Ocean Liners: Cultures of Promotion

Ocean Liner - Hammill 2019 Shortlisted

Keywords:     literature, art and design, theatre and film, visual culture, travel, mobility, shipping, marketing, material culture

Summary: This project asks how images of the ocean liner in art and literature influenced, and were influenced by, the promotional discourses of shipping companies in the earlier twentieth century. 

Leisure travel was an elite practice in the nineteenth century, and this meant that geographical mobility and upward mobility became strongly associated.  During the early to mid-twentieth century, shipping lines drew on this association to promote travel as a means of self-improvement for the aspirational middle classes. At the same time, liners appeared increasingly often in fiction, drama, film, and visual art, across the range from modernist experiment (Francis Picabia, Osbert Sitwell, Charles Sheeler) to middlebrow stylishness (Anita Loos, Noël Coward) and popular entertainment (Anything Goes, Romance on the High Seas).  This project explores the shared visual and textual idiom that developed across adverts and literature, paintings, photographs and cinema. The successful candidate will make a selection of creative works from any part of the Atlantic world, and examine how they borrowed from or parodied contemporary promotional discourses. The historical element of the research centres on shipping history collections held at the University of Glasgow. The project will also involve visits to other UK and overseas archives, and  site visits to ships in dock.

Project team: The project will be supervised at the University of Glasgow by Professor Faye Hammill (English Literature), Dr Sabine Wieber (History of Art) and Dr Stephanie Anderson (Marketing). The student will have access to the rich resources of the Shipping Companies collections in the Scottish Business Archive at the University of Glasgow. Specialist guidance will be provided by archivist Kiara King, and further support is available from the Glasgow School of Art.

Person specification: This studentship is open to candidates of any nationality – UK, EU or international.

Applicants should demonstrate the following:

Academic qualifications:

  • Undergraduate degree (minimum upper second class or equivalent), in a relevant arts and humanities discipline
  • Master's degree or equivalent postgraduate qualification (minimum 'Merit' award or equivalent). Alternatively, students who do not hold a postgraduate degree may be eligible if they can demonstrate evidence of sustained professional or research experience that is relevant to the project topic.



  • Expertise in one or more of the following areas: English literature; art history; design history; theatre studies; film studies; consumer culture; lifestyle and behaviour; material culture; tourism and travel; maritime or Scottish history.
  • Experience of undertaking research in any of these areas.
  • Ability to employ cross-disciplinary methods to access and interpret visual, oral and written texts.


  • Experience of archival research.
  • Demonstrable academic interest in an aspect of the project topic



  • self-motivation and good organisational skills
  • ability to engage with constructive criticism
  • ability to communicate effectively to different audiences
  • preparedness to learn new skills, e.g. in qualitative data analysis, archival work, knowledge exchange, and collaboration with external organisations

Application process – In the first instance, prospective applicants should contact Faye Hammill to discuss their eligibility for the project.  Applicants may submit applications via email to Faye Hammill up until the application deadline of 5.00pm, Friday 11 January 2019.