Bret Rothstein

Bret Rothstein

Ruth N. Halls Professor, Art History

Adjunct Professor, Germanic Studies

Affiliate, Cultural Studies Program

Affiliate, Gender Studies

• Accepting Ph.D. students


  • 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

  • ARTH-A290 How Architecture Works
  • ARTH-A333 From Van Eyck to Vermeer
  • ARTH-A437 Playing with Pictures in the Fifteenth-Century Netherlands 
  • ARTH-A476 Print and the Origins of the Modern Medium 
  • ARTH-A482 Sixteenth-Century Visual Culture in Northern Europe
  • ARTH-A483 Visual and Material Cultures of Play
  • ARTH-A490 Art History Goes to the Movies 
  • ARTH-A510 Graduate Colloquium on Critical Theory and Methods in Art History 
  • ARTH-A638 Problems in 16th Century Art Outside Italy: Varieties and Consequences of Early Modern Visual Wit
  • ARTH-A638 Problems in 16th Century Art Outside Italy: Netherlandish Difficulties 
  • ARTH-A638 Problems in 16th Century Art Outside Italy: The Early Modern Thing
  • COLL-S103 Puzzles and the Playful Academic