Nineteenth-Century British Encounters with the Art Object
Sezen Unluonen is a PhD candidate in the English department at Harvard University. Her research lies at the intersection of nineteenth-century theories of art, novelistic practice, and historiography. She is also the author of the Turkish novel, Kiymetli Seylerin Tanzimi (The Arrangement of Worthy Things).
Sezen’s dissertation investigates the ways in which nineteenth-century British texts depict art objects, in order to analyze how the Victorians understood the artwork’s relation to history. Even though novels constitute the primary axis for this project, her research locates these novels in their wider cultural context with the help of a variety of sources from art history textbooks to travel guides, to archeological excavation memoirs, and parliamentary debates regarding museum acquisitions. Through this project, Sezen seeks to show how certain notions about the artwork’s relation to its own moment and context (as well as to history writ large) that originated in the nineteenth century are still relevant to our own moment, whether one thinks of the still-contested Elgin Marbles or of the Louvre’s recent decision to return some of its sculptures to West Africa.