The Breath of All That Lives: New Research in Medieval Jewish Art

Elina Gertsman's picture
Call for Papers
September 15, 2019
Michigan, United States
Subject Fields: 
Art, Art History & Visual Studies, Jewish History / Studies, Medieval and Byzantine History / Studies
Paper proposals now accepted for the 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 7-10, 2020
Three sessions, one round table

Medieval Jewish art, despite its vibrant nature and visual complexity, has long existed on the margins of scholarship. Fitting neither in the traditional mold of “mainstream” European art (for which it is perhaps too alien), nor in the new model of the global visual culture (for which it is perhaps too familiar), Jewish art appears to be caught between the two: always present, always in the shadows. Yet, in the last three decades the study of medieval Jewish culture has flourished: the scope of scholarship has widened, its complexity has deepened. Speakers in these sessions are encouraged to study medieval Jewish imagery on its own terms, and in its many and varied contexts and settings. What was the relationship among Jewish communities, and between them and other local religious groups (Christian, Muslim, Zoroastrian, etc.)? How can we consider Jewish art through the lens of the global turn without marginalizing it? What can be gained from exploring forms largely specific to medieval Jewish books: illuminated word panels, micrographic imagery, and cantillation marks? How can we come to terms with the performative aspects of these books—and, indeed, can they be called performative? Can studying materiality of Jewish manuscripts help us discern patterns of their use and reception? The sessions will take stock of the work done so far in the field of medieval Jewish art, and explore new directions for current and future research. 

Please direct inquiries and proposals to Elina Gertsman (

The deadline for receipt of proposals is 15 September 2019. 

A completed Participant Information Form must accompany proposals; it can be found here.


Contact Info: 
Elina Gertsman 
Professor and Director of Graduate Studies 
Department of Art History and Art 
Case Western Reserve University 
11201 Euclid Ave. 
Cleveland, OH 44106
Contact Email: