Melissa McCormick, Professor of Japanese Art and Culture at Harvard University, earned her B.A. from the University of Michigan (1990) and her Ph.D. in Japanese Art History from Princeton University (2000). Before moving to Harvard, she was the Atsumi Assistant Professor of Japanese Art at Columbia University (2000-05) in the Department of Art History and Archaeology. Much of her research focuses on the relationship of art and literature, as well as forms of visual storytelling, and their integration with social and intellectual history. Her first book, Tosa Mitsunobu and the Small Scroll in Medieval Japan (University of Washington, 2009), argued for the emergence of a new picto-literary genre around the fifteenth century, and it used a methodology of envisioning the intellectual horizons of real or hypothetical viewers in the circle of the artist Tosa Mitsunobu and the scholar-courtier Sanjōnishi Sanetaka.
Several articles reconstruct the interpretive communities of female readers, writers, and artists in the late medieval period by focusing on ink-line (hakubyō) narrative paintings, which McCormick argues, functioned as an alternative space for creative expression from a female gendered subject position. Her ongoing work on the eleventh-century narrative The Tale of Genji has resulted in over a dozen publications in both English and Japanese. Her research on the Genji Album in the Harvard Art Museums was featured on an NHK documentary (2008), and became the basis for her book, The Tale of Genji: A Visual Companion (Princeton University Press, 2018), which provides fifty-four essays on each chapter of the tale. In 2019 she guest curated the international loan exhibition The Tale of Genji: A Japanese Classic Illuminated, at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.