About Me

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I am a medievalist and an adjunct college instructor in the humanities at Union College. My research includes medieval theologies of history, text/image relationships in visionary and mystical texts, and the writings of the twelfth-century Doctor of the Church, St. Hildegard of Bingen. I am also a translator of medieval Latin and German texts, especially as relate to my research. My translation of Hildegard's Book of Divine Works is available from Catholic University of America Press here. I completed a Master's in Medieval Studies at the University of Notre Dame in 2010, a Fulbright Fellowship in Germany in 2008, and a B.A. in Classics and German at Boston College in 2007.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Women’s Ordination: Teaching Authority, Sacramentality, and the Priesthood

Scivias II.6:
Ecclesia offers the Eucharist.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 86r.

With the declaration of St. Hildegard of Bingen as the fourth female Doctor (Teacher) of the Church last year, my thoughts have turned repeatedly to the question of how women have exercised teaching and other institutional authority within the Church, and to how the examples of the past might shape the future of the Body of Christ. As western society has moved decisively over the last century to break down the structural inequalities of patriarchy that had for so long held women inferior to men, the silence that the Church still seems to command of women in its own institutional structures deafens ever more with the cries of injustice. Indeed, several commentators noticed the seeming disconnect between Pope Benedict’s canonization and valorization of Hildegard, on the one hand, and the nearly simultaneous criticism of the Leadership Conference of Women Religious by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, on the other. How can the Church authorize one of her most stridently critical prophetic voices as one of her most important teachers of the faith, and yet continue to bar entry into its modern magisterium to the women who serve that faith today?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Text vs. Image in the Lucca Illustration of Liber Divinorum Operum I.2: Humanity and the Macrocosmos

Humanity and the Macrocosmos.
Liber Divinorum Operum I.2
(Lucca MS 1942)

With the advent of the summer months, I have set to work again on my new translation of Hildegard of Bingen’s Liber Divinorum Operum. Last week saw me (re)tackling the second vision of the work, in which Hildegard revises her vision of the cosmos in the shape of an egg in Scivias I.3 into an elaborate series of “circles” whirling one inside the other, with a grand human figure standing astride the spinning globe. The vision text is extremely complex and intricate in its details, especially as Hildegard begins to describe the interplay of the four principal winds and their eight collateral winds, each represented by an animal’s head. As one reads through it, one feels compelled to pull out paper and pencil and to sketch it out, simply in order to keep straight above and below, left and right, east and west, north and south. In the course of carefully piecing together each detail, it soon became clear to me that the famed illustration of this vision in the thirteenth-century Lucca manuscript—so often compared to da Vinci’s “Vitruvian Man”—has several significant flaws:

Monday, June 10, 2013

Book Review: The Shakespeare Thefts by Eric Rasmussen

Eric Rasmussen. The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011. xv + 212 pp.

A British fantasist whose playboy image is a sham; a New York couple drowning together while on holiday at a resort in Maine; and the unintentionally sticky fingers of both Pope Paul VI and the author himself (pp. 91-92): each makes an appearance in Eric Rasmussen’s The Shakespeare Thefts: In Search of the First Folios. This volume serves as the popular equivalent of a “Behind the Scenes” documentary for Rasmussen’s monumental scholarly project of the last two decades: to track down and catalogue in exhaustive detail as many as possible of the 232 known extant copies of the 1623 First Folio of Shakespeare’s works, considered by many to be one of the most important and prized printed books in the English language.