Lydia Smith (KCL) - 2022-23 Students

Spectacle and Performance in the designed landscapes of eighteenth-century Britain

My doctoral project considers the myriad of ways that the higher echelons of eighteenth-century society used their landscapes as impressive spaces in which to entertain and amuse themselves.

This research project will explore the nature of spectacle and performance in British country house landscapes during the eighteenth century. This will involve evaluating how a greater attention to the concept of spectacle in designed landscapes between 1740 and 1820 can contribute to understanding country estates as spaces and stages of elite, and national, culture.

I will foreground the designed landscapes of country estates and urban centres in tandem to consider spectacular displays in the form of light shows and numachiae, or mock naval battles, to reintegrate country house culture with commercial and metropolitan forms of entertainment. This will foreground investigation into the extent to which artistic and maritime spectacle permeates both popular and elite culture in the eighteenth century.

My research will sit within intersections between social, cultural and art history, maritime historical studies and literary studies demonstrating the value of pursuing an interdisciplinary study across research fields concerned with spectacle and performance. The project will consider these spaces as avenues through which to offer new histories of culture and artistic development. Furthermore, its resource base will include a range of houses and landscapes across the British Isles, allowing for careful consideration of the political and cultural influences that the performance of spectacle encouraged across geographical boundaries.

Primary supervisor: Prof. Arthur Burns (KCL)
Secondary supervisor: Dr Emrys Jones (KCL)

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