Alison Syme photo

Alison Syme

Associate Chair & Associate Professor European and American 19th- and 20th-century Art
Office Location:
CCT 4028

Undergraduate Appointment: Department of Visual Studies (UTM)
Graduate Appointment: Department of Art (St. George)
Cross-Appointments and Affiliations: Centre for the Study of the United States


PhD in Art History from Harvard University, 2005
MA in Art History from Harvard University, 1999
Hon BA in Literary Studies and Art History from the University of Toronto, 1996


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 neomedievalism of the Pre-Raphaelites to society portraiture to early abstraction. All of my research, however, is characterised by a commitment to close looking, examination of the intersection of art and visual culture, interdisciplinary enquiry, and analysis of the role of metaphors in artistic practice and poetics. My first book, A Touch of Blossom: John Singer Sargent and the Queer Flora of Fin-de-Siècle Art (Penn State University Press, 2010), shortlisted for the Modernist Studies Association Book Prize in 2011, considers Sargent in the context of nineteenth-century botany, gynaecology, literature, and visual culture and argues that the artist mobilised ideas of cross-fertilisation and the hermaphroditic sexuality of flowers in his works to “naturalise” sexual inversion, visually elaborating a floral poetics of sexual variety. I am currently working on my third book, Burne-Jones and the Book, which explores the Victorian artist’s poetics of materials and animation strategies in the context of Victorian science and print culture.

Courses Taught


FAH287  European Art of the Nineteenth Century
FAH288  European and North American Art of the Earlier Twentieth Century

FAH360  Art and Visual Culture of the Eighteenth Century

FAH388  Theory in Art History

FAH457  Exile and Modern Art
FAH460  Art and Animation


FAH1001 Methods
FAH1477 Psychoanalysis and the Visual
FAH1486 Bloomsbury and Vorticism
FAH1478 Art and Animation



Willow (Reaktion, 2014)
A Touch of Blossom: The Queer Flora of Fin-de-Siècle Art ((Penn State UP, 2010)


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

“‘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)

“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.