Bret Rothstein

Bret Rothstein

Ruth N. Halls Professor, Art History

Adjunct Professor, Germanic Studies

Affiliate, Cultural Studies Program

Affiliate, Gender Studies


  • Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1998
  • M.A., University of California, Santa Barbara, 1991
  • B.A., Reed College, 1989

Research Interests

Visual and material cultures of play; enigmatology; early modern jokes and games

Selected Publications

Book Series

Cultures of Play 1300-1700 (Amsterdam University Press).


Single-Author Books

The Shape of Difficulty: A Fan Letter to Unruly Objects (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2019)

Sight and Spirituality in Early Netherlandish Painting (Cambridge University Press, 2005)


Selected Articles + Essays

Awards + Honors

  • Fellowship in Residence, College Arts and Humanities Institute, Indiana University
  • New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Grant
  • New Frontiers Exploration Travel Fellowship, Indiana University
  • Summer Faculty Fellowship, Indiana University
  • Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies
  • Samuel H. Kress Foundation Travel Fellowship
  • J. William Fulbright Fellowship

Courses Taught

  • Puzzles and the Playful Academy (Intensive Freshman Seminar)
  • From Van Eyck to Vermeer (A333)
  • Visual and Material Cultures of Play (A483)
  • Sixteenth-Century Visual Culture in Northern Europe (A482)
  • Print and the Origins of the Modern Medium (A476)
  • Playing with Pictures in the Fifteenth-Century Netherlands (A437)
  • Art History Goes to the Movies (A490)
  • Graduate Colloquium on Critical Theory and Methods in Art History (A510)
  • Recent seminar topics:
    • Visual Wit
    • Netherlandish Difficulties
    • The Early Modern Thing