MA in the History of Art

The Male Body in Nineteenth Century European Art

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Course Description

The course focuses on visual depictions of the male body in nineteenth-century art, in the work of David, Canova, Ingres, Géricault, Courbet, Manet, Caillebotte, and others.

The political and theoretical challenges of recent feminism have provoked a range of cultural responses about men and masculinity. In particular, since the 1990s there has been continuing debate about whether masculinity is irrevocably ‘in crisis’, due to the erosion of once-secure gender boundaries, sexual identities and roles.

From this contemporary perspective, the course will address a number of questions:

  • How might we understand the shift in nineteenth-century history paintings from homoerotically charged androgynous male nudes to ones of hyper-inflated masculinity?
  • What happens to the represented classical body itself in the face of a powerful emerging concentration on modernity and modern life?

The course will also focus on depictions of the aestheticized male body in relation to questions of colonialism and racialised others, the homosocial and military ethos, the history of sexuality, drawing and anatomy, fashion and consumption.

While focusing primarily on French painting of the period, attention will also be paid to the corporeal aesthetic of nineteenth-century sculptors Canova and Thorwaldsen, Leighton and Rodin; and to late nineteenth-century photography of the male nude.

This course will be of special interest to those wishing to engage with current theories of self, sexuality, desire and vision, as articulated by Judith Butler, Jacques Lacan, Eve Sedgwick, Kaja Silverman, and Klaus Theweleit.

Recent MA Dissertation subjects for this Special Option have included:

  • The Noise of the Real: transgressing the boundaries of the Symbolic in Cézanne's Baigneurs (1890-94)
  • Yearning for Collectivity: strategies of artistic group representation in nineteenth-century France
  • Becoming Horse: the transgressive corporeality of horse and human in the work of Theodor Géricault
  • Jean-Léon Gérôme: his orientalism and the questioning of identities
  • The Fantastic Hand: sensual surfaces in the art of Canova and Ingres

Language and other requirements

Standard entry requirements.