Eastern Professor Maline D. Werness-Rude publishes book on Maya space

Last April, the University of New Mexico Press published the book Maya Imagery, Architecture, and Activity: Space and Spatial Analysis in Art History, co-edited by Maline Werness-Rude, a professor in the Art and Art History department at Eastern Connecticut State University, and Kaylee Spencer, a professor in the Art Department at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.  As noted scholar Rex Koontz states, “This volume brings together the best recent work on Mesoamerican space and leavens it with some of the most sophisticated, productive theories of spatial analysis from across the humanities and social sciences.”
Werness-Rude and Spencer co-authored the introduction, which is meant as a guide for ways of seeing and thinking about how ancient and modern Maya populations structured their world.  Werness-Rude also authored her own chapter, titled “Space Men Carving Out a Sense of Place in the Chocholá Style,” which focuses on analyzing a specific set of vessels made in the Yucatan Peninsula c. 700-800—why were they made, for whom, and what messages were they designed to send?

Many chapters in the volume, including Werness-Rude’s, explore the Maya concept of a layered universe as it appears in ancient iconography and as it relates to ancient supernatural entities, dead elites’ movement into the afterlife (while preserving a connection with the living), and modern efforts to locate communities at the center of a continually renewed cosmos.  The mapping of political, economic and social space acts as another major theme, both in Werness-Rude’s chapter and in the book as a whole, with authors exploring the spatial dissemination of politically and socially charged objects, monuments, and architectural forms.  Finally the experiential nature of space is privileged throughout—after all, one can only understand space through experience, which it in turn frames and directs.  As archaeologist George Bey III says, “…With particular emphasis on how space was and continues to be sacralized, experienced, and used by the Maya, the book is full of new ideas and rethinking of older ones.  The authors bring a wide range of theoretical approaches to the study of space.  So one learns a lot about not just how the Maya used space but also about how we can study it.”