Dr Sean Ketteringham

My research interests are centred on the intersection of domestic space, national identity, and imperial decline in England in the first half of the twentieth century. My doctoral thesis, completed as part of an AHRC Collaborative Doctoral Award, explored this cultural history with particular emphasis on literary contributions to architectural and domestic discourses. It explored how, amid the heady atmosphere of interwar English nationalism, several seemingly distinct narratives became entangled: popular responses to avant-garde art, the emergence of architectural modernity, and a growing recognition that the British imperial project was failing after 1914. I argued for the underappreciated  importance of domestic space as an interdisciplinary focal point through which we can understand these shifts. Canonical writers such as John Betjeman, T.S. Eliot, Wyndham Lewis, and Virginia Woolf played an essential part of the narrative, but they are challenged and complemented by a range of lesser-known writers, designers, theorists, and propagandists of modern architecture: Elizabeth Denby, Arthur Trystan Edwards, Douglas Goldring, Hubert de Cronin Hastings, J.M. Richards, and Sadie Speight. My article on Frederick Etchells's contribution to this theme as an artist, writer, architect, and translator of Le Corbusier was recently published in Modernist Cultures (2022). While at Oxford I was a visiting scholar at the Harry Ransom Centre in Austin, Texas under the AHRC's International Placement Scheme. I also received the Faculty of English's Maxwell and Meyerstein's Conference Grant (2020), and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation & Oxford VC Diversity Fund, Humanities and Identities Conference Fund (2019).

My current postdoctoral work (funded by the John Fell and OUP Research Fund) is a one-year scoping project focussed on the twentieth-century art collections at several National Trust houses, and has been conceived as an extension of my doctoral research. Titled ‘Representation, Resistance, Exchange’, and structured around a programme of new archival access and public engagement, it aims to provide innovative and unifying curatorial strategies for the outstanding but scattered modern collections at 2 Willow Road, Monk’s House, Smallhythe, Dudmaston Hall, Mottisfont Abbey, Shaw’s Corner, Plas Newydd, Croft Castle, The Argory, Chartwell, and Bateman’s. Several of these sites have strong literary histories which underpin the significance of their art collections, while others paint a more political picture of the changes taking place in English society and heritage throughout the twentieth century, to which both the Trust and modern art were central.



Architectures of Identity: Domestic Modernism and Imperial Decline in England, 1914-1948, book proposal currently under consideration by Oxford University Press.

(ed.) From Omega to Charleston: The Art of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, 1910-1934, London: Piano Nobile Publications with The Charleston Trust, 2018.

Bomberg/Marr: Spirits in the Mass, intro. Richard Cork, London: Piano Nobile Publications, 2017.

‘Lesser Treasures: The social utility of twentieth-century art collections held by the National Trust’, submission to Art History due early 2023.

‘Before a New Architecture: Frederick Etchells, the emergence of architectural modernity in Britain, from W.R. Lethaby to Le Corbusier’, Modernist Cultures, 17.1 (2022), 74-108.

‘1941: Mutable Meaning in Duncan Grant’s Girl at the Piano’, ‘1961: Socialist Landscapes and “Yesterday’s Bigots”’ , and ‘1997: The Young Burlington Acolytes’ in The Royal Academy of Art’s Summer Exhibition: A Chronicle, 1796-2018, edited by Mark Hallett, Sarah Victoria Turner and Jessica Feather, London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2018.

 ‘Review: Christos Hadjiyiannis, Conservative Modernists: Literature and Tory Politics in Britain, 1900–1920’, Notes and Queries, 67:2, June 2020, 289–290.

Although my current post is research-focussed, while at Oxford I have taught on Prelims Paper 3 (Literature in English 1830-1910) and Paper 4 (Literature in English 1910-present day) at St. Peter's College, delivered a full term syllabus on 'Class and and the Twentieth-Century Novel in England' for visiting students. For the English Faculty I have lectured and led seminars on the FHS Paper 6 Special Option 'The Avant-Grade' with Rebecca Beasley and Adam Guy, and for the History of Art Faculty I have lectured on Queer Theory on the second-year Approaches to Art History module. I would be happy to supervise dissertations on any field related to these interests.

Beyond my research at Oxford, I have worked extensively in heritage, freelance consultancy, and on research residencies including at Twentieth Century Society (London), Henry Moore Institute (Leeds), Flat Time House (Peckham), Grizedale Arts (Cumbria), Charles Moore Foundation (Austin, Texas), and Archio (London).