PhD Studentship: Northern Gothic reinventions in modern and/or contemporary art

Coventry University - Visual Arts Research

The PhD investigates the significance of Northern Gothic art and visual cultures as powerful stimuli for the emergence of alternative artistic and cultural modernities of late nineteenth and twentieth centuries – broadly conceived.

The ‘Gothic’ has permeated visual and cultural ideas and practices of modernity. Yet the presence of a ‘Gothic Modernity’ challenges fundamental perceptions of how ‘modernism’ from the late nineteenth-century onwards has been historicized, created, produced and seen. The opposition of a ‘Gothic’ pre-modern past to a modern present, of age/decline or infancy to rebirth/progress, has since Jacob Burckhardt’s The Civilisation of the Renaissance in Italy (1860), presented such dualities as pivotal to narratives of Western modern art, construed as opposing and sublimating the ‘pre-modern’. From these perspectives, the very idea of a ‘Gothic’ becomes reified as a temporal abstraction – a trope, relegated to the ‘middle’, the ‘pre-’, ‘the ‘dark’. This PhD studentship explores challenges to such polarities, focusing on interest in a Northern Gothic spirit and sensibility that is insufficiently studied, historicized or understood, extending to contemporary art contexts.

Applicants, therefore, are invited to consider ways in which ‘pre-modernity’ and Gothic visual cultures may be re-situated as disruptive identities within late 19th and 20th century visual and cultural modernisms. Critically implicated in their ideologies and remaking of cultures, communities, sites and identities of art, this PhD will explore modern re-imaginings of Gothic art as challenging period constructs of Naturalism, Symbolism and Modernism. Further, it will seek to engage and develop new knowledge of underpinning arguments of history, religion, language, belief, inheritance and geo-political tussles, eclipsed or elided in canonical accounts of this period’s art.

We invite applications that consider an aspect of this area. Suggested themes may be, but are not limited to:

  • Gothic reinventions as transnational or ‘rooted’ tools of identity-construction/community/making memory in modern and or contemporary art;
  • Gothic modern geographies – reframing and exhibiting ideas and meanings of ‘national’ cultures;
  • The Gothic in Nordic visual modernisms;
  • Gothic alterities – Northern Gothic as a disruptive subversion of cultural and social ‘modernity’, foregrounding the unseen, the uncanny, ‘primitivity’, violence and alternative sexualities;
  • Under-researched artists’ engagement with and responses to Northern Gothic visual cultures in art of the modern/and or contemporary period;
  • Reimagining Gothic art historiographies in nineteenth-/ twentieth-century artistic modernities – Aby Warburg, transnationalism and Gothic art;
  • Northern Gothic art, image-making, nostalgia, rituals of memory, practice and identity in modern visual cultures, broadly conceived.

This funded PhD is located within the cross-school research strand, ‘Art, Transnationalism and Cultural Memory’, part of the emerging research Centre for Visual Arts Research (VAR), led by Professor Juliet Simpson, within the Faculty of Arts & Humanities, Coventry University.

The research student will be part of a vibrant research community within Visual Arts Research in the Faculty of Arts & Humanities at Coventry University. You will contribute to our thriving international research activities and our reputation for excellence. With our excellent research environment, providing outstanding mobility opportunities, including with our major UK and international partners in Helsinki, Amsterdam and Venice, as well as our excellent facilities and support mechanisms you are afforded every opportunity for academic success.  The successful applicant will benefit from association with key Northern European collections and resources at Compton Verney Museum, Warwickshire: our UK historic museum partner.

Award Details: Bursary + tuition fees (UK/EU only)

Informal enquiries: Prof. Juliet Simpson -

Start date: 31 August 2017

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Midlands of England