Elina Gertsman

Archbishop Paul J. Hallinan Professor in Catholic Studies II, Professor of Art History and Director of Graduate Studies


Mather House 317

Other Information

Specialty: Art History

Expertise: Medieval Art

On leave until January 2022

Professor Gertsman specializes in medieval art. Her research interests include issues of memory, perception, and multi-sensory reception; medium, play, and animation; medieval image theory; semiotics of media and polyfunctionality of objects; performance/performativity; late medieval macabre; materiality and somaticism; and medieval concepts of emotion and affectivity. She has lectured on these topics at  numerous conferences and symposia around the world.

In addition to numerous articles, Prof. Gertsman has published a number of books. Her 2010 The Dance of Death in the Middle Ages: Image, Text, Performance, which was awarded the Medieval Academy of America subvention and the Samuel H. Kress Research Award from the International Center for Medieval Art, won the John Nicholas Brown Prize from the Medieval Academy of America for the best first book in medieval studies in 2014.  Her second monograph, Worlds Within: Opening the Medieval Shrine Madonna (2015), was awarded the Millard Meiss Publication Grant and the Samuel H. Kress Research Award from the ICMA, and was shortlisted for the 2016 Charles Rufus Morey Prize, which honors an especially distinguished book in the history of art, published in the English language. In 2018, it won Medieval Academy’s inaugural Karen Gould Prize, awarded for an outstanding monograph in art history. In 2018 she published The Middle Ages in 50 Objects, co-authored with Barbara Rosenwein, which was translated into Italian as Il Medioevo in 50 oggetti. Her latest monograph, The Absent Image: Lacunae in Medieval Books, was just published with Penn State Press.

She is the editor of Visualizing Medieval Performance: Perspectives, Histories, Contexts (2008) and Crying in the Middle Ages: Tears of History (2011), and co-editor of Thresholds of Medieval Visual Culture: Liminal Spaces (2012). In 2015, she guest-edited an issue of the journal Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural (published by Penn State Press), titled “Animating Medieval Art,” and in 2016 collaborated with Stephen Fliegel on the catalogue that accompanied their centennial focus exhibition at the Cleveland Museum of Art, Myth and Mystique: the Cleveland’s Gothic Table Fountain. Most recently, she published Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament (2021). She is currently editing two Festschriften — one in honor of Richard K. Emmerson (Brepols, co-edited), and another in honor of Stephen Fliegel (Medieval Institute Press / ARC Humanities).

She is a recipient of several prestigious fellowships, including awards from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Kress Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. In 2018, she received a two-year grant from the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation for a collaborative project with Vincent Debiais (Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales), entitled “Abstraction before the Age of Abstract Art.” An international symposium on this topic, organized by Gertsman and Debiais, was held at Princeton in May of 2019, and the study day at the Institut national d’histoire de l’art in October of that year; the final symposium, hosted by the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris, will take place in 2021. In 2020, she was named a Guggenheim Fellow.

Passionate about teaching, Prof. Gertsman is regularly nominated for both graduate and undergraduate teaching and mentoring awards. She is particularly pleased to be able to collaborate on her courses with curators at the CMA; with Dr. Sonya Rhie Mace, curator of Indian and Southeast Asian Art, she launched a series of Mellon-sponsored courses on the global Middle Ages. The newest offering in the series is a graduate seminar, co-taught with Dr. Sooa McCormick, curator of Korean art, entitled “Paradise, Hell, and Purgatory in the Global Middle Ages,” which will be taught in spring of 2022.

In 2015 Prof. Gertsman was the winner of the Diekhoff Award for Distinguished Graduate Teaching and in 2019 she won the Diekhoff Award for Distinguished Graduate Mentoring.

To learn more about her books, click on the covers below or explore Prof. Gertsman’s website.