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IMC 2023: Sessions

Session 901: Annual Medieval Academy Lecture: Somatic Entanglements (Language: English)

Tuesday 4 July 2023, 19.00-20.00

Sponsor:Medieval Academy of America
Speaker:Elina Gertsman, Department of Art History & Art, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio

Speaker: Elina Gertsman, Department of Art History & Art, Case Western Reserve University, Ohio
Introduction: Lisa Fagin Davis, Medieval Academy of America, Massachusetts

Abstract: Zoocephalic, or animal-headed, figures have long been recognized as a hallmark of Ashkenazic Jewish art, evident specifically in a series of manuscripts illuminated during the 13th and 14th centuries. The raison d’être for this visual tradition, at least in theory, constitutes a creative take on the corpus of Judaic law that forbids the representation of human countenance, as well as on the body of medieval responsa that took on this prohibition, often in surprisingly liberal ways. Yet, the presence of animal-heads goes well beyond any juridical mandate; and because zoocephali constitute a pliant visual idiom operating outside established, traditional paradigms, their uses remain unfixed. These theriomorphs, whose very nature is predicated on somatic entanglements between humanity and animality, have been employed to great and varied effect in medieval Hebrew books. This lecture explores several such entanglements in order to suggest that zoocephalic images stage a wide variety of complex visual arguments about likeness and difference.

The Medieval Academy is pleased once again to host the Annual Medieval Academy Lecture, an opportunity for the Academy to showcase some of the important work being done by scholars in North America. We hope you will join us for a reception immediately following the lecture, where members of the Medieval Academy staff will be available to answer questions about the Academy and its work. For more information about the Academy, please see All those attending are warmly invited to join members of the Medieval Academy after the lecture for a glass of wine.

Please note that admission to this event will be on a first-come, first-served basis as there will be no tickets. Please ensure that you arrive as early as possible to avoid disappointment.