If you are a student at one of the University of London's 17 member institutions, then you can choose to apply to take one of your option modules at the Warburg Institute.

Option modules available - subject to confirmation
  • Cosmological Images: Representing the Universe  
  • Religion and Society in Italy
  • Renaissance Political Thought from Erasmus to Campanella 
  • The World of the Book in the European Renaissance
  • Classical Disorders: Architecture, Painting and the Afterlives of the Renaissance 
  • The Classical Renaissance: Greco-Roman Rediscovery, Reception and Resurrection 
  • Islamic Authorities

Module information can be found at the bottom of this page.

Entry details and requirements

You must be a student at a University of London institution.

The cost is £866.00 per module. This is the pro-rata fee from the MA programme based on the credits being taken and your University needs to agree to pay this.

Each option module at the Warburg Institute is 20 Credits.

We will not hold any places on these modules prior to the Intercollegiate Registration form being completed and signed by your University.

All option modules run in term 2, from 08 January 2024, and are assessed by a 4,000 word essay.


To apply please complete and return the form below by the deadline: Wednesday 1st November, 12pm (GMT).


    Intercollegiate Module registration form

    Intercollegiate module registration form DOCX 50.4 KB

    Classical Disorders: Architecture, Painting and the Afterlives of the Renaissance – Dr Caspar Pearson

    This module examines Italian Renaissance architecture and urbanism, focusing particularly on ideas about the built environment and the city. Approaching themes such as conflict, beauty, giganticism, exile, and power, the module considers how Renaissance architects, artists and writers responded to the complex problems posed by the urban societies in which they lived. It begins by considering the writing and architecture of Leon Battista Alberti, a theorist and practitioner who conducted a lifelong investigation into society, art, and architecture, which he developed across technical treatises, dialogues, works of fiction, and an array of largely incomplete buildings in Rimini, Florence, and Mantua. It then examines the works of other thinkers and practitioners of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, touching on written works such as Filarete’s Libro architettonico, the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, and Palladio’s Quattro libri, as well as a range of buildings including the Villa Farnesina, the Palazzo Te and the Laurentian Library. Alongside this, the module from time to time examines historiography, taking in nineteenth- and twentieth-century debates about, and responses to, Renaissance architecture. Throughout, we will consider how buildings, texts and works of art might be related to debates regarding pictorial and tectonic qualities, order and disorder, measure and measureless, and history and oblivion.  

    Cosmological Images: Representing the Universe – Professor John Tresch

    This course will study cosmograms: concrete objects which represent the universe as a whole. It will explore connections between art and science, including the intellectual function of images and the aesthetics of representing the cosmos and knowledge about it, in science, religion, and folk traditions. Students will be provided methods for studying such objects in action, as part of ritual practices, projects of knowledge, and political programs.

    One aim of the course will be to trace the changing form and content of cosmograms from the medieval through modern period, especially with regard to scientific images. The course will trace the gradual emergence of a cosmology said to be mechanical, materialist, and objective, and its  interactions and oppositions with other views of the cosmos. By exploring these conflicts and controversies through a focus on cosmograms, we will ground these longstanding issues of intellectual history in concrete contexts and the making of objects and images.

    Religion and Society in Renaissance Italy – Dr Alessandro Scafi

    The aim of this module is to identify and explain the significance of religious culture in late medieval, Renaissance and early modern Italy, providing a basic understanding of the interactions between politics, social life, cultural expression and religion. From the late Middle Ages to the early modern period politics and religion were inextricably bound together, the Church was involved in temporal matters and religious beliefs and practices were powerful motivating factors in contemporary policy making; religion was expressed both in rituals and in texts and works of art, and formed a significant dimension of Italian culture and scholarship. Students are encouraged to develop a sound knowledge and critical understanding of Italian cultural history through the discussion of specific themes: the relation between pagan philosophy and Christian faith, Church and Empire, Church and Papacy, faith and space, sex and sanctity, Islam and Christianity, Jews and Christians, Church Councils and spiritual renewal, secular and religious utopias. Religion and Society in Renaissance Italy aims to critically assess the development of religious thought and practice by looking at texts and works of art, reaching – beyond factual information – a critical and unbiased assessment of the past and its complexities.

