My research and teaching examines the relationship between artistic forms and ideological content in the art of the ancient world. I have published two articles on the Emperor Constantine’s monuments in the city of Rome (one of which won the Art Bulletin’s Arthur Kingsley Porter Prize) .
I have also given a number of talks on the spolia on the Arch of Constantine over the past few years. This will eventually be the topic of a book manuscript, Customary Magnificence: Emperor and City on the Arch of Constantine, which will offer a radical rethinking of one of the touchstones in the history of art. You can also see me talk about this work on an episode of an eight-part TV series that aired recently on the History Channel.
The interdependence of form and meaning is also the focus of my teaching, particularly at the 100- and 200-levels. In my survey courses (ARTS101 and ARTS105, an Introduction to Architecture), as well as in my classes on Greek art, Roman art (syllabus) and Islamic art (syllabus), I begin by asking students to tell me, “What choices did the designer of this monument make?” By isolating each work’s defining formal properties, we can link them to the particular needs or expectations of their ancient users and thence to their social function. This approach conveys both the importance of visual analysis and the inseparability of art and historical context.
The second focus of my scholarship and teaching is the reception and reuse of ancient monuments in the modern world, by scholars, governments and various other interest groups. I have developed this interest into two 300-level courses, one on museums (syllabus) and the other on the City of Rome from Antiquity to the Present (syllabus), which considers how particular ancient monuments in the city were appropriated by the church, the city council, the national government, the fascists, etc. over the course of 1700 years.
This topic was also the focus of a senior seminar I taught in fall 2008 called Looting, Faking and Collecting Antiquities (syllabus). This course led to a conference paper, which turned into an article which turned into a book: Shaky Ground: Context, Connoisseurship and the History of Roman Art, which will appear through Bloomsbury Academic Press in 2012.