Dr. S.P.M. (Stijn) Bussels

  • Lecturer
  • LUCAS, medieval and early modern studies, theatre, art history

Telephone number: +31 (0)71 527 1746
E-Mail: s.p.m.bussels@hum.leidenuniv.nl
Faculty / Department: Faculteit der Geesteswetenschappen, Centre for the Arts in Society, KG Architectuurgeschiedenis
Office Address: Johan Huizingagebouw
Doelensteeg 16
2311 VL Leiden
Room number 2.22

Fields of interest

  • early modern theatre history
  • early modern art and architectural history
  • agency and performativity
  • the appropriation of ancient concepts


ERC Starting Grant: Elevated Minds. The Sublime in the Public Arts in Seventeenth-Century Paris and Amsterdam. 

The Elevated Mind project will focus on early, mostly neglected editions and varieties of the sublime. These should be understood primarily against a political background. Often, these were dedicated to important members of ruling families, made for prominent politicians, or read by the ruling classes. Many poems, plays, paintings, buildings and public spaces that were experienced as 'sublime' have clear connections with political issues, in particular with the legitimacy of new rulers or regimes, the murder of politicians, or even regicide.

Seventeenth-century Paris saw an hitherto unprecedented series of vast public buildings and interventions in the urban fabric, from the Place des Victoires and the Place Vendôme to the Invalides. Such cases of royal patronage caused responses in sublime terms. In fact, the French king himself, Louis XIV, allowed himself to be presented on stage and in his grands travaux as the ineffable embodiment of the sublime.

The Amsterdam Town Hall is a well-documented (though hardly studied) case of the role of the sublime in a public attempt to found and legitimize public authority. Throughout the seventeenth century the murder of political leaders, in particular the murder of Van Oldenbarnevelt and the lynching of the De Witt brothers, was the subject of plays much inspired by a Senecan sublime that caused intense debate about the event, and the play's artistic value or persuasive effect.

To the project's website 

Teaching activities

Stijn Bussels teaches art and theatre history. He started teaching at the University of Ghent. In 2008 he became Assistant Professor at the University of Groningen. In Leiden he will be teaching a research master seminar on the Guild of Saint Luke together with Geert Warnar.

Curriculum Vitae

Stijn Bussels studied theatre studies at the University of Ghent. As nominee of the FWO Flanders, he attained his PhD in 2005. His thesis was reworked and published as 'The Antwerp Entry of Prince Philip in 1549. Rhetoric, Performance and Power' (Rodopi, 2012).

In 2005 Caroline van Eck invited him to work in Leiden as postdoctoral researcher at the VICI-project Art, Agency and Living Presence. There he focused on ancient Roman writers dealing with the belief that an image lives. These writers often condemn the onlooker, who was completely overwhelmed by lust for statues, by pity for theatre personages, or by fear raised by evocative descriptions. But Roman authors also discussed acceptable forms of believing in animated images. The beholder had to be able to keep full mental control. His research resulted in TheAnimated Image. Roman Theory on Naturalism, Vividness and Divine Power (Akademie Verlag/LUP, 2012).

After this project Stijn Bussels became Assistant Professor Theatre History at the University of Groningen. He continued working with Caroline van Eck. This resulted in, amongst others, the special issue Theatricality in Early Modern Art and Architecture of Art History (April 2010). Next to that, he co-edited a book volume on the sublime before Nicolas Boileau (Intersections, Brill, 2012). In February 2013 he started the ERC Starting Grant project Elevated Minds. The sublime in the public arts in seventeenth-century Paris and Amsterdam at LUCAS.

Key publications

  • Bussels, Stijn; Van Eck, Caroline; Redactie van het themanummer ‘Theatricality and the Early Modern Visual Arts’, in: Art History, vol. 33, nr. 2, April 2010.
  • Van Eck, Caroline; Bussels, Stijn (eds.); Levende beelden: Kunst werken en zien, Leiden, LUP, 2011 met eigen bijdrage ‘Meer dan beeldende liefde: Extreme reacties op Praxiteles’ Venus van Cnidus’.
  • Van Eck, Caroline; Delbeke, Maarten; Bussels, Stijn, Pieters, Jürgen (eds.); 'Translations of the Sublime. The Early Modern Reception and Dissemination of Longinus' Peri Hupsous in Rhetoric, the Visual Arts, Architecture and the Theatre, Intersections: Interdisciplinary Studies in Early Modern Culture, 24, Brill, Leiden, 2012.
  • Bussels, Stijn; 'The Antwerp Entry of Prince Philip in 1549: Rhetoric, Performance and Power', Ludus. Medieval and Early Renaissance Theatre and Drama, Rodopi, Amsterdam – New York, 2012.
  • Bussels, Stijn, The Animated Image: Roman Theory on Naturalism, Vividness and Divine Power, Akademie Verlag-Warburg Haus-Leiden University Press, Berlin-Hamburg-Leiden, 2012.

Last Modified: 10-12-2015