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Journal of Visual Culture

Undergraduate Projects:

Laura Adams
Chloe Barnett
Bridget Costello
Elizabeth Damore
Hannah Flack
Molly Finnegan

Mariana Martin
Daria Ovide
Abigail Perkiss
Lauren Rosenblum
Debbie Wang
Maxim Weintraub
Petra Williams-Lescht

Graduate Projects:

Maya Balakirsky
Deborah Barkun
Andrea DeGiorgi
Zlatan Gruborovic
Elizabeth Martin
Michael J. McClure
Sara Morasch
Jeanne-Marie Musto
Kim Peters

Maya Balakirsky

What is now the town of Lincoln in Lincolnshire, England was settled more than two thousand years ago and, in the first century C.E., it became the capital of the Roman province that covered eastern England.   Flourishing during the medieval period as an inland port and a center of wool production, the town was visited by pilgrims and became home to several communities of friars.   They were drawn to the region by its cathedral, the third largest in England, consecrated in 1092 and reconstructed one hundred years later in the Gothic style.   Today, its looming towers still command the view above a medieval town center making Lincoln a valuable destination for an aspiring art historian particularly interested in the later Middle Ages.   During the summer of 2005, I spent eight weeks working in the Lincoln Cathedral Library, which gave me the rare opportunity to live in this region of extraordinary history while assisting with a project that would itself expand my knowledge of medieval culture and art.     

The libraries of the Lincoln Cathedral contain manuscripts that date as far back as one thousand years.   The Medieval Library was built in the 1420's and is now used for regular exhibitions of books and manuscripts.   The Wren Library, designed by Sir Christopher Wren and completed in 1675, houses an important collection of early printed books.   My project was to create a computer database classifying the woodcuts from the library's holdings of incunabula and early printed books .   It is estimated that around five hundred of the books printed before 1535 contain woodcuts.   I compared these images with those catalogued in Edward Hodnett's English Woodcuts, 1480 to 1535 .   This involved digital photography of the woodcuts and the creation of subject fields to enable cross-referencing.

The librarians arranged a visit to the Cathedral Works Department where we were shown around the stonemason's workshop and were allowed to see pieces of the Dean's Eye rose window on the light box.   I attended cathedral concerts, Shakespeare plays, and a study day in the Wren Library.   On the weekends, I traveled to London, York, Nottingham, and Haworth (the home of the lovely Brontë sisters).   I took a trip to Cambridge with the library staff and visited King's College Chapel and the Wren Library at Trinity College.

My summer work inspired my choice of thesis topic - I am now writing on a subject involving fifteenth and sixteenth century woodcut images.   But, what I learned from my internship that was most lasting came from my experience of the cathedral itself.   I remember seeing Lincoln's towering West Front for the first time, not over the rooftops of the town but as a image projected in a darkened Bryn Mawr classroom. Until I spent a summer in Lincoln, I had not truly realized that its Gothic monument was in fact still the center of so many lives.   In the morning, choir men walked their dogs around the circling drive and stonemasons walked the roof.   Organ music often drifted into the cloister where students from the Minster School took their lunches. Many of my co-workers, as children, had played rowdy games dangerously close to the chapter house windows. In the short time I'd spent working in the cathedral library, I grew to love this town in eastern England and was fortunate to be among those people whose faith and care had sustained this place for more than a thousand years.  

The summer grant awarded to me by the Center of Visual Culture enabled me to turn two years of research notes into a dissertation. While my plan this summer was initially to continue research for another chapter of my project, I switched gears and embarked on the process of writing.

I explore the visual representation of Émile Zola as a case study on the public image and media spin of French intellectuals during the Dreyfus Affair. The dissertation is divided into two parts: the representation of Zola by the hand of caricaturists or avant-garde artists and Zola's self-representation via an avid interest in amateur photography. Each section is subdivided into four/five chapters focusing on specific works of art, series of posters, or a narrower thematic point. Zola, a Christian supporter of Dreyfus, is an exaggerated example of the general trend to collapse the categories of "intellectual" and "liberal" with "Jew" as evidenced through popular caricature which imaged both intellectuals and Jews as connected to anti-militarism, inactivity, homosexuality, degeneracy, deviance and disease. I suggest that Zola may have suffered from the feverish tempo of French fin-de-siècle antisemitism. I systematically examine the changing image of Zola, from his initial championing of Édouard Manet's Olympia in 1866, his career as an art critic, journalist, and novelist, and his support of the Jewish army captain Alfred Dreyfus, until the 1900 World's Fair, an event that signaled the end of the Affair for the masses. While I identify the categories of both fame and deprecation in the development of Zola's public image, especially in relation to the racial antisemitism of the late 1890's, my dissertation also reveals the desires and aspirations of Zola on the subject of his own image (perceived and actual). I examine Zola's own image-building through an analysis of photographs he took of family, landscapes, cityscapes, and the 1900 World's Fair. The conclusion points to the intersection between the image of the masculine Dreyfusard intellectual, or the opposing image of the effeminate or emasculated figure proffered by the anti-Dreyfusards, as one that either denied or linked the intellectual with medieval stereotypes of Jews.

I see this summer in collaborative terms, for it would have been impossible without Bryn Mawr's support, Steven Levine's guidance, and the help of the caregivers that provided my children with everything they needed.