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PhD position Reading the Female Body in the Early Modern Low Countries (1500-1800) (V24.0346)

Job description

Applications are invited 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).

Since its foundation in 1614, the University of Groningen has established an international reputation as a dynamic and innovative university offering high-quality teaching and research. Its 34,000 students are encouraged to develop their own individual talents through challenging study- and career paths. The University of Groningen is an international centre of knowledge: It belongs to the best research universities in Europe and is allied with prestigious partner universities and networks worldwide.

The Faculty of Arts is a large, dynamic faculty in the heart of the city of Groningen. It has more than 5000 students and 700 staff members, who are working at the frontiers of knowledge every day. The Faculty offers a wide range of degree programmes: 15 Bachelor's programmes and over 35 Master's specialisations. Our research, which is internationally widely acclaimed, covers Archaeology, Cultural Studies, History, International Relations, Language and Literary Studies, Linguistics and Media and Journalism Studies.


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.


Conditions of employment

In accordance with the Collective Labour Agreement for Dutch Universities, we offer you:

  • A salary of € 2,770 gross per month in the first year, up to a maximum of € 3,539 gross per month in the final year, based on a full-time position.
  • A holiday allowance of 8% gross annual income.
  • An 8.3% end-of-the-year allowance.
  • A temporary 1.0 FTE appointment for a specified period of four years. The candidate will first be appointed for twelve months. After six months, an assessment will take place of the candidate’s results and the progress of the PhD project, in order to decide whether employment will be continued for another 36 months. The PhD candidate is expected to conduct a total of 0.4 FTE teaching spread over the second, third and fourth year of their appointment.
  • Excellent work-life balance.
  • Willingness to move to and reside in the Netherlands.

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.


Applications should be made in English and contain the following materials:

  • A short letter (ca. 500 words), explaining your motivation for applying.
  • A research proposal of max 1000 words, explaining the research you propose in relation to the wider framework of this project.
  • A Curriculum Vitae.
  • Copies of MA diploma (if completed already) and list of grades.
  • A writing sample in Dutch or English: you can submit your MA thesis or another academic text (article, book chapter) that you feel best represents your work.
  • Contact details of two academic referees (no letters of recommendation are needed for the application process).

Please send in your application as two PDF files (one for the writing sample, and one for all other documents). You may apply for this position until 1 October 11:59pm / 2 October 2024 Dutch local time (CEST) by means of the application form (click on "Apply" below on the advertisement on the university website).

Interviews with selected candidates will be held between 21 October and 1 November 2024.

The University of Groningen strives to be a university in which students and staff are respected and feel at home, regardless of differences in background, experiences, perspectives, and identities. We believe that working on our core values of inclusion and equality are a joint responsibility and we are constructively working on creating a socially safe environment. Diversity among students and staff members enriches academic debate and contributes to the quality of our teaching and research. We therefore invite applicants from underrepresented groups in particular to apply. For more information, see also our diversity policy webpage:

Our selection procedure follows the guidelines of the Recruitment code (NVP): and European Commission's European Code of Conduct for recruitment of researchers:

We provide career services for partners of new faculty members moving to Groningen.

Unsolicited marketing is not appreciated.


For information you can contact:

  • Dr Karen Hollewand (for information about the project), k.e.hollewand
  • Dr Lucas van der Deijl (for information about the project), l.a.van.der.deijl
  • Rachael Fletcher, GSH coordinator (for questions regarding the submission procedure), r.l.fletcher

Please do not use the e-mail address(es) above for applications.