Job vacancy: PhD Reading the Female Body in the Early Modern Low Countries (1500-1800) – University of Groningen

The University of Groningen is looking for applications for a fully-funded four-year PhD position in Dutch cultural history at the University of Groningen, focusing on the representation, imagination and scholarly study of the female body in the early modern Low Countries (1500-1800).

In the early modern Low Countries, the human body became a subject of debate in various new religious, intellectual and cultural contexts. Bodies were displayed, studied, dissected, damaged and imagined in many domains, ranging from (anatomical) theaters and art studios to universities, courtrooms and scaffolds. In each domain and discourse, the human body functioned not just as a materiality of blood and bones, but also as a cultural symbol remediated in images, narratives and other representations. These early modern debates about bodies often intersected with discourses about femininity and masculinity. Several complex and contradictory historical developments in art, literature, medicine and philosophy changed the ways female bodies in particular were perceived in the early modern Low Countries.

This project aims to work towards a better understanding of the interplay between the discourses and cultural industries that produced imaginations and knowledge about female bodies in the Low Countries between roughly 1500 and 1800. It reconstructs the interconnection between various discourses about female and male anatomy and sexuality and contextualizes those discourses in the specific historical and cultural circumstances of the Low Countries. The project’s main research questions are: How were female bodies viewed, defined and represented in academic, literary, artistic, medical, legal and/ or philosophical early modern Dutch (and/ or Neo-Latin) discourses? How were views and representations of sex and gender changed and shaped by the specific historical conditions and developments in the Low Countries between 1500-1800?

In the PhD project, jointly supervised by dr. Karen Hollewand (Cultural Heritage, Identity, and Early Modern History) and dr. Lucas van der Deijl (Historical Dutch Literature) and with prof. Bart Ramakers (Historical Dutch Literature) or prof. Rina Knoeff (Early Modern Medical History) as promotor, the selected candidate will identify their own interdisciplinary focus and interest within the broad framework set out above. Candidates are asked to formulate and explain their focus in a research proposal, in which they describe the research idea, possible primary sources, and academic disciplines relevant to the project. Please note that an interdisciplinary focus is fundamental to this project, which means that candidates are encouraged to find connections between different disciplines and types of sources. A more extensive outline of the project, including a list of potential sources and methods, can be requested from the project PI’s (see the contact info below).


To be competitive for the position, prospective candidates must have:

  • A Research Master’s or Master’s degree in History, Dutch literature, Gender Studies, Classics, Philosophy or any other relevant discipline in the Humanities, with an above average final grade. Please note that candidates who are about to graduate are also welcome to apply. In that case they need to have finished their (R)MA programme before the interviews.
  • A special interest in and knowledge of early modern history (demonstrated by a BA or MA thesis, publications or previous research experience)
  • Excellent command of academic writing and speaking skills in both Dutch and English
  • The ability to develop your own research interests and academic profile, in collaboration with your supervisors

The following would be assets for prospective candidates:

  • Experience with archival research
  • Reading knowledge of (Neo-)Latin and/ or French
  • Experience with digital sources and computational methods

The appointment will preferably commence February 1st 2025, or March 1st at the latest. We allow 3 months from selection in case of VISA applications.

For all information on the project and to find out how to apply, please visit this page.

Deadline for applications: 1 October 2024.

For information you can contact: