Professor, Art History
Courtesy Appointment, Comparative Literature
Affiliated Faculty, the Fernand Braudel Center
Steering Committee, Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies
Office: Fine Arts 220B, Vestal Campus
Phone: (607) 777-2009
Specialization: Early modern Italian studies (1250-1750); visual and material culture; representation and discourses on identity and difference; art history and semiotics, psychoanalysis, and continental philosophy; feminist theory, gender studies, and feminist histories of art. Other areas of interest include urban history and world systems analysis, the history of cartography, institutions of art, art education, and criticism; art, religion, and the state.
Trained as an early modern Italianist with an emphasis on visual culture, Karen has developed a set of critical concerns informed by an ongoing engagement with semiotics, psychoanalytic theory, and continental philosophy. Much of her work has addressed the way subjects are caught in fields of visual and material culture by the performative aspects of the self that exceed the linguistic. More recently this work on identity-formation has taken a spatial and self-consciously phenomenological turn. Her recent book, The Limits of Identity: Early Modern Venice, Dalmatia, and the Representation of Difference (Brill 2017), addresses the representation of difference against the gauge of venezianità ("Venetianness") and, in particular, the burden of dismemberment and decapitation as indices of the alterity of "the Turk;" the rehearsal of collective identity; migration; border-crossing and other transgressions of "proper place" (de Certeau); and efforts to regulate mobility and spatial practice in the Venetian state's management of its provinces and unstable borderlands. The analysis works across various media – from painting, sculpture, print culture, and staged performance to classified correspondence in government archives. This work will appeal to those interested in Venice and its relations with the Ottoman Empire; border-crossing, migration, and the role of representation in subject-formation and imagined community. http://www.brill.com/products/book/limits-identity-early-modern-venice-dalmatia-and-representation-difference
Cartography and the Paper Management of the Early Modern State (book in progress) looks at the rise of mapping in the information technologies of early modern states with their growing dependence on collecting, storing, and delivering data newly encoded in pictures as well as written form. This project also focuses on Venice, the first transregional state to call for the systematic mapping of its territories (1460), and includes a discussion of the Venetian Ducal Palace as archiving machine for the state's classified documents. Other current work focuses on the built form of border towns and migration as part of the spatial histories of borderlands.
Director of Binghamton University's interdisciplinary Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (CEMERS) from 2006 to 2011, Karen has more recently turned her attention to professional activities off-campus. She is currently a Discipline Representative for Art History and Architecture at the Renaissance Society of America, where she also serves on the editorial board of the Society's journal, Renaissance Quarterly.
Karen was recently awarded seed money for a trans-disciplinary research project that draws together scholars from several continents working on the role of visual representation in the management of the early modern state, with a particular focus on borderlands. Those interested in the project (see the summary below) are invited to contact Karen through this website.
Visual and Material Negotiations Around Borders –
A Case Study of Sovereignty and Provincial Identity at the Edges of Imperial Rule.
This project brings together scholars in Art History, History, Sociology, and Geography to work on early modern maps, topographic drawings, and documents in state archives in Turkey and Europe. Their collaborative efforts will address 1) how empires negotiated the limits of sovereignty along shared borders, and 2) how subject-populations at the edges of empire negotiated identity. Given the research interests of current participants, the project will focus initially on the Ottoman Empire and borders it shared with the territorial state of Venice in present-day Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Montenegro, 16th–18th centuries. The purpose is to place visual representation into the larger context of the imperial archive and to draw on that archive to reconstruct the shared space of borderlands in their material form (town, fortress, settlement, hinterland). Foregrounding the material and the visual as important objects of interrogation, the focus then is on 1) the role of images in the management of the imperial state, and 2) the object-world and spatial practices of a lost frontier.
Recent Courses Taught
Introduction to Art (100-level)
Renaissance and Baroque (200-level)
Women and the Renaissance (200-level)
Drama of the Baroque (300-level)
Religion and Images Across the Early Modern World (300-level)
Theory and Methods (400-level)
Feminist Theory, Psychoanalysis, and Semiotics: A Critical History
Gender and Performativity
The Monstrous Baroque
Representing Borders/Picturing Frontiers
Spectacle and Public Performance
Space and Time in the Early Modern City
Zombie Revolution: Reclaiming Vacant Properties in Binghamton, NY
Gunpowder and Publicity: Arts of War in the Early Modern State
Venezia veduta, Venezia vissuta: Representations of Venice and Everyday Life in the City
Partnerships in Sustainable Urban Revitalization: Binghamton, NY