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Sonja Drimmer

Associate Professor | Medieval Art

Sonja Drimmer

(413) 545-3603

Personal Website

South College W315

Sonja Drimmer is a scholar of medieval European art with expertise in illuminated manuscripts and early print. Before joining the department in 2013, she received her BA from Brown University and PhD from Columbia University. Her research is largely concerned with premodern notions of authorship and authority, media theory, book history, reproduction, and the aesthetics and material culture of politics. She maintains a strong interest in historiography and in particular how mediation, reproduction, and restoration shape the reception of objects over time: this concern extends into commentary she has written for both public and scholarly venues regarding the incursion of machine learning and artifical intelligence into the humanities and art history in particular.

Research Areas

  • Medieval Art


Drimmer's monograph, The Art of Allusion: Illuminators and the Making of English Literature, 1403-1476 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), is the first art historical study dedicated to the emergence of the Middle English literary canon as an illustrated corpus, which argues for a revised notion of canonicity itself from the perspective of manuscript producers. It received High Commendation for Exemplary Scholarship from the Historians of British Art and was supported by subventions from ICMA-Kress, the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, and the College Art Association Millard Meiss Publication Fund. It has been reviewed in Studies in the Age of Chaucer, Speculum, The Medieval Review, Journal of British Studies, Medium Aevum, CAA Reviews, Journal of the Early Book Society, English Historical Review, The Antiquaries Journal, Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Studies in Iconography, and Peregrinations. 

For a full list of publications as well pdfs, please visit her personal website

You can find a recent CV here.


While continuing to publish on illuminated manuscripts of English literature, Drimmer is currently at work on two monographs: the first is devoted to the art and artifacts of political expression in England at the end of the Middle Ages. This project, Impressive Politics: Reproduction, Representation, and the Wars of the Roses, focuses on oft-overlooked, serially produced objects to argue for the critical role pre-print forms of reproduction played both in the political culture of and in changing ideas about representation in late medieval England. Research for this project has been supported by a Pforzheimer Fellowship from the National Humanities Center and a Humfrey Wanley Fellowship from the Bodleian Library. The second monograph, tentatively titled, Book History Is Not the History of the Book: Four Essays from Fifteenth-Century England, draws on over twenty years' experience examining the manuscripts and early printed books of this period, challenging the traditional, linear formulas that have structured the field of book history: from orality to literacy, from roll to codex, from manuscript to print, and from print to digital.

Awards and Accolades

Drimmer's research has received support and awards from the National Humanities Center, the Healey Endowment, the British Academy, the National Endowment for the Humanities, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the Warburg Institute, and many other institutions. She is also a founding member of the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography. In 2019 she was recognized with the Medieval Academy of America’s CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching as well as a College Outstanding Teaching Award from UMass Amherst. 

Courses Recently Taught

In her teaching, Drimmer takes an expansive approach, covering art produced in Europe, the Levant, and northern Africa between c.500 to 1500. She also enjoys collaborating with the librarians and archivists at the Du Bois Library to hold hands-on seminars on manuscript illumination in Special Collections and University Archives.

  • ART-HIST 305/605 Early Medieval Art
  • ART-HIST 307/607 Romanesque and Gothic Art
  • ART-HIST 392m The Medieval Art of Death
  • ART-HIST 705 The Lost Art of Medieval Britain: Absence and Recovery
  • ART-HIST 705 The Art of the Medieval Book
  • ART-HIST 781 Graduate Methods of Art History