Catherine M. Soussloff

PhD, BA (Bryn Mawr)

Catherine M. Soussloff’s research explores the historiography, theory, and philosophy of art and visual culture in the European tradition from the Early Modern period (ca. 1400) to the present. She has authored and edited books and written over fifty essays and articles in art history and in a wide range of related fields, including performance studies, aesthetics, Jewish studies, the history of photography, and visual studies. She has lectured extensively in Canada, Europe, the UK, the USA, and South America. Professor Soussloff has advised and supervised MA and PhD students in Art History, Visual and Cultural Studies, History of Consciousness, Literature, and History. Known for her comparative and historical approaches to the central theoretical concerns of art history and aesthetics, Soussloff’s most recent publications have focused on contemporary art, performance, Picasso’s late work, and the aesthetic theories of the French philosopher Michel Foucault. Her book on Michel Foucault and painting theory in the twentieth century was published by University of Minnesota Press in 2017. Her edited volume Foucault on the Arts and Letters: Perspectives for the 21st Century, published by Rowman and Littlefield in 2016, includes twelve essays by experts in six disciplines and an introduction and essay on Gilles Deleuze’s views of Foucault’s contribution to philosophy written by Soussloff. Soussloff’s lectures on Foucault given at the Collège de France in Paris may be accessed at Her views on Foucault are featured in the Slovenian art mockumentary: MY NAME IS JANEZ JANŠA (dir. Janez Jansa).

Before coming to UBC in 2010 as Head of the department, Professor Soussloff taught for twenty-four years at the University of California, Santa Cruz where she held a prestigious University of California Presidential Chair in Visual and Performance Studies and the first Patricia and Rowland Rebele Chair in the History of Art. For twelve years Soussloff was Director of Visual and Performance Studies, an international and multi-disciplinary faculty-graduate research initiative. In that capacity she programmed major conferences and an annual seminar series, funded by competitively awarded grants. She served as Chair of the Editorial Board of the Art Journal (College Art Association of America) and she was a founding book reviews editor of Images: Journal of Jewish Art and Visual Culture. For two years she was a member of the board of Live Vancouver, the city’s performance art biennale.

Professor Soussloff has been the recipient of grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Getty Research Institute, The Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the College Art Association of America, the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, University of Pennsylvania, and the Institute for the Humanities at New York University. In summer 2011 Soussloff was resident at the University of California, Irvine where she held a National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar fellowship for the study of Walter Benjamin’s Later Writings. During the academic year 2013–14 Catherine M. Soussloff was a Distinguished Scholar in Residence at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies. In spring of 2017 Professor Soussloff was an Invited Researcher at the Institut Nationale d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) in Paris where she pursued the topic of expressivity and art.

Foucault on Painting
University of Minnesota Press

In Foucault on Painting, Catherine M. Soussloff argues that Michel Foucault’s sustained engagement with European art history critically addresses present concerns about the mediated nature of the image in the digital age. She explores the meaning of painting for Foucault’s philosophy, and for contemporary art theory, proposing a new relevance for a Foucauldian view of ethics and the pleasures and predicaments of contemporary existence.

Read the UMinn blog to learn more about Professor Soussloff’s discoveries in the Foucault fonds at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, as she was completing work on Foucault on Painting.

Listen to Professor Soussloff discuss the book in conversation with Professor Kristin L. Ellsworth on the New Books Network.




Foucault on the Arts and Letters
Rowman & Littlefield

Edited and with an introduction by Catherine M. Soussloff

As one of the most important philosophers of the twentieth century, Michel Foucault’s reputation today rests on his political philosophy in relation to the contemporary subject in a neo-liberal and globalized society. This book offers insight into the role of the arts in Foucault’s thought as a means to better understanding his contribution to larger debates concerning contemporary existence. Visual culture, literary, film and performance studies have all engaged with Foucauldian theories, but a full examination of Foucault’s significance for aesthetic discourse has been lacking until now. This book argues that Foucault’s particular approach to philosophy as a way of thinking the self through the work of art provides significant grounds for rethinking his impact today. The volume moves across as many disciplinary boundaries as Foucault himself did, demonstrating the value of Foucault’s approach to aesthetic discourse for our understanding of how the arts and humanities reflect upon contemporary existence in a globalized society.

