Charles Burroughs

Chair, and The Elsie B. Smith Professor in the Liberal Arts

Charles Burroughs

Charles Burroughs, the interim chair of the Department of Classics and Elsie B. Smith Professor of Liberal Arts, is a cultural historian with a primary interest in the art and architecture of late- and post-medieval Europe, especially Italy. His academic training was first in classics: he has a BA in Literae Humaniores (i.e., ancient philology, literature, and history and ancient and modern philosophy) from Balliol College of Oxford University, and the M.Phil and Ph.D from the Warburg Institute of London University, a renowned interdisciplinary research center officially dedicated to the study of the History of Science and of the Classical Tradition. He came to CWRU in 2005 as chair of the Department of Art and Art History, and was in 2006 acting chair of the Department of Classics for one semester. In his teaching he focuses on various aspects of the classical tradition, and responses to it or reactions against it, in the visual arts and in architecture. He is currently teaching courses on Gothic Europe and on the use and symbolism of domes in architecture, both in and beyond the Euro-American tradition.

In his research and publications, Burroughs has focused especially on late medieval and early modern Italian architecture, visual culture, and urban and landscape design, i.e., at a time of especially intense engagement with the legacy of antiquity in terms of artistic innovation as well as antiquarian research. He has published on the development of Rome and its region in the early Renaissance, the evolution of the façade as a key factor both in architectural and cultural history, and the relationship between social space, virtual space (i.e., as represented or evoked in important pictorial works), and the space of more or less ritualized performance (e.g., the Roman carnival). He has written extensively such key figures on Michelangelo, Leon Battista Alberti, Botticelli, Brunelleschi, and Palladio, and the patronage of, among others, Popes Nicholas V, Paul III, and Sixtus V, as well as Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino.

Currently, Burroughs has two major scholarly projects. One involves a monograph on Botticelli’s Primavera as a political painting; he connects the painting itself and related cultural phenomena (not least architecture) to the reception of Aristotelian ethical and political theory in fifteenth-century Florence, especially concerning the foundation, character and legitimacy of various forms of civil society. The other main research project, which received recognition in the form of a Getty Foundation collaborative grant, deals with plantation landscapes and architecture, as both vehicles and objects of representation, in the Americas in the early 19th century. With a highly international and interdisciplinary group of colleagues, then, Burroughs is studying what was arguably the final stage of a form of social and spatial organization, dependent on unfree labor, which was established in antiquity and provided with influential justifications in ancient texts.

Mather House Room 404