Dr Karen McCluskey

Senior Lecturer, HDR co-ordinator, Discipline Head History

Email: karen.mccluskey@nd.edu.au
Phone: 02 8204 4121

  • Biography

    Karen McCluskey is a Senior Lecturer and Discipline Head in History on the Sydney Campus.

    Karen was awarded a PhD from the Department of Art History and Theory at the University of Sydney in 2006 and also holds a Master’s degree in Art History from Queen’s University and a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from McMaster University, both in Ontario, Canada. Her scholarly specialisation remains art historical, focusing largely on lived religious experience in the later Middle Ages. Her most recent work revolves around the intersection of hagiography and lived religion in late-mediaeval Venice, with her first monograph 'New saints in Late-Mediaeval Venice: a typological study' being published by Routledge in early 2019.

    Together with Fremantle campus' Prof Deborah Gare, Karen has initiated a multi-disciplinary, cross-campus research network: 'Visual Evidence Research Network' which aims to encourage collaborative research projects focused on material culture.

    Karen has taught at UNDA since 2006, the year of the university's inception in Sydney. She teaches courses on many aspects of ancient, mediaeval and Renaissance history, with a particular emphasis on material culture. She has been consistently commended by the vice chancellor for strong teaching performance. Particularly important is her philosophy of 'teaching beyond the classroom'. This means that students will regularly learn off-site at local museums, libraries and historical sites where primary evidence is available to see, analyse and experience. In this regard, she is an avid participant in the university's Experience the World programme, co-leading courses to Spain (2013, 2017) and France (2019).

    Karen is an experienced supervisor who has overseen two Phd completions, one MPhil and many honours theses. She is currently supervising two HDR candidates and is the HDR co-ordinator for the School of Arts and Sciences.

  • Teaching areas

    • Mediaeval and Early Modern European History
    • Art History
    • Lived Experience in history
    • Historiography
    • Themes in Ancient History
  • Research expertise and supervision

    Research Expertise

    • Sanctity and devotion in mediaeval and early-modern Europe
    • Saints' relics, sepulchres and art in mediaeval Italy
    • Lived religion
    • Mediaeval pilgrimage
    • Legends and myths
    • Intersection of politics and religion in mediaeval and early-modern Europe
    • Gender in history
    • Historiography

    Mediaeval and early modern history and art history, especially saints/devotion, gender, identity, biography, historiography, myths and legends
    Topics in ancient history

    Recent supervision


    • The Ottoman Renaissance: a reconsideration of early modern Ottoman art, 1413-1575 [successful completion, 2017]
      The Emblematic Representation of Joseph of Nazareth in Jeronimo Gracian's 'Summary of the Excellencies of St. Joseph' (1597) [successful completion, 2016]


    • Goya and the Shadows of Romanticism: Light and Dark in Life and Art [successful completion, 2018]
    • The Visual Representation of Political Philosophy on the Fourteenth-Century Doge's Palace in Venice [current]
    • Victorian Medievalism and its relationship to Nationalism at the South Kensington Museum and British Museum, 1867-1914 [current]


    • Juana in the Nineteenth Century: Repainting the Spanish Queen [2018]
    • Vessels of Meaning: Personal Identity in the University of Sydney’s Book of Hours, Ms.58 [2017]
    • Body-Part Reliquaries: Visualising the Sacred in the Later Middle Ages [2015]
    • An Exploration of Masculinity in Sir Thomas Malory's 'Le Morte D'Arthur' [2014]
    • Spain's Valley of the Fallen: Representation and Legacy [2014]
    • 'Next Year in Jerusalem': Visual expressions of Zionism in the Szyk Haggadah [2013]
    • Gender & Power in Early Palaiologan Byzantium: the Case of Anna of Savoy (c. 1306-1365) [2012]
    • A Defence against Calumny: Hortense Mancini's Salon Years (1675-1699) [2012]
    • Marcus Aurelius and the Myth of the Philosopher-King [2011]
    • Philip II of Macedon: a revision [2010]
  • Books

    McCluskey, Karen. New Saints in Late-Mediaeval Venice: a typological study. London: Routledge, 2019. Forthcoming

  • Book chapters

    • McCluskey, Karen. 'When the fury of the proud sea re-awoke': water, devotion and lived experience in late-mediaeval Venice'. In Lived Religion and Everyday Life through Early Modern Catholic Hagiographic Material. Palgrave, 2019. Forthcoming
    • McCluskey, Karen. 'Why Study 'dark age' history?' In History for the Curious: Why Study History? (A Decision-Making Guide to College Majors, Research & Scholarships, and Career Counseling for Students, Educators, and Parents) Curious Publishing Company, 2016.
    • McCluskey, Karen. 'That Bloody Myth of Venice Again! Noble Blood and Sanctity in Venice'. Blood. Sydney: Trunk Books, 2012.
  • Journal articles and proceedings

