Participant Biographies

About our participants:


Sheila Blair shares the Norma Jean Calderwood University Professorship of Islamic and Asian Art at Boston College and the Hamad bin Khalifa Endowed Chair in Islamic Art at Virginia Commonwealth University with her husband and colleague Jonathan Bloom. Her special interests are the uses of writing and the arts of the Mongol period.  Her first book, Epic Images and Contemporary History:  The Illustrations of the Great Mongol Shahnama, coauthored with Oleg Grabar, was published in 1980.  Her latest book, Text and Image in Medieval Persian Art (2014), based on a series of lectures she gave in London in 2011, investigates the lively interaction between the verbal and the visual in the various different arts produced in Iran from the 10th to the 16th century.  Her monograph Islamic Calligraphy (2006) won the Book of the Year Prize from the Islamic Republic of Iran in 2008, and the three-volume Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture (2009) that she edited with her husband was selected for the same prize in 2011. In addition to several surveys of Islamic art (one of which has just been selected by the NEH to be distributed to nearly 1000 libraries and public collections around the US at part of their initiative on “Bridging Cultures”), she and her husband curated the 2006-7 exhibition Cosmophilia: Islamic Art from the David Collection and wrote the accompanying catalog.  They also convene the international biennial Hamad bin Symposia on Islamic Art and Culture.  Previous symposia were held in Doha (2009), Cordoba (2011), Doha (2013), and Palermo (2013); the next one will be held in Doha in November 2015.  They edit the proceedings, which are published in lavish format by Yale University Press in time for the subsequent symposium. She is presently at work on chapters on manuscripts and epigraphy for the Oxford Handbook of Qurʾanic Studies, a chapter (co-authored with her husband) on the book in the Islamic lands for the The [Oxford] Illustrated History of the Book, and several articles on patronage under the Mongols in Iran.

Jonathan M. Bloom shares both the Norma Jean Calderwood University Professorship of Islamic and Asian Art at Boston College and the Hamad bin Khalifa Endowed Chair of Islamic Art at Virginia Commonwealth University with his wife and colleague, Sheila S. Blair.  His most recent publication is The Minaret (Edinburgh, 2013]) an expanded and revised version of his 1989 book exploring the history and development of this form in Islamic architecture.  His Arts of the City Victorious:  Islamic Art and Architecture in Fatimid North Africa and Egypt (New Haven and London, 2007) is the first book-length study of the arts of this medieval Shii dynasty.  His Paper before Print: the History and Impact of Paper in the Islamic Lands (New Haven, 2001) won the 2003 Charles Rufus Morey Prize from the College Art Association for a notable book in the history of art.  With Sheila Blair he has edited four volumes of proceedings of the Hamad bin Khalifa Biennial Symposium on Islamic Art, most recently God is the Light of the Heavens and the Earth:  Light in Islamic Art and Culture (New Haven and London, 2015]) as well as the three-volume Grove Encyclopedia of Islamic Art and Architecture (New York, 2009), which won the 2010 World Book of the Year Prize from the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Catherine Chin is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and the chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of California, Davis. Her research interests and publications concern early Christian social and intellectual history, early Christian ritual, literary cultures of late antiquity and the early middle ages, the history of religious media and text transmission in Western culture, and premodern notions of gender, sexuality, and the body.

Marc Michael Epstein is Professor of Religion on the Mackie Paschall Davis & Norman H. Davis Chair at Vassar College. He is a graduate of  Oberlin College, received the PhD at Yale University, and did much of  his  graduate research at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He has written on various topics in visual and material culture produced by, for, and about Jews.  His most recent book, The Medieval Haggadah: Art, Narrative, and Religious Imagination (Yale, 2011) was selected by the London Times Literary Supplement as one of the best books of 2011. During  the 80s, Epstein was  Director of the Hebrew Books and Manuscripts division  of Sotheby’s Judaica department, and continues to serve as consultant to various  libraries, auction houses, museums and private collectors throughout the world,  among them the Herbert C. and Eileen Bernard Museum at Temple Emanu-El in New  York City, for which he curated the inaugural exhibition.

