I am fascinated by the tension medieval art presents as something that is both alien and yet deeply connected to the motives and concerns of people today. In my research and teaching, I try to uncover how and why people in the Middle Ages invested considerable resources in the production of art, and how that art provided a unique means of linking abstract theory (theological or philosophical) and daily practice (religious or secular). I find illuminated manuscripts a particularly fruitful area for such investigations, especially for monastic communities and audiences, and I confess that I still get a remarkable charge whenever I have the privilege of holding a medieval book much as its original users did. I have just completed a new introductory survey of medieval art and architecture, written with Jill Caskey and Linda Safran; this work is informed by recent methodological shifts in the field and expands on traditional considerations of the subject by investigating on equal terms the art from Scandinavia to the Sahara, Spain to Samarkand. My current projects include "Modeling the Utrecht Psalter: Past, Present, Future," which considers how digital applications might resolve long-standing questions about this and other early medieval psalters, as well as smaller investigations of such Hebrew illluminated manuscripts as the Rothschild Pentateuch.
As a teacher, I encourage my students to find their own voices but always to listen to the messages being communicated by their materials. Because of the department's new initiative promoting cross-cultural exchange between Canada and France, I especially encourage inquiries for Ph.D. studies from those interested in working on French material.
Art and Architecture of the Middle Ages: Exploring a Connected World, with Jill Caskey and Linda Safran (Ithaca, Cornell University Press, 2023)
The Visualization of Knowledge in the Medieval and Early Modern Period, ed. Marcia Kupfer, Adam S. Cohen, J.H. Chajes (Turnhout: Brepols, 2020)
Hide and Seek in the Margins of Hebrew Manuscripts, Hebrew Illuminated Manuscripts: Transcultural Interpretation and Transmission, UCLA/Getty Museum, April 2022
Illuminated Hebrew Manuscripts: From Ashkenaz to America, with Sharon Liberman Mintz. Morgan Library and Museum, January 2022. Keynote lecture for Power, Patronage and Production: Book Arts from Central Europe (ca. 800–1500) in American Collections, conference in conjunction with “Imperial Splendor: The Art of the Book in the Holy Roman Empire, 800–1500”
Honours, Awards and Grants
Leverhulme Visiting Professor, University of Edinburgh, 2023