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
  • Art and Nature in Northern Europe, 1500 - 1700  
  • Religion and Society in Renaissance Italy
  • Mapping Worlds: Medieval to Modern 
  • The World of the Book in the European Renaissance
  • Time and Narrative in Renaissance Painting 
  • 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

Art and Nature in Northern Europe, 1500–1700 - Dr Thomas Balfe

This course examines the connections between the visual image and understandings of nature in early modernity. It concentrates on northern Europe (primarily the Netherlands, Britain, Germany and France) and its colonies in Asia and North and South America, exploring a series of case studies that focus on depictions of land, plants, animals and insects, and on the entanglement of these phenomena with human beings. The visual materials will include works in artistic genres such as landscape and still life painting, but also artefacts such as maps, travel books, automata, and anatomical and ethnographic depictions that challenge the modern distinction between artistic and scientific images. Rather than situating these materials within frameworks of art and collecting narrowly defined, the course asks how they were also connected to changes in social life, to widening patterns of trade and exploration, and to developments in dietetics, medicine, philosophy and other forms of knowledge.

The course begins by considering period understandings of nature, and their relationship to categories such as the human, the creatural, the supernatural and the preternatural. We will also think about how ecocritical and ecological approaches might deepen a historical investigation of our materials. The main run of classes will explore the interwoven empirical, political and symbolic meanings conveyed by early modern images of nature. Possible topics include: Dürer’s watercolour nature studies; Bruegel’s depictions of the months and seasons; early modern microscopy; visual cultures of human and animal anatomy; sottobosco painting; the early modern ménagerie; hunting scenes and gamepiece still life; Altdorfer’s depictions of the German forest; and European artists’ responses to the environments of the Atlantic world, Asia and the Arctic.

Time and Narrative in Renaissance Painting - Dr Caspar Pearson

This module focuses on storytelling in Renaissance painting, focusing on the interrelated ideas of narrative and time. The module begins by exploring the revolution in narrative brought about by Tuscan painters at the start of the fourteenth century. Examining some key works by Duccio and Giotto, it considers how these artists brought highly sophisticated techniques of storytelling to bear on the depiction of religious histories. It next considers a number of case studies and themes relating to different times and places. These include: fifteenth-century theories of narrative painting and perspective; the varied poetics of Italian mythological paintings and Persian book illuminations; exchanges between print culture and monumental art in the sixteenth century; the transformation of the Renaissance tradition of history painting by Baroque artists such as Caravaggio and Artemisia Gentileschi; and the meeting of European and non-European forms of narration in Aztec and Mixtec screenfolds, lienzos, and codices in Mexico. In so doing, the module considers how narrative art, as well as seeking to captivate the souls of its viewers with well-wrought stories, often touched upon pressing contemporary issues relating to religion, colonialism, social order, gender relations, and more.

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.

Mapping Worlds: Medieval to Modern - Dr Alessandro Scafi

The aim of this course is to explore how maps have served to order and represent physical, social and imaginative worlds from around 1200 to 1700. The focus is on the iconographic character of maps and the complex relation between art and science that is found in mapmaking throughout history. Students will be introduced to a wide range of images from different time periods and made for a variety of purposes, with the intent of drawing together art history, literature, philosophy and visual culture. Theoretical issues will be approached concerning, for example, the association of word and image, the definition of maps and their difference from views and diagrams, but the background and purpose of individual examples will be also discussed. These include medieval world maps produced as independent artefacts or drawn as book illustrations, mural map cycles of the Italian Renaissance, early modern prints made to identify and describe lands mentioned in the Bible or the archaeological mapping of cities.  The course will investigate the creative and projective power of maps and their value as historical testimonies. Mnemonic, thematic, allegorical and pilgrimage maps will be also approached.

The world of the book in the European Renaissance – Professor Bill Sherman, Dr Matt Coneys and Dr Giles Mandelbrote

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.

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 understand (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.