Objectives and missions


In its quest to carry out the University’s research mission, the Institute for the Study of Civilisations, Arts and Letters implements UCL’s general policies in each of its own specific fields, develops a consistent research policy and contributes to the University’s internationalisation policy.

In the fields relating to history, researchers study past civilisations and societies, focusing on the cultural, legal, social, economic, religious, and political and institutional aspects, in particular. This research is based on consulting different sources and examining various issues anew in the light of questions arising from other disciplines.

Work in the fields of archaeology includes analysing material cultures from the prehistoric period to the modern era, analysing spaces and structures, and providing an explanation of human behaviours in their material living environment. Of particular importance is the interdisciplinary approach pursued in close collaboration with the Science and Technology Sector’s laboratories (archaeometry, anthropology, landscape geography, geo-archaeology, soil studies, palynology, macro-fossil remains and faunal studies).

Heritage studies involve looking at the values identified in our modern society, in terms of protecting, restoring and enhancing mankind’s cultural heritage (both archaeological and artistic, movable and immovable). The scientific approaches adopted in this field extend to what are known as heritage trades.

In art history, the objective is to study material production in a broad sense, visual culture and aesthetics, all within their historical context. Particular attention is devoted to representations, interpreted as being equivalent to an anthropology of images and a new methodology of iconology. Here, cultural analysis is akin to art criticism based on the relationship between image, meaning and ideology.

Musicology gives priority to musical theory, analysis and aesthetics, without overlooking the sociological or historical approach. Care is taken to ensure that a musical performance or a discussion about music is placed in its original cultural context, as a demonstration (or otherwise) of a specific period’s very particular thought processes.

In the various fields of philology (classical, Oriental, Romance, Germanic), emphasis is placed on the written culture and on the complementary nature of philological and literature studies. The philological approach assumes special attention for the materiality of texts, particularly through the study of manuscripts, critical editions, translations and electronic processing of texts. It also includes synchronic and diachronic study of the grammar and vocabulary of the languages in question, with particular focus on the civilisational context in which the texts studied were produced.

With regard to literature studies, the emphasis is on literary analysis and on the theories of creation and reading, including consideration of comparative issues, the societal impact of fiction and the relationship between literature and philosophy. The attention devoted to writing and to the creation of literary texts extends, in the case of the performing arts, to studying theatrical and other performances.