Assistant Professor of Art History Brad Hostetler missed the first day of school, but he had a good excuse. Every five years, historians and academics convene at the International Congress of Byzantine Studies (ICBS) to discuss the latest research on the Byzantine Empire. First held in Bucharest, Romania in 1924, the Congress celebrated its 24th meeting this August in Venice, Italy. Hostetler, an expert on Byzantium, was thrilled to be in attendance.
The ICBS is divided into sessions, each of which focuses on a specific facet of Byzantine history, including iconography, linguistics, civic law and canon law. Hostetler was one of several presenters in a session devoted to epigraphy, or the study of inscriptions. He described his interest in the relationship between inscriptions and the people who interacted with them: “My paper focused on the perception of Byzantine inscriptions by crusaders who came to the city during the fourth crusade in the 13th century,” he said. In studying texts written by crusaders about the inscriptions they saw, Hostetler wants to paint a picture of Byzantium through the crusaders’ eyes.
Hostetler’s passion for epigraphy is also the source of inspiration for a book he is working on about Byzantine relics and reliquaries, the containers used to store relics. Due to their precious and highly venerated nature, owners of relics wanted to house them in equally precious containers, Hostetler explained. Reliquaries were typically made of valuable materials like gold, pearls and enamel. Their intricate designs also often included inscriptions, Hostetler’s field of expertise.
Hostetler went into more detail about his research process, and the ways in which his time at Kenyon has enriched his work. “In small ways,” he said, “they offer short research grants that I have been able to take part in, and that have allowed me to travel and conduct research on different aspects of my book project.” He also praised the supportive faculty network at Kenyon — he gets together with other professors in a writing group every semester, which he says helps hold him accountable for his book. “And in larger ways,” he added, “last year I had my pre-tenure review leave, so I had a full year off where I could really focus on my research.”
Hostetler urges any students with an interest in art history to take one of Kenyon’s 100-level courses, which include introductions to Western, Asian, Islamic and African art. He said, “All of these courses are really designed to provide you with some foundation of how to look at images and objects and develop a vocabulary and a way to think critically about what you’re looking at.” Hostetler will be teaching Introduction to Islamic Art and Architecture (ARHS 115) next semester, and he looks forward to seeing new faces in class this spring.