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Kristopher Kersey
Assistant Professor of Art History

Kristopher Kersey’s research focuses on the art and material culture of Japan’s “classical,” Heian period (794–1192 CE), as well as that of its various recursions, returns, and modern appropriations. Topics of interest include the aesthetics and materiality of medieval Japanese scrolls and codices, comparative art-historiography, text-script-image dynamics, and the logic of assemblage.

His current book project, The Image of Japan, explores the figure of the written word in Japanese art history, with particular attention paid to the disjuncture between the conceptual taxonomies of modern art history and those operative in the premodern Japanese episteme. The book stems from his doctoral research, which focused on early medieval Japanese manuscripts—often in handscroll format—that were marginalized by the Western rubric of “text and image.” Most prominent among these were the Eyeless Sūtras—a once-five volume set of palimpsestic scrolls, with Buddhist sūtra texts overlaid on faint line drawings of face-less human figures; and the Definition of the Character A—a fragmentary assemblage of texts and paintings pertaining to a visualization practice whereby one inscribes the letter “A” within the body. Outside the medieval, he is also engaged in several smaller projects concerning the modern, postwar reception of poetic manuscripts, the place of the Japanese folding fan in the early-modern, European imaginary, and the material poetics of a treasured inscription by the warrior-literatus Hosokawa Yūsai (1534–1610 CE).

In the classroom, he takes an object-based approach, one that foregrounds the experiential, multi-sensorial, and phenomenological aspects of studying historical artifacts. This fall he will offer a broad survey of the arts and architectures of East, South, and modern “Asia.” Potential topics of upper-division and seminar courses for Spring 2016 include Buddhist art and material culture, Japanese painting and calligraphy, the materiality of East Asian sculpture, sexuality and gender in Asian art, and design in Japanese modernity.

Professor Kersey is the senior thesis advisor for the 2014–2015 academic year.

Grants and Fellowships

2014–2015 Anne van Biema Fellowship (Postdoctoral), Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC.

2012–2014 Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship (Predoctoral), Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA), National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC

2012–2013 Doctoral Fellowship, Metropolitan Center for Far Eastern Art Studies

Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley 2014
A.B., Princeton University 2004
Contact Information
225 Visual Arts Building
(804) 289-8986
Areas of Expertise
Japanese art, aesthetics, and material culture