Alison Syme

Associate Professor of Modern Art History
Affiliated faculty, CSUS




Department of Visual Studies, UTM, 3359 Mississauga Road



My research primarily focuses on art of the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Britain, France, and the United States. Within this field, I study a range of different topics and traditions, from the neo-medievalism to society portraiture to early abstraction. All of my research, however, is characterized by a commitment to close looking, examination of the intersection of fine art and visual culture, interdisciplinary inquiry, and analysis of the role of metaphors in artistic practice and poetics.

A Touch of Blossom: John Singer Sargent and the Queer Flora of Fin-de-Siècle Art considers Sargent in the context of botany, gynecology, literature, and visual culture, and argues that the artist mobilized ideas of cross-fertilization and the hermaphroditic sexuality of flowers in his work to “naturalize” sexual inversion.

research interests

European and American 19th- & 20th-century art and visual culture
Queer theory
Fin-de-siècle studies
History of science


Ph.D. Harvard University, (2005)

A.M.  Harvard University, (1999)

B.A. University of Toronto (1996)

awards and distinctions

A Touch of Blossom shortlisted for the 2011 Modernist Studies Association Book Prize
UTM Teaching Excellence Award, 2009
Wyeth Fellowship 2002–2004, Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, National  Gallery, Washington DC
GSAS Prize Fellowship 1998–1999, Harvard University
Bernice B. Cronkhite Fellowship 1997-1998, Radcliffe College

selected publications

“Morisot’s Urbane Ecologies,” in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Impressionism, ed. Andre Dombrowski (Chicester: Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming 2021)

“‘All that is solid melts into air’: Burne-Jones, Glaciation, and the Matter of History,” in Victorian Science and ImageryThe Evolution of Form in Nineteenth-Century Visual Culture, ed. Nancy Marshall (Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Press, forthcoming 2021)

“The Media of Sight: Burne-Jones and the Graiae,” Victorian Studies 62.2 (Winter 2020): 253–267.

“Pressed Flowers: Burne-Jones, the Romaunt of the Rose, and the Kelmscott Chaucer,” Journal of Pre-Raphaelite Studies 29 (Fall 2019): 42–69.

“Bohemians of the Vegetable World,” in Queer Difficulty in Art and Poetry: Re-Thinking the Sexed Body in Verse and Visual Culture, ed. Jongwoo Kim and Christopher Reed, 10–23 (New York: Routledge, 2017)

“Screens of Vegetation; or, The Cyber Gardens of Philomène Longpré,” in Philomène Longpré: Transcendare. Ouvres-Systèmes Sensibles/Responsive Art Systems, ed. Christine Redfern (Montreal: Ellephant, 2016), 39–59.

“Über Geschichten von pflanzlichen Vampiren – oder moderne Verbrauchernachrichten” (“Tales of Vegetable Vampires; or, Modern Consumer Reports”), trans. Daniel Schreiber, in Floriographie: Die Sprachen der Blumen, ed. Isabel Kranz, Alexander Schwann, and Eike Wittrock (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2016), 315–335.

Willow (London: Reaktion, 2014)

A Touch of Blossom: John Singer Sargent and the Queer Flora of Fin-de-Siècle Art (University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2010)

“Love Among the Ruins: David Cannon Dashiell’s Queer Mysteries,” Art Journal 63:4 (Winter 2004): 80–95.


The Pre-Raphaelites
Bloomsbury and Vorticism
Neoclassicism and Sexuality
Introduction to Art History
British Modernisms
Art and Animation
Art and Visual Culture of the Eighteenth Century
European Art of the Nineteenth Century
Psychoanalysis and the Visual
Exile and Expatriation in Modern Art
Art of the Earlier Twentieth Century



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