The William Morris Gallery is collaborating with Sheffield Hallam University to offer a funded PhD studentship examining ‘the content, value and significance of William Morris’s legacy’.
According to the pitch,
William Morris’s legacy is all around us, embedded in the ubiquitous presence of his surface pattern work; reoccurring interest in independent, radical publishing; and bons mots about the relationship between art and life, amongst many other contributions. However Morris continues to have a paradoxical relationship to national heritage discourse. While his work is often the source of multiple commercial exercises, he was a romantic and a radical. To explore the contemporary value of his work, we offer the opportunity to engage with the collection of the William Morris Gallery London. The collection covers many disciplines and encompasses the arts and humanities….
And so on. Of course, Morris’s career and writings encompass an extraordinary range of subjects and activities – though surely his oft-quoted slogans were and are more than bons mots? And the issue of his co-option by the ‘national heritage discourse’ is eminently worth examining. The implied conflict between the commercial exploitation of his designs and Morris’s (here unspecified) romantic and radical politics is potentially of great interest, in regard to the way the business success of Morris & Co facilitated the Socialist League and Commonweal as signal contributions to political action in Britain. These ‘contradictions’ have been continually discussed ever since Morris’s lifetime, though it often feels as if the analysis remains stuck in the 1880s, with debates about what WM ought to have said/done/not done..
The SHU studentship is actually aimed at candidates with ‘a growing, active presence in visual art or design’ rather than any other relevant academic discipline, and the supervising staff are heavily into multi-media curatorial practice and computerised design history. Full details of the studentship are found about half-way down this document...