Lawrence E. Butler

Lawrence E. Butler

Lawrence E. Butler

Emeritus Faculty

Art History: Medieval, Islamic, architecture

Dr. Butler received his BA and MA from Oberlin College and his PhD from the University of Pennsylvania.  Trained as a medievalist with emphasis on Byzantine and Islamic architecture, Butler’s teaching and scholarly interests range across medieval Eurasia, from Iceland through China. He is particularly interested in Istanbul, Turkey, and the Silk Road connections between the medieval Mediterranean world and East Asia. He served as the Coordinator of the Art History program from 2002 to 2005. Currently, he is the Coordinator for the Ancient Mediterranean Art and Archaeology interdisciplinary minor.

Dr. Butler has published articles and presented papers on the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and on the material culture of the trade routes of Asia.  His published studies of Islamic art include “Mosques and Muslim Identity along China’s Trade Routes” and “Putting the Silk into Silk Route Studies,” both in East-West Connections: Review of Asian Studies.

Dr. Butler has taught at Hiram College and has also held research positions at a number of museums and was a Fulbright Research Fellow in Turkey in 1982-83. He is also an active participant in the Semester at Sea program, whose worldwide itineraries provide rigorous coursework coupled with field assignments while sailing to 8-12 international destinations.  He was the visiting lecturer in Art History on the Fall 1999, Summer 2004, and Fall 2009 voyages.  On the Summer 2011 voyage, he was the Global Studies lecturer.

In 2004, Dr. Butler was awarded George Mason University’s Teaching Excellence Award and in 2005 he was elected to Phi Beta Delta, the honorary society for international education.

Current Research

Current research is on the Islamic architecture of Western China, and on the architectural sculpture of the Hagia Sophia and related monuments.

Selected Publications

Co-author: The Museum Experience: East.  Thomson Wadsworth, 2007.

“The Role of the Visual Arts in Confucian Society,” in Chinese Culture and the Family, ed. Howard Giskin and Bettye S. Walsh. SUNY Series in Asian Studies Development (Albany: SUNY Press, 2001), 59-88.

“Hagia Sophia’s Nave Cornices as Elements of its Design and Structure,” in The Hagia Sophia, from the Time of Justinian to the Present, ed. R. Mark and A. Cakmak (Cambridge, 1992), 57-77.

Book chapter in preparation: “Mosques and Muslim Identity along China’s Trade Routes,” for Discovery and Praxis, ed. David Jones and Michele Marion.

Courses Taught

Survey of Western Art

Survey of Asian Art

Intro to Architecture

Byzantine Art

Islamic Art


Western Medieval Art

English Medieval Art

The Norse World

Art of the Christian/Muslim Frontier

The Silk Road

Textiles and Trade

Chinese Art

Art of the Ancient Near East

African Art

The Museum

Honors courses in the humanities

Trip and study leader for GMU’s Center for Global Education overseas programs: Portugal, March 2002; Turkey, March 2006; Cambridge and London, Summer 2006; and Turkey, March 2011.

Recent Presentations

“Yarkand, Where Silk Roads Intersect,” for the Asian Studies Development Program’s national conference (Honolulu, 2010).

“Monuments and Memories of the Portuguese in Asia,” Asian Studies Development Program’s National Conference, Philadelphia, March 2009.

“Islamic Merchants and Material Culture along the Silk Roads,” American Historical Association annual meeting, New York, January 2009.

Public lectures for the Smithsonian Associates:

  • “Ibn Battuta’s Marvellous Travels”
  • “Malaysia’s Jewels: World Heritage Cities of the Straits of Malacca”
  • “Portugal’s Golden Age: The Global Exchange”
  • Lectures on Istanbul co-sponsored by the American Friends of Turkey
  • “Chinese Ports of Call” lecture series
  • “Following the Caravans: History of the Silk Road” lecture series

In the Media

Discussion of the Hagia Sophia, in World History Sources: Analyzing Objects