University of South Florida

College of The Arts

University of South Florida

Professor Esra Akin-Kivanç Presents Current Book at Conferences

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)

Dr. Akın-Kıvanç will now present the material from her book as well as other academic research at the Association for Art History, United Kingdom (April 17, 2021). Her paper, “Mirror Calligraphy: A Path of Return to the Source,” discusses a chapter from her recent book on mirror calligraphy.

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. She has been awarded a USF Publications Council Award for subsidy toward copyrights of images to be included in the Turkish translation of her book.

She will also present some of her current research at The 56th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI (May 11, 2021). Her paper, “In the Mirror of the Other: Imprints of Muslim-Christian Exchanges on Inscribed Objects from the Late Antique and Medieval Mediterranean,” discusses the use of abstract Arabic calligraphy on Christian liturgical objects, the topic of her new book project.