Includes essays by:
Dana Arnold
Andrew Ballantyne
Sophie Berrebi
Sima Godfrey
Frédéric Gros
Brandon Konoval
Ilka Kressner
Anton Lee
Frédéric Pouillaude
Marisa C. Sánchez
Arianna Sforzini
Catherine M. Soussloff




The Handbook of Visual Culture
Berg Publishers

Edited by Ian Heywood, Bary Sandywell

Consultant edited by Michael Gardiner, Gunalan Nadarajan, and Catherine Soussloff

Visual culture has become one of the most dynamic fields of scholarship, a reflection of how the study of human culture increasingly requires distinctively visual ways of thinking and methods of analysis. Bringing together leading international scholars to assess all aspects of visual culture, the Handbook aims to provide a comprehensive and authoritative overview of the subject.

The Handbook embraces the extraordinary range of disciplines which now engage in the study of the visual – film and photography, television, fashion, visual arts, digital media, geography, philosophy, architecture, material culture, sociology, cultural studies and art history. Throughout, the Handbook is responsive to the cross-disciplinary nature of many of the key questions raised in visual culture around digitization, globalization, cyberculture, surveillance, spectacle, and the role of art.

The Handbook guides readers new to the area, as well as experienced researchers, into the topics, issues and questions that have emerged in the study of visual culture since the start of the new millennium, conveying the boldness, excitement and vitality of the subject.




Editing the Image: Strategies in the Reception of the Visual
University of Toronto Press

Co-editors Mark Cheetham, Elizabeth Legge.

The editing process is a vital part of virtually every form of media. Primarily associated with texts and written language, editing is equally essential, if less examined, in regard to visual media. Editing the Image looks at the editing of visual media as both a series of technical exercises and as an allegory. It touches on concerns that are crucial to the history of art and visual culture, as well as those media and institutions that produce and disseminate the visual arts in our society. Featuring contributors from a wide range of disciplines, Editing the Image considers editing in the context of academic journals, art-historical texts, illustrated books, museum displays, and exhibitions. It is an inclusive analysis of visual forms commonly associated with the process of editing, photography, film, and video, as well as some media that are not intrinsically linked to editing, such as painting, sculpture, and architecture. In addition to wide-ranging academic considerations, this collection includes discussions of moving picture media and studio art by practitioners, giving the study a practical focus. For anyone who has considered the implications of the editorial process, this work will be of significant interest.




The Subject in Art: Portraiture and the Birth of the Modern
Duke University Press

“Professor Soussloff has managed, in her philosophical and art historical reflections on the portrait in modernity, to bring important insights to our understanding of the relation between the individual and history. In focusing on the ‘subject’ in the individual as revealed and hidden in modern portraiture, Soussloff exposes many of the open secrets of modernist historical consciousness as well.”
Hayden White, Presidential Professor of Historical Studies Emeritus, UCSC; Professor of Comparative Literature, Stanford University




Acting on the Past: Historical Performance Across the Disciplines
Wesleyan University Press

Edited by Mark Franko and Annette Richards.

The essays in this volume reveal that the interconnections between traditional disciplinary boundaries can be productive places from which to launch new and innovative critique. Many of the contributors to this volume, including Mark Franko (Theater Arts and Dance), Catherine Soussloff (Art History), Carolyn Dean (Art History), and Karen Bassi (Classics and Literature), are professors at UC Santa Cruz where they were Core Faculty in the planning for a new Ph.D. program in Visual and Performance Studies (VPS). This graduate program would have brought together innovative scholars from arts, cultural anthropology, and the humanities in advanced scholarly research and teaching according to an interdisciplinary and collaborative model.

“An extremely unusual collection, Acting on the Past establishes a dialogue between conventional and theoretical approaches to historical performance studies, on the one hand, and foregrounds the importance of early performance for an understanding of what has become known as the discipline of `performance studies … The book will become an influential source text in performance studies, both old and new.”
Timothy Murray, Cornell University.




Jewish Identity in Modern Art History
University of California Press

“The goal of this volume … is to introduce the subject of Jewish identity to art history and to explore its complexities … The contributions cover issues ranging from the concept of Jewish art, aniconism, and anti-Semitism to the importance of Jewish identity to numerous artists, collectors, and art historians. While there are recurring themes in this volume, Soussloff is as interested in outlining the great variety of materiel surrounding the notion of Jewish identity in art history and indicating its theoretical significance.”
Mitchell Frank, CAA Online Reviews (Spring 2000).




The Absolute Artist: The Historiography of a Concept
University of Minnesota Press

The myth of the artist-genius has long had a unique hold on the imagination of Western culture. Iconoclastic, tempermental, and free from constraints of society, these towering figures have been treated as fixed icons regardless of historical context or individual situation. In The Absolute Artist, Soussloff challenges this view in an engaging consideration of the social construction of the artist from the fifteenth century to the present.