University of Minnesota
University of Minnesota

TEMS Work in Progress Session: “Facing Blindness” with Bronwen Wilson

Bronwen Wilson is a professor of Art History at the University of British Colombia.  She received her PhD in Art History in 1999 from Northwestern University in Evanston Illinois. She was a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) postdoctoral fellow at UBC from 1999-2000 before taking up a position at McGill University where she taught in the Department of Art History and Communication Studies until 2007.

Her first book, The World in Venice: print, the city, and early modern identity (University of Toronto Press, 2005; Roland H. Bainton prize for Art History, 2006), explores the ways in which new forms and uses of print – maps, costume, events, and portraits – contributed to changes in how identities accrued to individuals. She has recently completed a second book manuscript: Facing the End of the Renaissance: portraits, physiognomy, and naturalism in Northern Italy (1500-1620), which she began at Villa I Tatti (Harvard University Center for Renaissance Studies) in Florence as a postdoctoral fellow in 2003-04. The book asks how and why the human face became the focus of intense scrutiny during decades in which artistic, scientific, religious, and philosophical circles were concerned with the increasingly fraught boundaries of the body. Focusing on artists working in the Veneto, Lombardy, Bologna and Florence, the chapters address intersections between diverse media and new forms of visual imagery, from caricature to drawing books. She has recently begun a new project, Journeys to Istanbul: Inscription and the Horizon in early modern travel imagery, that considers the complex ways in which visual representations, particularly landscape, mediated the experience of travel to the Ottoman Empire both in practice and vicariously. By shifting the focus away from the body of the Turk to the terrain of encounters, the project seeks to understand better how Europeans negotiated their distance from, or proximity to, the Ottomans. Theoretically, the research will develop a framework for understanding how movement was conceptualized in visual terms, both across space, and in relation to the artists’ and viewers’ perceptions of the terrain before them.

Another book, co-edited with Paul Yachnin, is Making Publics in early modern Europe: people, things and forms of knowledge (forthcoming 2009). This collection of essays, to which Wilson has also contributed, is the first of two volumes resulting from a Major Collaborative Research Initiative (MCRI), funded by SSHRC: “Making Publics: Media, Markets, and Association in Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700,” The MaPs project brings together scholars and graduate and postdoctoral students from a wide range of disciplines and geographical contexts who are working together to understand the ways in which cultural representations contributed to new forms of association before the normalization of the public sphere in the eighteenth century.

Recent essays on print, Ottoman costume, Florentine Trecento frescoes, and portraits, have appeared in The Journal of Urban HistoryThe Journal of Medieval and Early Modern StudiesFirenze alla Vigilia del Rinascimento (Cadmo, 2006), Mediterra-noesis: voci dal medioevo e rinascimento mediterraneo, and The Renaissance World (Routledge, 2007).

Wilson’s teaching overlaps with her research interests by considering media and visuality, the body, sexuality, space, the history of print culture, cross-cultural encounters, historiography and theory.


PAPERS WILL CIRCULATE IN ADVANCE. Readings for each session will be available as .pdf files on the TEMS website, and in hard copy in Heller Hall 338 and Folwell Hall 255.

Sponsored by: Institute for Advanced Study, Art, Early Modern History

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