Ph.D. candidate Daniel Cochran has been awarded awarded the prestigious Charlotte W. Newcombe Doctoral Dissertation for the 2017-2018 academic year. The Newcombe Fellowship, awarded by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, is the nation’s largest and most prestigious award for Ph.D. candidates in the humanities and social sciences addressing questions of ethical and religious values. Daniel was one of 21 recipients nationally and the only art historian receiving the award.
Daniel’s doctoral research builds on his interdisciplinary training in the history of religion and the visual arts. His dissertation reconsiders the phenomenon of religious change during the fourth and fifth centuries by focusing on the role of the visual arts in the formation of Christian identities. This project contributes to the recent material turn in the study of early Christianity that emphasizes the centrality of matter and the body in early Christian thought and practice. He investigates how early churches functioned as multisensory environments that altered the way individuals understood themselves in relation to others, that is, to the Christian community, past and present, local and universal. He focuses specifically on early monumental buildings and decorative programs experienced within the liturgical context of communal worship in such important late antique cities as Rome, Ravenna, and Aquileia. Drawing upon material and textual evidence such as sermons, letters, and scriptural commentaries, Daniel explores the creative ways early Christians manipulated architectural space and artistic programs to present a persuasive vision of the church community as a new social reality rooted in the Biblical past, universal in scope, and enduring beyond the grave.