Jaś Elsner will be coming to speak in the Seminar in Cultural History Wednesday, October 7th, 2009 on: “Alois Riegl and Classical Archaeology.”

Dr. Elsner is currently the Humfry Payne Senior Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and Visiting Professor of Art History and Classics at the University of Chicago. He received his BA from Cambridge University, MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art and PhD from Cambridge University. From 1993 to 1996, he was Coordinator of the MA Programme in Art Museum Studies at the Courtauld Institute of Art and from 1991 to 1999, Reader in History of Art and Lecturer in Classical and Early Christian Art, also at the Courtauld Institute. He has received numerous honors and fellowships, including in 2009, being made Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Dr. Elsner is the author of four books, Roman Eyes: Visuality and Subjectivity in Art and Text (Princeton University Press, 2007); Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph: The Art of the Roman Empire A.D. 100-450, (OUP, 1998); Pilgrimage Past and Present: Sacred Travel and Sacred Space in the World Religions, with Simon Coleman, (British Museum Press and Harvard University Press, 1995); and Art and the Roman Viewer: The Transformation of Art from the Pagan World to Christianity (CUP 1995). He is also editor of, Faith Without Borders: The Curious Category of the Saint, a special issue of Critical Inquiry (Spring, 2009); Philostratus, edited with Ewen Bowie (CUP, 2009); Severan Culture, with Stephen Harrison and Simon Swain (CUP, 2007); and Visualising the Tragic, with Chris Kraus, Simon Goldhill and Helene Foley (OUP, 2007). Dr. Elsner has two forthcoming collaborative projects: Images and Texts on the “Artemidorus Papyrus”, with Kai Brodersen, and Roman Sarcophagi, with Janet Huskinson.

Dr. Elsner’s talk is entitled, “Alois Riegl and Classical Archaeology.” The seminal work of Alois Riegl - the only scholar other than Winckelmann to be seen equally as a founding figure in the disciplines of art history and classical archaeology - was largely rejected by the 1940s in anglophone art history (following the fundamental interventions of Panofsky) but accepted wholesale in classical archaeology. The 80s discovery of ‘New’ art history, coupled with the rise of ‘theory’ and ‘methodology’ and a historiographic revival, brought Riegl back into the mainstream of art history with a series of translations of his major works. Meanwhile, classical archaeology - while still largely following a pre-Panofskian (unreconstructedly post-Rieglian) intellectual agenda had pretty well entirely forgotten where it had gotten it from. This talk will interrogate some of these issues over the course of the period from roughly 1920-1960, before critiquing the (in his view intellectually unsustainable) still-Rieglian theoretical basis of a number of classic 1980s works of Classical archaeology.