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Irini Picolou

PhD Student

PhD Student in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures


BA Modern Languages, MA Literatures, Languages and Cultures Durham University

I am a PhD candidate in the department of Modern Languages and Cultures in Hispanic Studies and Art History. I am also the Journal Officer within MEMSA and a first-year PhD postgraduate representative. 

I have published articles on genocide studies and colonial literature, however my main research interests are focused on the construction of gender within fifteenth-century Spanish art. During my master's degree, for which I received a distinction and an acknowledgement for publication of my thesis, I focused on the feminisation of identities in colonial literature as a strategy for implementing imperialist domination onto colonised subjects. I described how this feminisation coalesced with homogenised religious identities of indigenous communities and how two colonial writers employed feminisation to create diverging portrayals of indigenous subjects for their own imperialist motives within Spain's expansion of empire. 

My studies of gender throughout my master's degree have constituted an effective basis for my doctoral thesis entitled 'Gender and Corporeality in the Paintings of Bartolomé Bermejo', supervised by Professor Andy Beresford and Dr. Yarí Pérez Marín. In this research project, I explore how Bermejo's paintings, which constitute a sculptural quality to them, progressive for the fifteenth-century artistic market, can introduce novel ways of considering how gender is constructed anatomically and conceptually, through gendered power relations in three focused contexts: the convergence of the supernatural and the material, experiences of pain and the human condition of spiritual subjects. This traditional art-historical examination of materiality will be employed to extend and raise questions concerning contemporary understandings of gender and its relationship with the corporeal devised by theorists such as Judith Butler, Elizabeth Grosz and Julia Kristeva, whose works are influenced by 20th century thinkers such as Sigmund Freud, Jacques Lacan and Jacques Derrida. The question of authorship and ownership will come into play when discussing gendered power relations, in order to conceptualise the role of painting, Bermejo serving as the principal case study, in altering and challenging contemporary insights about the body. Bermejo's works will also be compared with that of Hieronymus Bosch and Jan van Eyck, among various depictions of the Saint Michael in the fifteenth century, to identify common tropes in painting and Bermejo's specificities in his communication with the present-day viewer. 

Research interests

  • Body and Identity
  • European Renaissance Art History
  • Gender Theory
  • Visual Culture