University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

Professor Esra Akın-Kıvanç's New Book Published

Congratulations to our own Esra Akın-Kıvanç, Assistant Professor of Islamic Art and Architecture for the publication of her important new book Muthanna/Mirror Writing in Islamic Calligraphy: History, Theory, and Aesthetics (Indiana University Press)

Muthanna, also known as mirror writing, is a style of Islamic calligraphy that encompasses diverse media, including textiles, tilework, metalwork, woodwork, architecture, and other forms. It is often compared to religious writings such as Christian and Judaic texts due to its similar meanings and symmetry.

Akın-Kıvanç presents Muthanna as a calligraphic tradition and redefines its modern understanding. While examining textile fragments, she found examples of Muthanna dating back to late antiquity, between the 7th and 9th centuries which is six centuries earlier than the date previous art historians had suggested for Muthanna’s emergence.

Muthanna/Mirror Writing in Islamic Calligraphy is the first major scholarly work of its kind, and it considers both the history and theory of its subject. The study originally began as an article that quickly grew in importance as Akın-Kıvanç realized that there were no book-length studies on the matter. She started to investigate and began traveling, researching, and studying this important form of both art and history.  Akın-Kıvanç's work earned her a prestigious American Council of Learned Societies (ACLS) Fellowship in 2017, which enabled her to continue her research.

The book was published by Indiana University Press, an internationally recognized leader in the publication of academic works in the humanities and social sciences. Muthanna/Mirror Writing in Islamic Calligraphy: History, Theory, and Aesthetics is now available in stores and online in both physical and digital form and has been contracted for translation in Turkish and distribution in Turkey.

"Muthanna not only makes a welcome intervention in the larger field of the history of calligraphy, but also highlights the specific practice of mirror writing, which has hitherto received almost no attention. The book brings religion and art together in an innovative and meaningful fashion, and Akın-Kıvanç is to be commended for her courageous pioneering work."

~Emine Fetvaci, Boston University