Elina Gertsman

Distinguished University Professor, Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, Professor and Acting Chair of Art History


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. Until 2024, 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, as well as the 2023 Otto Gründler Book Prize awarded annually to the author of an outstanding monograph in any area of medieval studies. Her book with Vincent Debiais (EHESS), Écarts, excès d’image. Essai sur l’abstraction dans l’art médiéval, is forthcoming from Le Cerf. In addition, she is working on two book-length projects: one on materiality of medieval medium and another on theriomorphic imagery in Hebrew manuscripts (under contract with Penn State Press).

She is the editor of Visualizing Medieval Performance: Perspectives, Histories, Contexts (2008), Crying in the Middle Ages: Tears of History (2011), Animating Medieval Art (a guest-edited issue of Preternature: Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural, 2015), and Abstraction in Medieval Art: Beyond the Ornament (2021); and co-editor of Thresholds of Medieval Visual Culture: Liminal Spaces (2012) and Crossing Medieval Disciplines, a Festschrift in honor of Richard K. Emmerson (2021). In 2016 she 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 Collectors, Commissioners, Curators, dedicated to Fliegel, which gathers essays penned by leading curators of some of the most celebrated collections of medieval art (2023). Scent and Sense, the guest-edited issue of Convivium, will appear next year.

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. In 2023, she was named Distinguished University Professor, the university’s highest honor.

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, which he has since co-taught with Dr. Sooa McCormick, curator of Korean art, and Gerhard Lutz, curator of medieval art. Her course with Lutz on the themes of creation and (re)birth within the global medieval context resulted in the exhibition at the CMA, slated to open in August 2024.

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. In 2023, she was a recipient of the Medieval Academy of America’s Award for Excellence in Teaching Medieval Studies.

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