Jutta Sperling

Professor of History
Jutta Sperling
Contact Jutta

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Jutta Sperling
Franklin Patterson Hall 208

On sabbatical fall 2024.

Jutta Sperling received her M.A. from the Universität Göttingen and her Ph.D. from Stanford University.

Sperling's teaching interests focus on the social and cultural history of early modern Europe, with a special emphasis on Renaissance visual culture, body history, catholicism, and comparative legal studies of the Mediterranean.

Her most recent research centers on the Madonna Lactans in late medieval and Renaissance art (see her article in Renaissance Quarterly, 73.1 Fall 2018). Her books include two monographs entitled Roman Charity: Queer Lactations in Early Modern Visual Culture (transcript Verlag, 2016) and Convents and the Body Politic in Late Renaissance Venice (University of Chicago Press, 1999) as well as two edited volumes Across the Religious Divide: Women, Property, and Law in the Wider Mediterranvan, with Shona Kelly Wray (Routledge, 2009) and Medieval and Renaissance Lactations: Images, Rhetorics, Practices (Ashgate, 2013). She published numerous articles on allegories of Charity, the Madonna Lactans, the history of marriage, and Portuguese women's property rights in the Renaissance.

Personal Website

Recent and Upcoming Courses

  • Little is known about the medieval Empire of Ethiopia despite its fantastic achievements in the fields of architecture, book culture, and religion. Ethiopians converted to Christianity in the 4th century and developed a distinct tradition of religious literature, unique art forms, and imperial power politics. Centering Ethiopia, we will analyze parallel developments, synergies, and interchanges with European/Mediterranean societies. Case studies will include illuminated manuscripts, the practice of magic, monasticism, church architecture, the cult of the Virgin Mary, ancient Renaissances, encounters with Judaism and Islam, strategies of othering and racialization, visits and encounters, diplomatic gift exchanges. Moving into the early modern age, we will study military partnerships with the Portuguese, the expulsion of the Jesuits, and female royal patronage of the arts. The focus will be on primary sources whenever feasible. We will also study a magic scroll preserved at Amherst College and learn the G???z alphabet. KEYWORDS:Middle Ages, Africa, Religion, Art, Global History

  • What do pictures want? Do they want to be looked at, loved, analyzed, comprehended, worshipped, reproduced, and weaponized or simply acknowledged as life forms that live in the minds of their beholders? What if they harbor a divine or satanic presence? What is the meaning constituted by their media and materialities? What is their power over the beholder? Do images ever die? How do objects become fetishes? How do colonization and racism destroy and change the meanings of images and objects? Case studies will include miracle working Byzantine icons; contact relics of the Virgin Mary; Kongolese minkisi or power figures; the emergence of the "male" as well as "modern" gaze that freezes and objectifies as well as the medieval "female" religious gaze that animates and worships; the politics of Renaissance perspective; an-iconic Islamic art; ephemeral wax figures; racialized imagery and the question of interiority. KEYWORDS:Visual Culture, Art, Colonialism, Religion, Atlantic