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Practices and debates in Art History (Master)


Admission requirements

See Teaching and Examination Regulations.


Current debates in the field of art history centre around such topics as art history versus visual culture and material culture studies; the Euro-American focus of the discipline and the globalizing world; the relationship between history, architectural history, and cultural heritage; the relationship between art and science; the notion of design and decorative arts as a form of material culture. Through these specialist debates runs the issue of two main ways of studying art, i.e. historical (that is primarily informed by the historical study of primary sources) versus theoretical (that is primarily informed by a variety of theories). Topics of debate will be exemplified and debated in a series of seminar meetings. Students will have to prepare readings and panel discussions in class.

Course objectives

Students will:

  • acquire insight into a variety of theories, debates, and practices in Art History;

  • analyse and understand various scholarly positions and their consequences for the meanings and agency of art works;

  • position oneself in relation to these;

  • develop skills in oral presentation while defending viewpoints and arguments with regard to art works;

  • present an analytical scholarly paper related to the course objectives.


Please consult the timetable on the MA Arts and Culture website.

Mode of instruction

Lecture and Seminar

Course Load

5 EC = 140 hours

  • attending seminars: 5 hours per week x 7 weeks = 35 hours

  • studying compulsory readings for seminars = 420 pages (a 7 pages per hour) = 60 hours

  • preparing panel presentation, 10 hours (reading and discussion of given text with other panel members, preparing presentation)

  • preparing jury panel, 5 hours (critical reading of given text with other panel members)

  • preparing and writing of course portfolio = 30 hours (editing course notes, rereading texts, collecting research material, searching for additional literature, composing and writing of course portfolio 5000 words)

Assessment method

  • Oral panel presentation and class assignments (30%)

  • Written course portfolio of 5000 words, excl. notes and references (70%)


Blackboard will be used for a few additional readings with the lectures (next to the course book) and visual presentations.

Reading list

Course book:
Donald Preziosi, The art of art history: a critical anthology, Oxford: Oxford University Press 2009 (second edition, 624 pages). ISBN13: 9780199229840; ISBN10: 0199229848 Paperback

Please make sure to have the course book before the course starts. There will be reading assignments from the course book each week.


Students are required to register for this course via uSis, the course registration system of Leiden University. General information about uSis is available in English and Dutch.

Exchange and Study Abroad students: Please see the website Study in Leiden for information on how to apply/register for this course.


  • General introduction MA and Start of this course on 12th of September, 15.00-17.30 PM

  • The course runs in block 1 between 12th of September and 24th of October;

  • Paper due: Monday 28th of October 17.00 PM.