Skip to Content

Elena Gittleman

"Legacies of Ancient Theater in Middle Byzantine Visual Culture (ca.843–1204)"

Elena Gittleman

Junior Fellow, Byzantine Studies

Elena’s research explores the contested and multifaceted legacies of Greco-Roman theater in medieval Byzantium. Her dissertation, "Legacies of Ancient Theater in Middle Byzantine Visual Culture (ca.843–1204)," challenges the persistent scholarly consensus that theater vanished with the end of Late Antiquity. Examining a broad range of media—including architecture, manuscripts, frescoes, ivories, and jewelry—her work illuminates the myriad ways in which the cultural memory of theater was made manifest in medieval Byzantine visual culture. She evaluates this evidence using a novel methodological and theoretical framework drawing on traditional Byzantine art history and archaeology as well as contemporary critical theories of cultural memory and performance theory. Her research elucidates several of the ways in which theater acted as an important mechanism through which imperial power and elite identity was created, retained, and performed. She demonstrates that theater—like other Roman institutions such as bathing, circus games, imperial administration, and paideia (education)—was preserved and transformed as part of the Byzantine Empire’s conscious cultivation of its continuous romanitas.

Elena Gittleman is a PhD Candidate in History of Art at Bryn Mawr College. She holds a BA in Art History & Archaeology from Washington University in St. Louis and an MA in Art History from Southern Methodist University. Elena worked for three seasons as a member and square supervisor of the Huqoq Excavation Project in northern Israel. She has held a graduate curatorial fellowship at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston in 2017, as well as education positions at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Met Cloisters, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts. She has curated two exhibitions at Bryn Mawr and served as co-chair for the Graduate Student Association from 2017-2019. Her research has been supported by grants from the International Center of Medieval Art, the Istanbul Research Institute, the Medieval Academy of America, the American Research Institute in Turkey, and the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture.