PhD candidate, Art History
Faculty advisor: Thomas Dale
PhD student Claire Kilgore is an art historian who specializes in the late Middle Ages, roughly 1300-1550. She studies the religious art and material culture of German-speaking regions such as Germany, Austria, and parts of Switzerland and Northern Italy.
Claire’s dissertation explores depictions of pregnancy, reproductive anatomy, and childbirth in devotional art from the late Middle Ages. She analyzes what those depictions say about perceptions of the human body, reproductive health, and their connections to philosophy and religion.
Claire said that pregnancy, reproductive health, and parenthood remain at the forefront of societal discussions today, and often these discussions inaccurately contrast modern policies and perspectives with those of the Middle Ages.
“I hope that my research will help reframe simplified and overly-general stereotypes about reproductive health in the Middle Ages by highlighting what medieval sources discussing and visualizing pregnancy, reproductive anatomy, childbirth, and the care of infants and young children actually reveal,” Claire said. “Pregnancy, childbirth, and human reproduction are timeless issues, resonating in the past as well as the present.”
Claire received a first-year fellowship supported by WARF and a dissertation fellowship in spring 2023 that helped her write the first chapter of her dissertation. Since she could take a break from teaching duties, Claire was able to join a weekly writing group on campus. The support also gave her time to apply for grants and research travel funding to help her complete her dissertation.
“I was able to spend time in Washington, D.C., at the end of March and early April, conducting research at the National Gallery of Art on a series of prints that are part of another dissertation chapter and utilizing their library resources,” she said.
Claire recently received the Helen Maud Cam Dissertation Award from the Medieval Academy of America.
“This support enabled me to spend five weeks during the summer of 2023 conducting dissertation research in Germany, Austria, and the Italian Alps for my dissertation,” she said.
In addition to a publication under review in the journal Medieval Clothing and Textiles, Claire shares her work more widely and has a forthcoming exhibition in fall 2024 about the material and lived religion at Marquette University in Milwaukee.
Learn more about Claire’s research and her teaching in Art History on the podcast Medievalism Today.