2007 “Ways of Seeing” Conference (Christ/Tulloch Shohet Grant)

2007 Shohet Scholars Program Grant Recipient
Alice Christ and Janet Tulloch

Ways of Religious Seeing in Late Antique Material Culture

This project is an interdisciplinary symposium on ways of religious seeing in late antique material culture. An international group of scholars from a range of disciplines including archaeology, art history, biblical studies, classics, history, Jewish studies, psychology, and religious studies will participate. participants' fields of expertise include ancient Near Eastern, Roman Imperial, early Christian and Byzantine, Hebrew, Syriac texts, art, artifacts, and archaeology. They will bring international training and experience to what Anthony Cutler has described "is the most important single aspect of Late Antique studies today."

The symposium will take place at the University of Kentucky on March 28-29, 2008, and will include two public lectures.

The preliminary program is as follows:

Public Lectures

David Morgan, the Phyllis and Richard Duesenberg Professor in Christianity and the Arts at Christ College, Valparaiso University, will present a methodological orientation: "Religious Visual Culture: Paradigm, Practice, Artifact." Jas Elsner, Department of Classics, Oxford University, will present a case study in Late Antique religious art: "All Pharaoh's Men Got Drowned."

Symposium Sessions

1. Religious Seeing and Historicizing Vision: Theory, Historiography, Methods
Papers in this session will address problems of reconstructing other visualities in principle and Late Antique religious visualities in particular. Issues include principles of cultural construction of the Visual; the roles of human perceptual capacities and social needs in construction of religious image cultures or "scopic regimes" in general; and relation of religious image cultures to other specialized viewing techniques such as hunting, attending performances and reading. Papers present methods for retrieving religious symbol systems directly through an image discourse, rather than (in the traditional way) by seeking correspondence to or verification or illustration of a textual discourse.

Sheena Rogers, "Nature and Culture in Religious Visual Experience."
Brent Plate, "Visual Constructions of the World"
Patricia Cox Miller, "Vision in the Late Antique Corporeal Imagination."
Daria Pezzoli-Olgiati, "Theory and Method in Reconstructing Ancient Religious Seeing"
James Francis, "Biblical not Scriptural: What Studies of Ancient Artistry and Literacy Suggest about Interpreting the Earliest Christian Art"

2. Late Antique Perception and Representation

Papers in this session emphasize Late Antique conceptions of the nature and workings of vision: optics, philosophical or popular views of perception, and relations of material and spiritual. They address aspects of the reciprocity of such scientific, philosophical, or popular constructs with Late Antique modes of religious representation. They may be case studies of a particular material practice and its artifacts, or a particular genre of seeing or representation within or across Late Antique religions.

Roger Beck, "What you see is what you get: the case of the Mysteries of Mithras"
Janet H. Tulloch, “Casing the Sacred Gaze: Applying the seven functions of David Morgan’s typology for Religious Visual Culture to an early Christian household tomb in the catacomb of Marcellino and Pietro (Lau 78).”
Linda Jones Hall, "Reading and Seeing: the name of Jesus and the designs of the chi rho in the poems of Publilius Optatianus Porfyrius."
Anthony Cutler, "Christian, Pagan, Secular: How Do the Diptychs 'Work?'"
Linda Wheatley-Irving, "Visuality and spatiality in Late Antique Christian art of the Syrian Orient"

3. Training the Eye, Indoctrinating Belief?

The formation of canonical imagery, together with the tremendous outpouring of verbal description of visual religious experience in late antique Christian literature in particular, may be evidence of formation or enforcement of a new scopic regime, one that requires its members to see what they know. Papers in this session raise issues of the normative authority of images in constructing experience, the control of this authority, and the role of rhetoric in negotiating image authority.

Rachel Neis,"The Taming of the View: Cataloging Sight, Curtailing Vision in Late Antique Rabbinic Culture"
Giselle de Nie, "Imaging and Experiencing Miracles"
Laura Nasrallah, “The Pedagogical Image: The Early Christian Viewer in the Greco-Roman Cityscape”
Todd Penner, "The Polis as Visual Artifact and Artifice in the Acts of the Apostles"
Daniel Sarefield, "Seeing Religious Violence in Late Antiquity: Persuasion or Coercion?

4. Gender and Religious Seeing in Late Antiquity

Gendered religious seeing incorporates a range of ideas: from an ideology of gender implicit in visual and religious practices to the conscious self-representation and self promotion of female patrons. In this session papers discuss religious representations of women by themselves and by others, or address how perceptions and/or assumptions about gender influence, confirm or invert women's social status and religious roles.

Nicola Denzey, "Seeing Women's Ways: Women, Wealth and Self-Representation in Late Antique Commemorative Spaces"
Sharon Salvadori, "Prayers, Scrolls and Codices: Images of Women on Third- and Fourth-century Roman Sarcophagi"

5. Space, Place and Belief

Working with the understanding that belief is an embodied practice which may or may not follow statements of creed, papers in this session address the visual aspects of human interaction with or contestation of sacred space/place. These may include visual marking of religious experience by particiants as well as visual constructions or representations of sacred space.

Barbette Spaeth, "Visual Expressions of Belief and Ethnicity at the Spring of Upper Peirene on Acrocorinth in the Roman Period"
Linda A Fuchs "Representation of Space, Place, Time and Belief in the Vatican Jonah Sarcophagus."
Karen Britt, "Cosmologies and Sacred Space in Late Antique Jewish and Christian Cult Buildings"
John Wortley, "What is a Monastic Cell in Late Antique Egypt and Syria?"
Caroline Downing, "Conversion of Space: Christian Erasure of Synagogue Paintings at Stobi"

6. Seeing Ritual

These papers emphasize ways in which use of art and artifacts in ritual performances both respond and contribute to the visual culture of religious groups. On the one hand, emphasis may be on visual aspects of ritual in forming religious experience or in incorporating the individual into a religious culture. On the other hand, study of ritual use of art and artifacts may contribute to understanding the modes of seeing they expect and reward.

Steven Fine, "Between Gerizim and Jerusalem: A Liturgical Interpretation of Late Antique Samaritan Synagogues"
Hallie Meredith-Goymour, "Crafted Words as Contexts for Viewing: Ekphrasis and Inscribed Decoration on Usable Art in Late Antiquity"
Kevin Uhalde, "The Sight of Sin in Sermons and Liturgy"