AH20250 Early Islamic Art and Architecture

Academic Year 2024/2025

This module will introduce students to the art and architecture of the Islamic Mediterranean and Middle East, as well as the arts produced by Christians, Jews, and others who were the subjects and neighbours of the early Islamic states. Beginning with the Byzantine and Sasanian Persian Empires, the previous rulers of the Middle East before the rise of Islam, the module will survey the buildings and works of art created within the Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Seljuq, Ayyubid, and Mamluk states (c. A.D. 650-1250). Focusing on art and architecture produced in the service of religion as well as more secular interests, the module will allow students to engage with the major monuments and themes of the period, including the role of ornament, cross-cultural exchange, attitudes towards figural images, and the written word as image, as well as to reflect critically on the ways that Islamic art historically has been described and theorised (e.g. Orientalist stereotypes). When possible, visits to local collections (the Chester Beatty Library, the National Museum of Ireland-Collins Barracks) will enable students to see works of art, especially manuscripts, made for Muslim, Christian, and Jewish patrons.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of the module, students will be able to identify the culture and period in which works of art were created; demonstrate knowledge of the popular mediums of early Islamic art, such as painting, manuscript illumination, mosaic, ceramic, metalwork, and glass, as well as associated terminology; and demonstrate familiarity with the major themes of Islamic art, as well as the ways in which Islam and the other monotheistic religions of the Mediterranean (Judaism, Christianity) shaped the creation of art and architecture.

Indicative Module Content:

Art and architecture of the early Islamic states (Umayyad, Abbasid, Fatimid, Seljuq, Ayyubid, Mamluk); art produced for Muslims, Christians, Jews, and others in regions under Muslim rule; key themes and debates in early Islamic art; the historiography of Islamic art and architecture.

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Field Trip/External Visits


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This course is designed as a lecture course, though students will be expected to participate in small-group discussions every other week, as well as other active learning exercises. When possible, students will have the opportunity to engage with works of art in person during a visit to the Chester Beatty Library, and will be encouraged to make use of readings and other resources in the library and on Brightspace. The module will allow students to develop their critical thinking, research, writing, and editing skills, to be assessed through a midterm essay, an object narrative (recorded video or audio presentation), and a final slide test. 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Additional Information:
Art History majors should not take any Stage 2 or 3 Art History modules until they have completed their Stage 1 Art History requirements.

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade

Not yet recorded.

Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring Yes - 2 Hour
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Essays will be returned to students within two weeks of the due date, with substantial comments. Students will have the opportunity to meet individually with the lecturer to discuss essay feedback. General review guidelines will be conveyed by the lecturer two weeks in advance of the final exam. The final project will be returned with substantial comments as well.