    Renaissance Political Thought from Erasmus to Campanella – Dr Sara Miglietti

    This module will explore some key political texts from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, contextualizing them historically and situating them in a longstanding tradition of moral and political philosophy that stretches back to Classical Antiquity and the Middle Ages and that has a long and 
    complex afterlife in modern interpretation. We shall consider how Renaissance political thinkers operated within this tradition and yet deeply transformed it, partly in response to specific historical circumstances (e.g. movements of religious reform, the rise of nation-states and the development of national vernacular languages, the ‘discovery’ of America and the beginnings of the colonial race) and partly as a result of new theoretical choices (e.g. the rise of political ‘realism’). Our corpus will 
    include both major milestones (such as Machiavelli’s Principe, Erasmus’ Education of the Christian Prince and More’s Utopia) and less familiar sources – from political emblem books to polemical pamphlets from the French wars of religion. Similarly, we shall cover both classic problems of 
    political philosophy (such as the discussion on the best form of government) and more neglected, but nevertheless crucial, issues such as gender relations (e.g. the querelle des femmes, the debate on 
    queenship) and colonial relations (e.g. the debate on ‘just war’ and the establishment of experimental ‘utopias’ in colonial South America).

    The world of the book in the European Renaissance – Professor Bill Sherman, Dr Raphaële Mouren and Dr Elizabeth Savage

    The aim of the module is to provide an understanding of the culture of the book in Renaissance Europe—a time and place that saw the invention of printing, the growth of both private and public libraries, the development of bibliographical protocols, the advent of the humanist printer and new 
    techniques for active reading. It also saw the beginnings of colonialism and conquest, cultural revolutions, religious reformations, and profound social upheavals. What role did the book play in these changes—or did it? How can it help us to understand the changing world of the European Renaissance? Through seminars, collection visits, and practical training at a historically appropriate printing press, this module will offer an overview of the history and the historiography of the book, with a special focus on the material aspects of production, dissemination and use. It is jointly offered by the Warburg Institute and Institute of English Studies.

    Islamic Authorities – Professor Charles Burnett

    This course aims to accustom students to using a wide range of primary materials to assess how one culture can understanding (or misunderstand) another. The student should gain a wider knowledge of Islam, a basic understanding of the Arabic alphabet and the structure of the Arabic language, an acquaintance with the texts in philosophy, religion, medicine, mathematics and magic that were translated from Arabic into Latin, and a view on the reaction of Latin translators, theologians, philosophers, doctors and scientists to Arabic learning. The student will learn how a period in which 
    Latin culture assimilated much Arabic material into mainstream learning was followed by a period in which Latin readers started to appreciate Arabic culture in its own right, and to explore its poetry, music and architecture. Above all the course shows how one culture can enrich another and how 
    ideas and techniques can spread irrespective of religious and ethnic differences.

    Classical Renaissance: Greco-Roman Rediscovery, Reception and Resurrection - Dr Lucy Nicholas

    This module places the spotlight on a major and vital dimension of the Renaissance: the revival of the classical tradition. We will begin by considering the quest for and rediscovery of ancient texts, and their subsequent diffusion and assimilation into humanist curricula across Europe. Students will be encouraged to consider how classical literature, rather than superseding a largely scholastic and Christian framework, was integrated into it, and also the extent to which the Church Fathers and medieval writers had already laid some of the groundwork for a much more extensive phenomenon of absorption. Students will be invited to take into account developments such as standardization and canon formation, but also regional and chronological trends.

    The process of reception will be assessed from a number of different perspectives, but always in way that prioritizes full contextualization and the complexities of textual transmission. Areas of reception that will feature in the course include: the concept of imitatio (itself an ancient practice and idea), generic organization, literary modes (such as metre), the use of prose vs poetry, and preferences for Latin or Greek texts. The reception of certain classical authors whose influence was particularly profound will also be charted through case-studies, and these authors will include Cicero, Virgil, Ovid, and Plutarch. In parallel, students will be encouraged to explore the impact of ancient works that are in modern times less familiar but that were regularly consulted in the early modern period, such as the output of Late Antiquity. Another complicating factor will be the repackaging and mediation of classical literature in repositories which meant that early modern writers did not always need to return to the original source. A further key consideration in our discussions about reception will be Christian belief systems and also the Reformation, and a significant part of the course will be devoted to the question of the relationship between paganism and Christianity, and the degree of harmonization that was possible between the two. The course will further cover a range of areas in which reception occurred, from the world of art to the realms of diplomacy and nation-building.

    The importance of the languages of Latin and Greek will constitute a further focus. As the primary vehicles for classical learning, we will assess the extent to which Greco-Roman sources enjoyed a hegemony even as the production of vernacular literature burgeoned. At the same time, students will be asked to reflect on the ways in which the growing vernaculars were able to harness classicizing approaches in ways that might be yet more inventive. A major theme of the module will be issues of bilingualism and multilingualism, and students will be introduced to macaronic texts and also tracts which expressly confront linguistic choice.