Enchanted Modernities

Theosophy, Modernism and the arts, c. 1865-1960

Enchanted Modernities

The Team

Grant Leader: Liz Prettejohn (University of York)

Liz Prettejohn

Professor Liz Prettejohn is the Head of the Department of History of Art at the University of York. As Grant Leader, she oversees the Enchanted Modernities Project. She is a specialist in Victorian art and Aestheticism. Prettejohn has an active interest areas relating to the Network's research including spiritualism, mysticism, the occult and international arts.

Read more about Liz Prettejohn

 " Prettejohn's article "Waterhouse's Imagination", in J. W. Waterhouse: the Modern Pre-Raphaelite, exh. cat. (Groninger Museum/ Royal Academy of Arts/ Montreal Museum of Arts, 2009) explores elements of mysticism and the occult in the Victorian artist John William Waterhouse's paintings.


Partner: Sarah Victoria Turner (Paul Mellon Centre, London)

Sarah Turner

Dr Sarah Turner (formerly of the Department of History of Art, University of York) is Assistant Director for Research at the Paul Mellon Centre, London. She specialises in nineteenth- and twentieth-century art in Britain and the British Empire, with a particular focus on the reception and display of South Asian art in Britain. She joined the History of Art Department in 2008, after completing her PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. She also holds a MA in Sculpture Studies from the University of Leeds and Henry Moore Institute. Sarah is currently completing a book entitled Indian Impressions: Encounters with South Asia in British Art, c. 1900-1940.

 " My interest in Theosophy began while researching artists' networks in early-twentieth century Britain. I have worked extensively on the Theosophical Art Circle and their journal, Orpheus. This triggered a broader interest in the pervasive impact of mysticism and spiritualism on artists in the nineteenth and twentieth century.


Partner: Rachel Cowgill (University of Huddersfield)

Rachel Cowgill

Rachel Cowgill is Professor and Head of Music and Drama at the University of Huddersfield. She completed her doctorate at King's College, London, on the reception of Mozart's music in late Georgian London, and has published widely on British music and musical cultures, c.1760-1940; Mozart studies; Italian opera; gender, sexuality and identity in music; and music, conflict and memorialisation. With Hilary Poriss, she co-edited the collection The Arts of the Prima Donna in the Long Nineteenth Century (Oxford University Press, 2012), which included her own essay on performance, femininity and spectatorship at the Italian opera in early nineteenth-century London, and she is currently co-editing a volume entitled Music and the Idea of the North for Ashgate, with Derek B. Scott and Dave Russell. Rachel was Editor of the Journal of the Royal Musical Associtation from 2007 to 2012, and with Peter Holman is founding co-editor of the book series Music in Britain, 1600-1900 for Boydell & Brewer. She is a Vice-President of the Royal Musical Association and was elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts in 2012.

Read more about Rachel Cowgill

 " My interest in the influence of Theosophy on musical composition and reception has arisen from my work on British compositional responses to the First World War, specifically my work on John Foulds and Maud MacCarthy which began with a recent article for First World War Studies.


Partner: Marco Pasi (University of Amsterdam)

Marco pasi

Marco Pasi is Associate Professor in the History of Hermetic philosophy and related currents at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). He has written extensively on the history of modern Western esotericism, especially in relation to magic, art, and politics. He is the author of Aleister Crowley e la tentazione della politica (1999), translated into several languages, has edited Peintures inconnues d’Aleister Crowley: La collection de Palerme (2008), and co-edited Kabbalah and Modernity: Interpretations, Transformations, Adaptations (2010). He is the editor in chief of the Aries Book Series, published by Brill.

Read more about Marco Pasi

 " The research purposes of this project combine perfectly with my own scholarly interests. I have been doing historical research on the Theosophical movement for a number of years, being particularly interested in the way in which the movement interacted with the environing culture and society. On the other hand, I have been increasingly interested in the last years in the relationship between modern and contemporary art and western esotericism.


Partner: Christopher Scheer (Utah State University)

Christopher Scheer

Christopher Scheer is the Assistant Professor of Musicology at Utah State University, in Logan, UT. His research is focused on late nineteenth- and early twentieth- century British musical culture, and he is currently working on a monograph on the composer Gustav Holst for the Ashgate Interdisciplinary Opera Series. In addition, he is co-editor with Dr. Eric Saylor of The Sea in the British Musical Imagination, to be published by Boydell. his recent chapter in The Legacy of Richard Wagner published by Brepols considers the place of Theosophy in British and American Wagner reception. In 2009 he was awarded a Leverhulme Visiting Fellowship at Liverpool Hope University where he spearheaded a colloquium on Theosophy and the arts, out of which developed the Leverhulme International Network, Enchanted Modernities. Dr. Scheer has also contributed to the New Grove Dictionary of Music and has presented his work at regional national and international conferences.

Read more about Christopher Scheer

 " I am deeply interested in the influence of the Theosophical movement on nineteenth- and twentieth century European and American musical culture. Specifically, I am studying how music is treated in Theosophical belief structures (especially the overlap with visual art) and the use of music as a tool of occult and political power within Theosophical institutions.


