RIJS People Faculty
Professor of Japanese Art and Culture
Melissa McCormick received her dual B.A. in art history and Japanese language and literature from the University of Michigan (1990), her Ph.D. in Japanese Art History from Princeton University (2000), and studied at Gakushūin University (1996-98) while conducting her dissertation research. After a year as a fellow at the Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts at the National Gallery, Washington D.C., she was Atsumi Assistant Professor of Japanese Art in the History of Art and Architecture Department at Columbia University (2000-05), until moving to Harvard in 2005.
As an art historian with an interdisciplinary approach she is interested in thinking the relationship of pictorial form to social history and contexts of artistic production. Her particular focus has been on narrative handscrolls and the interrelationship of text and image in the medieval period. Her forthcoming book, Tosa Mitsunobu and the Small Scroll in Medieval Japan, studies the relationship of scale and format to pictorial representation and literary genre, while providing a social and cultural history of aristocratic society in late fifteenth-century Kyoto. A second book manuscript in progress entitled Monochromatic Narratives: Hakubyō and Female Authorship in Medieval Japanese Literature and Painting, examines the tradition of ink-line (hakubyō) narrative painting and its association with communities of female readers and artists.
Another scholarly interest is the eleventh century literary classic, The Tale of Genji, and its seminal influence on Japanese art and culture. Her publications on this topic have explored the culture of The Tale of Genji in medieval Japan, warrior patronage, female readers and commentators on the tale, and how Genji represents a master narrative of cultural comportment. Future Genji-related projects include a book on the history of Genji pictorialization. Professor McCormick offers undergraduate and graduate seminars on narrative scrolls, Genji painting, the art of kami worship, and gender and Japanese art.