Romance Languages and Literatures

Aden Kumler

Associate Professor of Art History, Romance Languages and Literatures, and the College


Cochrane-Woods Art Center 252

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  • PhD, History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University
  • MA, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto
  • BA, General Studies in Humanities, University of Chicago
Program(s): French and Francophone Studies

Aden Kumler studies and teaches the history of European medieval art and material culture. Kumler’s first book, Translating Truth: Ambitious Images and Religious Knowledge in Late Medieval France and England (Yale University Press, 2011) was awarded a Medieval Academy of America Book Subvention and short-listed for the ACE/Mercer's International Book Award. She has published essays in the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Cabinet Magazine, RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, Studies in Iconology, Gesta, as well as in various edited volumes. She is an inaugural Co-editor, with Beate Fricke (Universität Bern), of the Viewpoints book series, published by the International Center for Medieval Art (ICMA) & Pennsylvania State University Press.

Kumler’s research interests and objects of study range widely but are anchored in a deep interest in how the material conditions of life shape possibilities for thought, imagination, and action. Committed to a rigorously interdisciplinary tradition of Europeanist medieval studies, in her scholarship and teaching Kumler aims to critically engage questions and problems fundamental to the history of art and culture, writ large.

Kumler is currently completing a book, tentatively titled The Multiplication of the Species: Medieval Economies of Form, Substance, and Accident, that examines the mutually entangled material forms and theorizations of coins, seals, and the eucharist over the course of the Middle Ages. She is also in the early stages of work on another book project that propositionally re-envisions the long history of medieval art and material culture in relation to strategies of abstraction and abstract forms. Recent and forthcoming essays treat topics ranging from the material production of the sacred in the Middle Ages, to the crafting of Middle English lyrics in the form of objects, to the little-known medieval origins of the modern waffle.

Professor Kumler earned her BA from the University of Chicago, an MA from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto, a PhD in the History of Art & Architecture at Harvard University, and a Licentiate in Mediaeval Studies from the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto. She is a faculty member of the Department of Romance Languages & Literatures, an associate faculty member of the Divinity School, and an affiliate faculty member of the Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality and the Medieval Studies Program at the University of Chicago.

Kumler served as an elected Councilor of the Medieval Academy of America from 2015-18 and she is currently a member of the Academic Board of Advisors of the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (2017-20). In recent years she has been a Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (2014-15) and a Freiwillige Akademische Gesellschafts Fellow at the EIKONES Research Project at the University of Basel (2012-13). Her research and writing have been supported by a David E. Finley Pre-doctoral Fellowship from the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts and a Mellon Post-doctoral Fellowship from the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.

Kumler's teaching has been recognized with both the University of Chicago's Faculty Award for Excellence in Graduate Teaching and Mentoring and the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching.

Selected Publications

  • "Seeing the worldly with a moral eye: Illuminated observation as introspection in the later Middle Ages," in Optics, Ethics, and Art in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries: Looking into Peter of Limoges’s Moral Treatise on the Eye, Herbert Kessler & Richard Newhauser, eds. (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies Press: 2018): 47-63.
  • "Signatis... vultus tui:(re)impressing the Veronica in the Middle Ages," Convivium, Supplementum 2 (2018): 102-113.
  • "Handling the letter," in St. Albans and the Markyate Psalter: Seeing and Reading in 12th Century England, Kristen Collins & Matthew Fisher, eds., Studies in Iconography: Themes and Variations, 2 (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2017): 69-100.
  • "From Sacrament to Street Food," Cabinet: A Quarterly of Art and Culture, 58 (2016): 63-71.
  • "Manufacturing the sacred in the Middle Ages: The Eucharist and other medieval works of art," English Language Notes 53, 2 (2015) (special issue of co-edited by Anne Lester & Katherine Little): 9-44.
  • "Accidentally on purpose," Cabinet: A Quarterly of Art and Culture, 54 (2014): 74-80.
  • "'The Genealogy of Jean le Blanc': Accounting for the Materiality of the Medieval Eucharist," in The Matter of Art: Materials, Technologies, Meanings, c. 1250-1650, Christy Anderson, Anne Dunlop, and Pamela Smith, eds (Manchester University Press, 2014): 119-140.
  • "Imitatio rerum: Sacred objects in the St Giles Hospital Processional," in special issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Shannon Gayk & Robyn Malo (eds.), 43:4 (2014): 469-502.
  • "The Patron-Function," in Medieval Patronage: Patronage, Power and Agency in Medieval Art, Colum Hourihane, ed. (Penn State University Press, 2013): 297-319.
  • Co-authored with C. Lakey, "Res et significatio: The Material Sense of Things in the Middle Ages," Gesta, 51:1 (2012): 1-17.
  • “Translating ma dame de Saint-Pol: The privilege & predicament of the devotee in Paris, BnF, MS naf 4338,” in Translating the Middle Ages, Karen Fresco & Charles Wright, eds. (Ashgate: 2012).
  • “The Multiplication of the Species: Eucharistic Morphology in the Middle Ages,” RES: Anthropology and Aesthetics, 59/60 (2011).
  • Faire translater, faire historier: Charles V’s Bible historiale (Houghton Library, fMS Typ. 555) and the Visual Rhetoric of Vernacular Sapience,” Studies in Iconography, 29 (2008): 90-135.

Work in Progress

  • The Multiplication of the Species: Medieval Economies of Form, Accident and Substance [current book project]
  • “The ordeal of substance: Eucharistic theology on the bloody Rue des Billettes (1290)”