Ellen Handler Spitz is a writer, lecturer, and scholar who currently holds the Honors College Professorship of Visual Arts at University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC), where she has taught interdisciplinary seminars in aesthetics, literature, psychology, and the visual arts since 2001. After public and private secondary education in New York and England, she attended the University of Chicago, Barnard College (A.B.), Harvard University (M.A.T.), and Columbia University, where she was awarded the Ph.D. in 1983. She also studied at the Art Students League in New York; the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; at SUNY, Purchase, under the celebrated woodcut artist and illustrator, Antonio Frasconi; and at the Columbia University Center for Psychoanalytic Training and Research.

She has held year-long fellowships at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in Santa Monica, California; the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard University (formerly, the Bunting Institute); the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences, Stanford University; the Camargo Foundation in Cassis, France; the Center for Children and Childhood Studies, Rutgers University; and the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts. In 2007, she was the 2008 Erikson Scholar at the Erikson Institute, Austen Riggs Center Stockbridge, Massachusetts; and a Visiting Fellow at the New York Institute for the Humanities, 2007-08. She has taught and/or lectured in England, France, Italy, Israel, the Netherlands, Austria, Spain, Russia, Canada, India, and the Peoples Republic of China.

She is the author of Art and Psyche (Yale University Press, 1985), Image and Insight (Columbia University Press, 1991), Museums of the Mind (Yale University Press, 1994), Inside Picture Books (Yale University Press, 1999), and The Brightening Glance (Pantheon Books, 2006; Anchor-Vintage Books, 2007). With several colleagues, she co-edited Freud and Forbidden Knowledge (Columbia University Press, 1994) and Bertolucci's The Last Emperor: Multiple Takes (Wayne State University Press, 1998). She has published numerous articles, chapters, and reviews in a wide variety of venues ranging from scholarly peer-review journals, such as the Journal of Aesthetic Education and American Imago, where she is a member of the editorial board, to public newspapers, such as The New York Times Book Review and The Baltimore Sun. Her books have been translated into several foreign languages, including Italian and Japanese, and some of her other writings into Russian and Chinese.

Among her abiding interests are the cultural lives of young people, the relations between aesthetics and psychology, and interconnections among various art forms, including literature, music, and dance, as well as the visual arts.

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