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Image of Isobel Elstob

Isobel Elstob

Assistant Professor in Art History, Faculty of Arts

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Biography

I completed my PhD in Art History at the University of Nottingham in 2014. Prior to joining the University's Department of Cultural, Media, and Visual Studies as an Assistant Professor in 2018, I held roles as Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Visual Culture and Associate Research Fellow at Birkbeck College, University of London, and Teaching Fellow in Art History and Theory at the Slade School of Fine Art, UCL. In addition to my academic appointments, I have worked with commercial galleries in London and directed contemporary art engagement events in the UK.

Expertise Summary

I specialise in modern and contemporary art history and theory in Britain and America. I am particularly interested in how the historical past has been visualized by artists working in the 1980s and beyond. My research applies analytic models and techniques derived from historiography, narratology, and literary theory, and has a strong focus on postmodern methods of mediation.

Areas of specialism:

Neo-Victorian studies, with a particular interest in the visual arts

Connections between literary and art theory

Historical and contemporary relationships between art and science

Visual approaches to storytelling and History

Modern and contemporary Black art histories

Teaching Summary

My teaching considers how visual artists respond to various socio-political context(s) in the modern and contemporary period. Several of my research interests inform my teaching approach, including… read more

Research Summary

My research explores how contemporary artists engage with marginalized, obscure, or traumatic historical narratives. Concerned with artists' formal approaches towards representing the past my work… read more

My teaching considers how visual artists respond to various socio-political context(s) in the modern and contemporary period. Several of my research interests inform my teaching approach, including the interrogation of established forms of narrative, creative appropriations of methods from other disciplines - such as anthropology, physics, and ethnography - histories of display, visual approaches to the construction (reconstruction, and deconstruction) of race, and histories of epistemology and science.

Courses and modules that I've taught include:

Science in Art: 1900 to the present (BA)

Black Art in a White Context: display, critique, and 'the Other' (BA)

Institutional Critique and the Critique of Institutions (BA)

Art and Science: from the Renaissance to the contemporary (BA)

The Power of Display (BA)

Visualising Conflict (MA)

Visualizing the Victorians (MA)

Criticism and Display (MA)

Image and Identity (MA)

Current Research

My research explores how contemporary artists engage with marginalized, obscure, or traumatic historical narratives. Concerned with artists' formal approaches towards representing the past my work applies literary and historiographic models, such as intertextuality, metafiction and narrativity, to the study of a broad range of visual media including installation, performance, painting, and photography.

This research originated in my PhD thesis, which produced three articles, and is currently being developed into the forthcoming monograph Visualizing the Victorians: The Nineteenth Century in Contemporary Art (Palgrave Macmillian), which considers the work of artists including Matt Collishaw, Nicolas Laborie, Polly Morgan, Ingrid Pollard, Mark Dion, and Dorothy Cross. The book examines diverse visual responses to global nineteenth-century narratives, including imperial expansion, scientific discovery, and female subjugation.

I am also interested in how histories of enslavement have been visualized by artists in the last two decades. For this strand of my research I have produced a volume chapter on the work of Glenn Ligon, Carrie Mae Weems, and Lorna Simpson in relation to narratology (Routledge), and am currently completing a study of how Kara Walker's collages from the early 2000's perform an historiography of American story-making.

I've presented my research at conferences through papers including,

'Mapping the Historical Past': time, place, and narrative in Ingrid Pollard's 'Oceans Apart', 1989' at the 'International Conference on (Neo)Victorian Studies', London Centre for Interdisciplinary Research', London

'Material Histories: Collage as medium in Kara Walker's picture series, 2001-2005' at Bluecoat 300: Slavery and Philanthropy, Bluecoat Liverpool

'Dorothy Cross's Medusae' at Recovering Nineteenth-Century Women in the Digital Age at Birkbeck, University of London

'Intertemporal Intertexts in African American Visual Arts, 1990-2000' at Traces and Memories of Slavery in the Atlantic World, Montpellier University

'Representations of a Sublime Nature: the ocean in the work of Dorothy Cross at British Waters and Beyond, Royal West of England Academy

'The Plain and Leafy Fact: the artistic process of Mark Fairnington' at Neo-Victorian Cultures, Liverpool John Moores University

'Amateur Natural History in Mark Dion's Taxonomies' at Art and Science: Knowledge, Creation and Discovery, Linnaean Society

School of Cultures, Languages and Area Studies

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