Sidney H. Griffith is Professor in the Department of Semitic and Ancient Egyptian Languages and Literatures at the Catholic University of America. His research interests include Arabic Christianity, Syriac monasticism, medieval Christian-Muslim encounters, and ecumenical and interfaith dialogue, on which he has published prolifically.

Bruce Holsinger is Professor of English at the University of Virginia. He is currently completing a book called Archive of the Animal: Science, Sacrifice, and the Parchment Inheritance, which explores the parchment record of the Western tradition from a number of different angles (environmental history, animal studies, zooarchaeology, theologies of sacrifice, etc.). A longer-term book project, The Work of God: Liturgical Culture and Vernacular Writing in Britain, 550-1550 (under contract with University of Chicago Press), examines the shaping role of liturgical culture in the history of literary writing, from the earliest known vernacular survivals in the sixth century to the coming of common prayer in the sixteenth.   Previous books have treated literary-musical relations, the medievalism of theory, and the neomedievalist rhetoric of the war on terror.  He also written a historical novel, A Burnable Book, set in London in 1385 and featuring John Gower and Geoffrey Chaucer.

AnneMarie Luijendijk is Professor of Religion at Princeton University. A scholar of New Testament and Early Christianity and a papyrologist, she is interested in the social history of early Christianity, using both literary texts and documentary sources. Her book Greetings in the Lord: Early Christians and the Oxyrhynchus Papyri (Harvard University Press, 2008) investigates papyrus letters and documents pertaining to Christians in the ancient Egyptian city of Oxyrhynchus in the pre-Constantinian period. Her next book, Forbidden Oracles? (Mohr Siebeck, 2014), entails a previously unknown 5th or 6th century Coptic manuscript entitled “The Gospel of the Lots of Mary,” that contains Christian oracular answers. She also works on a book on the Gospel of Thomas in Late Antiquity, and more generally on Christian manuscripts, the development of the New Testament canon, and material culture.

Lawrence Nees is Professor of Medieval Art at the University of Delaware. His primary area of interest is the art of the early Middle Ages, focusing on northwestern Europe but also considering the Mediterranean and Byzantine world. He also teaches Northern Renaissance art and is interested in non-Western artistic traditions, especially in Islam and East Asia. He has written The Gundohinus Gospels; From Justinian to Charlemagne: European Art A.D. 565-787; A Tainted Mantle: Hercules and the Classical Tradition at the Carolingian Court; and Early Medieval Art 300-1000. He is currently preparing two books: Frankish Manuscripts 7th-10th Centuries, and The Coronation Throne from Saint-Remi: Art and Political Legitimacy in the Twelfth Century. Professor Nees has received research fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Center of Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (National Gallery of Art), the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, and the Guggenheim Foundation.

Andrew Quintman is Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University, specializing in the Buddhist traditions of Tibet and the Himalaya. His areas of teaching and research include Buddhist literature and history, sacred geography and pilgrimage, and visual cultures of the wider Himalayan region. He is also interested in the religious and literary histories of Tibet’s unique southern border communities. He is author of The Yogin and the Madman:  Reading the Biographical Corpus of Tibet’s Great Saint Milarepa (Columbia University Press 2013), which explores the extensive body of early literature recording the life of Tibet’s acclaimed eleventh-century yogin and poet Milarepa. In 2010 his new English translation of the Life of Milarepa was published by Penguin Classics. He is currently working on two new projects, one exploring Buddhist religious and literary culture in the borderlands of Tibet and Nepal, and the other examining the life of the Buddha through the visual and literary materials associated with Jonang Monastery in western Tibet. He has also been working to document and analyze traditional Bhutanese temple artwork within its historical context.

Kurtis Schaeffer is Professor of Religious Studies and the chair of the Religious Studies Department at the University of Virginia. His research interests include Tibet, Buddhism, Tibetan history, Indian Buddhism, Nepal, and the Dalai Lama, on which he has published prolifically.

Megan Hale Williams is Associate Professor in the Department of History at San Francisco State University. Her fields of interest include the late Roman Empire, the history of Christianity, intellectual history, historiography, and climate history and historical epidemiology. She is author of The Monk and the Book: Jerome and the Making of Christian Scholarship and co-author of Christianity and the Transformation of the Book: Origen, Eusebius, and the Library of Caesarea. 


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