Carol Knicely’s areas of interest lie in medieval art and society with emphasis on Western Europe, especially France. She is an Assistant Professor of Medieval Art History with a BA from UC, San Diego, and an MA and PhD from UCLA. In addition to courses in her field, she teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in cultural theory and the methodology of art history. Her research and publications have focused on pilgrimage cults and Romanesque art (including the development of reliquaries and monumental sculpted portals) especially in France between 1000 and 1200 AD, with a special interest in exchanges between lay and monastic cultures as they are mediated through visual imagery. She has published on the Cult of Sainte Foy at Conques, on the art historian Meyer Schapiro, and has a book forthcoming dealing with the portal sculptures of Souillac. Carol Knicely was invited to join the Getty Research Institute as a Getty Scholar in the academic year 2003–2004 along with a group of other scholars from various fields working in relation to that year’s theme, Markets and Value.
Areas of special interest in work and teaching have considered the visual in relation to: monasticism; religious, political and social aspects of pilgrimage; social and political conflict; cultural attitudes about death and concepts of the afterlife; gender roles; changing forms of religious devotion; the role of violence and the role of humour (sometimes encountered together, as in the carnivalesque); debates around oppositions between high and low in culture, sacred and profane, literate and illiterate, ecclesiastical and lay, spectacle and ritual, early feudal culture vs. the courtly cultures of the later Middle Ages; Books of Hours and concepts about the structure of the world and the universe in the Middle Ages.
Her current research project is entitled “For the Love of Jewels: The Multifaceted Role of Treasure Materials in the Middle Ages.” Focusing on the lure of gold and jewels in medieval art and society, Carol Knicely will explore the ramifications of an art in the Middle Ages where material value, aesthetic value, and spiritual value are inextricably combined in what would have to be called an “aesthetics of precious material.” A central theme underlying the study will be the constant play on the symbiotic relationship between an understanding of gold and jewels as material wealth and the metaphorical uses to which they are put as signifiers of status (religious and secular) and metaphors of the heavenly and divine. This symbiotic relationship was productive of some of the most splendid works of art and spirituality, but also the most devastating critiques of the church, iconoclasm, violence of war, and plunder.
Topics of seminars in the past have included: “The Cult of the Saints,” “Narrative Theories and Medieval Art,” “Visual Art and the Millennium,” “Rhetorics of Violence in Medieval Art,” “Regarding the Margins of Medieval Art,” “Exploring Humour in Medieval Art,” “Dealing with Death in the Middle Ages,” “Ornament and the Ornamental in Medieval Art: Reassessing the Genre and Its Role in Medieval Works,” “Jerusalem Desire and Conflict: Jewish, Christian and Islamic Appropriations of the Holy City,” “Mapping Medieval Thought: An Exploration of the Role of Maps and Radiate Diagrammatic images in Medieval Culture.”