“The old light of dead or distant stars. . . reaches us only in the present. Many historical events, like astronomical bodies, also occur long before they appear.” — George Kubler, The Shape of Time: Remarks on the History of Things(1962)

This seminar considers how images travel through time, dropping in and out of linear histories and reshaping perception, institutions, and social practices along the way. We will study images and objects that are at odds with the moment of their appearance, whether they outlived their initial function or lost contact with their original cultural contexts. Monuments to unjust pasts; icons manifesting fallen gods; ancient ruins in modern structures; replicas and forgeries; old images restored by new technologies: these images force a paradox into view.

While they endure within continuous histories, they also remain stubborn signs of vanished worlds, out of step with the present. Images in the wrong place at the wrong time have justified the civilizing mission of empire and acts of iconoclasm. They continue to structure debates about repatriating artifacts, dismantling monuments and museums, and preserving cultural heritage destroyed by war or exploitation. When “images out of time” suddenly upset our faith in the march of history, they challenge our ability to measure our distance from the past, to understand ourselves, and to imagine collective futures.

Events include speakers, reading groups and writing workshops that intersect art history, religious studies, history, anthropology, literature, and film, and cuts across divisions separating premodern and modern, as well as European, Atlantic, and Pacific spheres.

This seminar is open to all interested participants and is organized by Megan R. Luke (Art History), David Albertson (Religion), Nancy Lutkehaus (Anthropology), Panivong Norindr (Comparative Literature), and Vanessa R. Schwartz (Art History and History)

For suggestions for future programming, please contact David Albertson:

To RSVP for any event and receive a Zoom link and relevant readings, please contact

For more information about our Fall 2023 programming please visit News & Events: Images Out of Time