forms and the society in which they appeared.
  • An ability to explore the relationship between the different art forms of painting, sculpture and architecture.
  • An ability to raise valid questions in response to critical archaeological and art-historical literature.
Key Skills:
  • The skills needed to analyse, evaluate, and synthesise a wide range of evidence, but especially visual material, and to select and apply methodologies appropriate to the material discussed.
  • The capacity to sustain a clear, well structured, and well-defended argument in written or oral form.
  • An ability to present ideas and arguments in written and oral form according to academic conventions and to engage in discussion and debate on individual visual examples with the lecturer and with peers.
  • The ability to work with peers in creating a constructive engagement with material.
  • The ability to respond constructively and imaginatively to images in different media.
  • The ability and self-discipline to work autonomously, and the capacity for organization required to meet deadlines and to negotiate competing claims on finite resources.
  • Facility with key IT resources used in creating presentations and in researching assignments, for which guidance is given in tutorials, in particular word-processors, online databases, and ability to make profitable and selective use of relevant and selected internet resources.

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

  • Lectures are appropriate and the most effective means of imparting information and explaining methods of interpretation, both in the presentation of ancient evidence and in the synthesis of modern scholarship.
  • Seminars on individual examples provide direct engagement with ancient artefacts in the Durham Museum of Archaeology, opportunities for research in, and informed collective discussion of the varieties of visual material addressed in the module.
  • Group presentations facilitate students' understanding of methodologies for handling visual material and relevant scholarly literature, their capacity for constructive collaboration with peers, and their ability to initiate and continue informed discussion that engages with visual material and raises a level of academic debate.
  • Interactive Generative Learning Objects (GLOs), accessed through DUO, develop skills in evaluating multiple interpretations of ancient art and architecture, exposing students to the differing perspectives of the disciplines of classics, ancient history, archaeology and classical reception.
  • Optional field trips provide opportunity for futher direct engagement with ancient artefacts, encouraging proactive learning and developing understanding of visual and material culture.
  • Writing essays enables the assembling and evaluation of material and the formulation of logical and coherent argument, as well as skills in writing coherent, comprehensible and grammatically correct English. An initial essay provides formative practice in developing these skills, while a second essay tests the attainment of such skills and forms part of the summative assessment of the module.
  • Tutorials contribute to the critical handling of evidence and facility of discussion and develop skills of essay writing.
  • A final examination tests ability to understand and recall material and to focus relevantly on critical issues and to organize knowledge and argument appropriate to questions raised.
  • IT skills are tested through presentations and written assignments.

Teaching Methods and Learning Hours

Activity Number Frequency Duration Total/Hours
Lectures 20 2 per week in Epiphany Term, 2 in Easter Term 1 hour 20
Seminars 4 4 in Epiphany Term 1 hour 4
Tutorials 2 2 in Epiphany Term 1 hour 2
Revision classes 2 2 in Easter term 1 hour 2
Preparation for formative tasks 30
General preparation and background reading 142

Summative Assessment

Component: Examination Component Weighting: 70%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Examination 2 hours 100% Yes
Component: Essay Component Weighting: 30%
Element Length / duration Element Weighting Resit Opportunity
Essay 2500 words 100% Yes

Formative Assessment:

2 formative assessments.

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