AH20280 Queer Art Histories

Academic Year 2023/2024

What is queer art and who makes it? Has there always been queerness in art? In this module, we will look at art-historical practices from a variety of historical, geographical, and social contexts, to explore how queerness, same-sex desire, or “homosexuality” have been represented, and how these representations changed over time, at intersections with their sociopolitical contexts. While the module has a predominantly contemporary focus, we will begin with an examination of historical examples of same-sex desire in art before the 19th century. We will then look at the modern developments brought by the Enlightenment and scientific progress which first invented and categorised “homosexuality” as a medical category and deviance, prompting 19th century artists to develop an elaborate language of coded homoeroticism. Following this historical introduction to the module, the focus will shift to a thematic approach: we will cover a broad range of distinct practices and reflect on many different meanings of queerness, including: the US gay liberation history and the AIDS epidemic; thriving spaces of queer cultures such as waterfront and nightclubs; Irish, Polish, and Jewish queer artistic practices; and gender binary-defying practices of two-spirit Indigenous Americans and Indian Hijras. We will also look at queer exhibitions and exhibiting queerness in various international contexts, and explore instances of explicit or implicit censorship of same-sex desire in art institutions. The module will feature a visit to an exhibition (TBC) and guest speakers (TBC).
The objective of the module is to unearth and discover histories and contexts which often remain hidden and silenced, and to develop a good understanding of how queerness and “homosexuality” have been shaped and reshaped by various historical and social factors. The module’s focus is also on decolonising knowledge of queer histories which often are only ascribed to Western Europe and the US or the global North. An important aspect of this module is to decentralise this Western knowledge production and introduce a broad variety of selected queer artistic practices.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

At the end of this module, students should be able to demonstrate the following:
• a working knowledge of queer visual cultures from the 18th century until the present
• a familiarity with and understanding of a range of set texts and critical and theoretical sources relevant to the course
• an ability to identify historic and contemporary trends in queer artistic production
• an understanding of the treatment of queerness as a social and political category
• an ability to form a critical argument in relation to queer artistic production
• a knowledge of historical and contemporary verbiage and terminology in reference to queer issues and identities
• an ability to approach the discipline of art history from a critical queer perspective

Indicative Module Content:

Intro: What is queer art?
Art and same-sex desire before the 19th century
The Modernist Queer (late 19th and early 20th century)
Queer Abstraction
Lesbian Art
Visual Cultures of HIV/AIDS Activism
Queer Cultures of the Waterfront
Queer Art and Censorship
Queer Black Art
Queer Art from Poland
Queer Art from Ireland
Trans and Genderqueer Art
Porn, Fetish, and BDSM Aesthetic

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours


Seminar (or Webinar)


Specified Learning Activities


Autonomous Student Learning




Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
This course includes two contact hours a week (two lectures) with several small group sessions throughout the term. In addition to traditional lecture format combined with student participation where possible, the course will include film and video screenings, a visit to an exhibition, and guest speakers.

For each lecture, there will be compulsory readings (available as PDFs on Brightspace). Students are required to familiarise themselves with these texts in advance of the lectures.

Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: Essay/Podcast/Research Project Outline (1000 words)
Week 6 n/a Graded No


Project: Final Essay/Podcast/Research Project Week 12 n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Spring No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Feedback will be delivered individually on the mid-term essay/podcast/project outline, and on the final assessment.

Name Role
Ms Carla Briggs Tutor