Justin Willson specializes in Byzantine and medieval Russian art, with a focus on the transmission of ideas and values between the Greek and Slavic world. His current work includes a study of the letters and writings of Maxim the Greek and Simon Ushakov, bringing to light an important late-Byzantine inscription, rethinking evangelist portraiture in the Greek Gospel book, and thinking through the structure of metaphors of writing and church decoration during iconoclasm. His dissertation is entitled “The Moods of Early Russian Art: A Belated Chapter of Byzantine Aesthetics.”
Justin returned to academia in 2013 after five years of teaching high school literature while running a neighborhood-rehabilitation nonprofit in South Georgia. He studied philosophy and literature as an undergraduate at the University of Georgia and worked broadly in visiting programs at Yale and the University of Chicago before joining the Art & Archaeology department at Princeton in 2015.
While focused on medieval art, Justin maintains a wider interest in the humanities. Key questions center around philosophy’s relation to art and the nature of value, beauty, and the sacred. As a pianist, he enjoys composing and performing folk music, while probably his greatest side interest remains reading and writing poetry and translating Russian verse.
Justin’s research has been supported at Princeton by fellowships from the Stanley J. Seeger Center ’52 Center for Hellenic Studies (2015-2016) and the Committee for the Study of Late Antiquity (summer, 2016). He is co-chair of The First Annual Medievalist Art Historians’ Doctoral Consortium (2017) through The Medieval Academy of America. In 2018-2019 Justin will be researching in Moscow on a Fulbright Study/Research Award at Moscow State University.
“Reading with the Evangelists: Portrait, Gesture, and Interpretation in the Byzantine Gospel Book,” Studies in Iconography 41 (2020).