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

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. For the next three years, she will be the invited professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales (EHESS) in Paris.

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, came out in 2021, and received the 2022 Charles Rufus Morey Award from College Art Association, which honors an especially distinguished book in the history of art, published in the English language. She is currently co-writing a book with Vincent Debiais (EHESS), L’hypothèse abstraite. L’informel et l’abstrait dans l’art du Moyen Âge occidental, forthcoming from Cerf in 2023. In addition, she is working on two book-length projects: one on materiality of medieval medium and another on theriomorphic imagery in Hebrew manuscripts.

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) and Crossing Medieval Disciplines, a Festschrift in honor of Richard K. Emmerson. Another Festschrift, Collectors, Commissioners, Curators, dedicated to the former Bergman curator of medieval art at the CMA, Stephen Fliegel, is slated to be published by Medieval Institute Press / De Gruyter, in 2023. The book gathers essays penned by leading curators of some of the most famous collections of medieval art, including those of the British Museum, the CMA, the Getty, the Louvre, the Met, the Morgan, and the V&A.

Prof. Gertsman is a recipient of several fellowships, including those from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Mellon Foundation, the Kress Foundation, and the American Council of Learned Societies. A multi-year grant from the French-American Cultural Exchange Foundation, awarded for Abstraction before the Age of Abstract Art” — a collaborative project with Vincent Debiais — yielded several international events, including symposia at Princeton and at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales / Institut national d’histoire de l’art in Paris. In 2020, she was named a Guggenheim Fellow and in 2022, she was elected a Fellow of the Medieval Academy.

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, with the latest offering co-taught with Dr. Sooa McCormick, curator of Korean art, and entitled “Paradise, Hell, and Purgatory in the Global Middle Ages.”

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.