Sep 10, 2010

PhD and postdoc (Latin/Arabic), The Role of Women in Medieval Art and Architecture

Congratulations to ICMA member Therese Martin who has just been awarded awarded a Starting Grant from the European Research Council for her project "Reassessing the Roles of Women as 'Makers' of Medieval Art and Architecture, " which will provide 1.2 million euros over the course of four years (2011-14) to support a team of three postdocs and four PhD students.

Therese writes-
For two of the positions beginning in summer 2011, I will need PhD candidates with a very high level of expertise in Arabic or Latin. If you know of anyone who might be interested, could you please put him/her in touch with me (therese.martin@ cchs.csic. es). They will receive funding for up to two years and they must live in Madrid during that time, so the ideal candidate will be one who is already considering a dissertation on a Spanish medieval topic.

This project is a response to silence and absence. The silence is that of medieval women in the history of art, for despite the advances of recent decades, the field continues to be overwhelmingly a history of men. There is an unspoken underlying assumption that works of art and architecture in the Middle Ages were made by and for men, save for the rare cases where it can be demonstrated otherwise. That is, medieval art is not approached from a position of neutrality but rather presumed to be masculine in origin and intent. Scholars routinely christen anonymous artists with the title "Master of..." followed by some outstanding characteristic by which we recognize "his" work. By contrast, artists and patrons are identified as women only
when their names are recorded on a work of art or in documentation. These noteworthy cases have been fruitfully studied, yet always within a framework of the exception that proves the rule. But how many so-called exceptions must there be before w e decide that a new rule is in order? At what point to do these perceived aberrations from the norm become rather a new pattern waiting to be recognized? I believe that we have reached that point, as I aim to demonstrate with this project. This is not to say, of course, that all works of medieval art had a woman as patron or artist, but rather to recognize the culturally conditioned assumption that the protagonist was
male simply because medieval women in general held an inferior position.

A new point of departure for this cross-cultural, transregional study of the impact women had on medieval art and architecture, centering on the Iberian Peninsula, will be to refocus on the terminology used in the Middle Ages, particularly the verb 'to make'. For artist and patron is a false dichotomy, or, at the least, a modern one. The verb employed most often in medieval inscriptions- -from paintings to embroideries to buildings--is 'made' (fecit). This word denotes at times the individual whose hands produced the work, but it can equally refer to the person whose donation made the undertaking possible. Whereas today's eye separates patron from artist, the medieval view recognized both as makers. One of the most challenging aspects of this project comes from its transverse nature as a study of Christian,
Islamic, Jewish, and secular works. Just as these cultures were interrelated in the Middle Ages, to understand them today they must be examined as part of an overall milieu .

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Therese Martin
Instituto de Historia, 2E16
Centro de Ciencias Humanas y Sociales
Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas
C/ Albasanz, 26-28
Madrid 28037

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