Partner: Gauri Viswanathan (Columbia University, New York)

Gauri Viswanathan

Gauri Viswanathan is Class of 1933 Professor in the Humanities at Columbia University. She has published widely on education, religion and culture; nineteenth-century British and colonial cultural studies; and the history of modern disciplines. She is the author of Masks of Conquest: Literary Study and British Rule in India (Columbia, 1989; Oxford, 1998) and Outside the Fold: Conversion, Modernity and Belief (Princeton, 1998), which won the Harry Levin Prize awarded by the American Comparative Literature Association, the James Russell Lowell Prize awarded by the Modern Language Association, and the Ananda K. Coomaraswamy Prize awarded by the Association for Asian Studies. Prof. Viswanathan is completing a book entitled In Search of Blavatsky. She has held numerous visiting chairs, among them the Beckman Professorship at UC Berkeley, and she was most recently an Affliated Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. She has received Guggenheim, NEH, and Mellon Fellowships, and was a fellow at various international research institutes. She is co-editor of the book series South Asia Across the Disciplines, published jointly by the university presses of Columbia, Chicago and California. Among Prof. Viswanathan's recent articles on Theosophy-related topics are: "'Have Animals Souls?' Theosophy and the Suffering Body", PMLA (2011), "The Great Game: The Geopolitics of Secret Knowledge", in Locating Transnational Ideals (2009), "Spectrality's Secret Sharers", in Beyond the Black Atlantic (2006), "Ireland, India and the Poetics of Internationalism", The Journal of World History (2004) and "The Ordinary Business of Occultism", Critical Inquiry (2000).

Read more about Gauri Viswanathan

 " I am writing a book on Theosophy, In Search of Blavatsky, which explores, among other things, artists' and writers' discovery of a new vocabulary for discussing topics that could no longer be discussed in the terminology of theology or science. Enchanted Modernities offers me a unique opportunity to engage with scholarly work in the visual arts and music in my effort to illuminate the cultural reach of Theosophy. I am particularly interested in the uses of non-representational art in conveying spiritual and psychic realities that remained unseen and unknown.


Associated Researcher: Helena Čapková (Waseda University, Tokyo)


Helena Čapková is an Assistant Professor teaching art history at the School of International Liberal Studies of the Waseda University in Tokyo. She received her PhD at the TrAIN (Transnational Art Identity and Nation) Research Centre of the University of the Arts in London. Her research focuses on the exchange within the artists' network that connected Japan and Central Europe in the interwar era. Other areas of interest include: Transnational Visual Art Studies, Theosophy and other spiritualisms and art, Japonisme, Modernism, 20th Century Architecture, Design and Photography. She received her undergraduate and postgraduate training in Art History and Japanese Studies in Charles University, Prague and SOAS, London. Helena has completed a manuscript for a book about Czech purist architect and progressive stage designer Bedrich Feuerstein and Japan which is due to be published in spring 2013.

Read more about Helena Čapková

 " My research about Theosophy developed from my doctoral project that reconstructed the extensive network of artists which connected Central Europe and Japan in the interwar period. I believe that Theosophy functioned as a very effective and dynamic community which attracted artists interested or living in Asia. I am currently focusing my research on Japanese interwar theosophical circles and Bohemian occult networks.


Network Facilitator: Katie J. T. Herrington (University of York)

Katie J. T. Herrington

Katie J. T. Herrington brings her experience of network events adminstration, communications and logistics to the team. In spring 2013 she was a postdoctoral Research and Cultural Engagement Fellow working for the University of York in Collaboration with the Victoria & Albert Museum on an AHRC funded project, Three Graces: Victorian women, visual art and exchange. Her doctoral thesis Between Women: Visualizing Victorian Women Artists' Identities through Art Movements, Media and Scale, c.1848-1898, also funded by the AHRC, focused on artworks produced by British women artists who worked between disciplines and media, and she explored their formation of specific identities through their art. She is interested in British women artists' work abroad and is continuing to research the art and crucial roles of three Anglo-Greek women artists active in the Holland Park Circle.

Read more about Katie J. T. Herrington

 " I have a keen interest in the period covered by the Enchanted Modernities network, particularly the late nineteenth but also the early twentieth century. The interdisciplinary and feminist aspects of the project also appeal to me more generally.


Events Archive


Inaugural Conference: Enchanted Modernities: Theosophy and the arts in the modern world University of Amsterdam 25 - 27 September 2013

Symposium: Exploring Theosophy's Influence on Visual Art and Music, Harrison Museum, Utah State University, 27 April 2014

2nd Conference: Theosophy and the Arts: Texts and Contexts of Modern Enchantment Columbia University, New York, 9-10 October 2015


Pioneering Spirit:Maud MacCarthy - Mysticism, Music and Modernity Logo, Exhibition

Enchanted Modernities:Mysticism, Landscape and the American West, Exhibition

CONTACT: The Network Facilitator, Dr. Katie J. T. Herrington, Department of History of Art University of York, Heslington, York, YO10 5DD (enchantedmodernities@york.ac.uk)