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Languages, Cultures and Visual Studies

Photo of  Sarah Spencer

Sarah Spencer

PhD Student


My PhD examines ‘The Impact of the Venetian Republic on the central piazze of its subject cities, both on the terraferma and the stato da mar (1400-1550)’, under the supervision of Professor Fabrizio Nevola (AHVC) and Professor Maria Fusaro (History). The project is in conjunction with the HERA-funded 'Public Renaissance: Urban Cultures of Public Space between Early Modern Europe and the Present' (PURE)- better known as ‘Hidden Cities’. My research fuses art-historical, social, urban and political history to obtain a de-centralised, socio-political reading of piazze in Venice’s subject cities. Its purpose is to deepen our understanding of the ways in which Venice’s dominion was articulated through alterations to the form and function of public space across both parts of the Venetian politic.

I completed my BA in History of Art at the University of Warwick, where I received the Richard Morris Dissertation Prize (2016) and two outstanding achievement awards (2014, 2016). A term spent studying in Venice during my third year sparked my enthusiasm for the city and its architectural history. I then worked for the Royal Collection Trust before embarking on my MPhil in History of Art and Architecture at the University of Cambridge (2018), which was fully funded by the Cambridge School of Arts and Humanities. My research focused on sensory experience in the Venetian church interior, and I was supervised by Dr Donal Cooper and Professor Deborah Howard. I interned at Sotheby’s auction house before starting my PhD at Exeter (2019), and alongside my studies I am a Postgraduate Teaching Assistant and Postgraduate Representative for the AHVC department. In summer 2020, I received the Gladys Krieble Delmas Scholarship for Venetian Research, which covers the additional costs of undertaking research in Venice.



2019-2023     University of Exeter, PhD in Art History and Visual Culture (AHVC).

2017-2018     Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, MPhil in History of Art and Architecture.

2013- 2016    University of Warwick, BA (Hons) History of Art, First Class.


I have provided teaching support on the following undergraduate modules:

(AHV1009) Topics in Art History and Visual Culture II (2020-2021)

(AHV2015) Art History And Visual Culture Field Study For Blended Learning (2020-2021)

Professional Development:

Conferences/Summer Schools

  • Attended the HERA annual conference in Gdansk (Sept 2019).
  • I was Head Designer on the committee for the College of Humanities annual postgraduate conference at the University of Exeter (2019-2021), and I chaired the third symposium of the conference, which was on the theme of Resilience and Hope.
  • Papers: ‘Marking Dominion: Urban Changes in the piazze of Venice’s Subject Cities’ (University of Bristol Postgraduate Conference, November 2020)
  • Participated in the Market Places, Production Sites and Sound Landscape of European Cities International Summer School, (Sept 2020; March 2021) where I contributed to a group project proposal for the regeneration of Padua’s market squares. Convened by Prof. Donatella Calabi and Prof. Elena Svalduz.
  • Member of RATS, Renaissance Architecture and Theory Scholars.


  • Forthcoming: PhD project summary in News on the Rialto (July 2021).

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