Leslie Brubaker

Colleges, School and Institutes


My research interest in iconoclasms has led to the publication of numerous articles and four books (one of which, Byzantium in the iconoclast era, a history, weighs in at 2 kilograms, and won the 2011 PROSE award for best publication in the Humanities and also in History).  An international workshop on Iconoclasms which I was invited to organize in 2009 for Harvard led to the formation of a research group – the Iconoclasms Network, with 16 members from across America and Europe – for which I received three years of funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council. We worked closely with Tate Britain on an exhibition on iconoclasm in Britain (Art Under Attack) that ran September 2013 until January 2014 and was accompanied by a fifth book on Iconoclasm co-edited with Dr Stacy Boldrick and Prof Richard Clay.  The concise survey, Inventing Byzantine Iconoclasm, will appear in Italian translation in winter 2015. My research on iconoclasms led to a related interest in cultural exchange, and several of my PhD students have worked or are working in this area.

My interest in text and image is longstanding, and was the subject of my first book (Vision and meaning in Byzantium) as well as a number of articles. This project has led me to a strong subsidiary interest in visual theory, visual literacy and visual semiotics – all of which tie into my third key area of interest, gender in the Byzantine world. I co-edited Gender in the Early Medieval World, am on the editorial board of Gender and History, and have lectured widely on Gender in Byzantine. Many of my past and current PhD students (see below) work in areas related to these two interests. 

All of these interests came together in the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded project on Icons, relics and the cult of the Virgin, which I ran 2003 and 2006. This has resulted in The Cult of the Mother of God in Byzantium, texts and images (Ashgate, 2011), which I co-edited with Mary Cunningham.  Mary and I are also completing a book on The Virgin Mary in the Byzantine world, 600-1000: relics, icons, words and the rituals of daily life. We will both be at Dumbarton Oaks Centre for Byzantine Studies (Harvard) in 2016 to complete the manuscript.

Research interests

Late Antique, Byzantine and early medieval art, architecture and material culture, the relationship between word and image; the study of illuminated manuscripts; theories of perception and interpretation; the transmission of cultural capital, in particular the movement through trade, gift exchange or diplomatic gift of luxury products; gender.

Willingness to take PhD students


PhD projects

My core areas of supervision are:
Byzantine art history and cultural production
Gender (women, men and eunuchs) in Byzantium.

I have supervised 14 PhD dissertations to completion, on topics as diverse as: Martyrs, cults and water in the early Christian world; The church of the Archangel Michael (Candia, Crete); Byzantine aristocratic women in the Palaiologan period; The 12th-century illustrated copies of the Sermons of James of Kokkinobaphos; Heavenly Jerusalem and the imperial palace: text and image; The post-resurrection appearances of Christ; the Cult of St Anne in Byzantium; the Byzantine life course; the Cult of St Helen in the Byzantine and post-Byzantine world; Monasteries and pilgrimage in post-conquest Palestine; Byzantine coinage and trade with India; Competitive sharing: a re-evaluation of the impact of Byzantine culture on the west; and The Byzantine architecture of the Black Sea region.

I have 10 current PhD students, working on: Byzantine textile production; the Monastic architecture in Thrace; imperial female imagery; gender legislation; and various historical topics, mostly focusing on textual representation (e.g. usurpers, gender and power).