    • McCluskey, Karen. 'Official Sanctity alla Veneziana: Gerardo, Pietro Orseolo and Giacomo Salomani' Conserveries mémorielles [En ligne], #14 | 2013, mis en ligne le 01 juillet 2013, consulté le 29 août 2013.
      URL : http://cm.revues.org/1718
    • McCluskey, K. Miraculous Visions: Apparitio in the Vitae of Mediaeval Venetian Saints and Beati’ IKON, Journal of Iconographic Studies, vol. 6 (2013): 167-181.
  • Conference papers

    'Acqua Alta: Venice, Water and Saints'. Finish Institute in Rome Workshop. Rome Italy.

    'From local obscurity to civic heroes: the elevation of domestic saints and ‘beati’ in Venice in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries' Australia and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (ANZAMEMS), Victoria University, Wellington New Zealand

    'Ajax and Anzacs: Greek classicism, Australia and the Great War' World History Association Conference Ghent, Belgium (in collaboration with Dr Christine de Matos, The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney)

    'Medieval Festival: a journey of interdisciplinary learning and teaching' Sydney 2015 Forum: Team-based learning and teaching The University of Notre Dame Australia, Sydney (in collaboration with Jane Bergeron and Michael Pigott [theatre studies] and Renee Kohler-Ryan [philosophy], University of Notre Dame Sydney)

    El Greco’s Burial of Count Orgaz: a problem of interpretation, UNDA Art History Mini-Conference

    'Bellum iustum: hagiography and Venetian imperialism in the later Middle Ages', WHA conference: Faith, Empire and Conflict, Fremantle, WA
    'Local Sanctity in Late-Mediaeval Venice: convergences and divergences' Renaissance Society of America Annual Conference, San Diego, USA

    'Happiness for Dummies: Saints' Lives and the Possibility of Happiness in the Later Middle Ages', Happiness Symposium, Arts and Sciences, UNDA Sydney

    'Miraculous Visions: Apparitio in the Vitae of Mediaeval Venetian Saints and Beati', 'Visions' 6th International Conference of Iconographic Studies, University of Rijeka, Croatia

    'Official Sanctity alla veneziana: Pietro Orseolo, Gerardo da Venezia and Giacomo Salomani', Renaissance Society of America Annual Conference, Venice, Italy

  • Curated exhibitions or events

    Karen contributed to the organisation and presentation of a major Mediaeval Festival called 'Keeping up with the Pilgrims' in November 2014. A multi-disciplinary event, coordinated along with Dr. Renee Kohler-Ryan (Senior lecturer, Philosophy), Ms. Jane Bergeron (Senior lecturer and discipline head, Theatre Studies) and Mr. Michael Pigott (Lecturer, Theatre Studies), the mediaeval festival was a unique learning experience for students of all three disciplines, as well as the lecturers and audience members. Throughout the semester, the Philosophy, Theatre Studies and History students all focused on the central theme of pilgrimage through analysis of a common text: Geoffrey Chaucer's 'Canterbury Tales' (end 14th century). At the festival, students of each discipline presented their final works: mediaeval disputations (philosophy), digital media projects on relevant mediaeval objects (history) and a performance of the Canterbury Tales (theatre). Combining in-class learning, interdisciplinary exchanges and discipline-specific resources, the event was a huge success and a model for cutting edge, interactive teaching and learning.

  • Professional affiliations

    • VERN: Visual Evidence Research Network
    • Anzamems (Australia and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies)
    • Society for the History of Emotions
    • Hagiography Society
    • Finnish Institute in Rome
    • Historical Consultant: restoration of Lazzaro Bastiani's Episodes of the Life of Leone Bembo, late 15th century; collaboration with Croatian Conservation Institute/Hrvatski Restauratorski Zavod, Zagreb http://www.h-r-z.hr/
  • Awards

    • Gladys Krieble Delmas Foundation for Venetian Research (UK): Commonwealth Research Grant
    • Italian Culture Research Grant: Ministero degli Affari Esteri, Rome
    • IPA and IPRS, University of Sydney
    • RIS Seed Grant, University of Notre Dame
    • Samuel H. Kress Travel Grant, USA
  • Other

    Professional collaboration with:
    Dr Christine de Matos on a special feature for the journal 'History Australia' on Australia, Classicism and the Great War (forthcoming 2019)
    Dr. Višnja Bralić of the Croatian Conservation Institute/Hrvatski Restauratorski Zavod, Zagreb on an analysis of Lazzaro Bastiani's predella panels representing the cult of Leone Bembo, c. 1485.