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, July 22, 2013

St. Hildegard of Bingen: Prologue to Liber Divinorum Operum

Portrait of Hildegard of Bingen
recording her visions in the
Liber Divinorum Operum (I.1).
Lucca MS 1942, fol. 1. (From Wikipedia)

St. Hildegard of Bingen prefaced each of her three visionary-theological works—the Scivias, the Liber Vitae Meritorum (“Book of the Rewards of Life” / “Book of Life’s Merits”), and the Liber Divinorum Operum (“Book of Divine Works”)—with a brief description of the chronological and visionary genesis of the work. Although a little longer than the opening of the Liber Vitae Meritorum—whose structure it nevertheless parallels—the Prologue to the Liber Divinorum Operum is only half the length of the Protestifactio that opens Scivias. Because that first declaration came at the beginning of Hildegard’s writing career, at a time when she was still quite unsure of herself, it went to great lengths to establish both Hildegard’s frail humility in the service of God and the legitimate, divine authority for her prophetic messages, as well as the dynamic of the visionary experience relating the two. The openings of the latter two works also take up those three themes that are central to Hildegard's visionary, prophetic, and theological vocation, but with greater concision.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Guest Post at Beyond Borders

I've written this week’s guest post over at the medieval art history blog, Beyond Borders. Titled, “Monstrosity within the Church in Hildegard of Bingen’s Rupertsberg Scivias Manuscript,” it explores the hybridized, monumental images of Ecclesia (the Church) in that manuscript, with a specific eye to the ways in which the monstrous and grotesque are central to the images, rather than marginalized, as in many later, Gothic-style manuscripts. The design of the images in the Ruperstberg manuscript transgresses medieval conventions in order to make explicit Hildegard's reformist message against monstrosity within the Church.

Go check it out!

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Hildegard of Bingen and the Doctoral Stars

Liber Divinorum Operum I.2:
Macrocosm and Microcosm.

(Lucaa MS 1942)

In the second vision of St. Hildegard of Bingen’s final and most important work, the Liber Divinorum Operum, she lays out a vast schematic of the universe, structured around a series of swirling spheres that nest, one inside the other, down to the globe of the earth at their center. Evenly spaced around and within its outermost sphere, which she describes as a “circle of bright fire”, she sees sixteen principal stars that “strengthen each part of the firmament with their powers,” and “simultaneously hold [it] together (...) with the rightness of an even and necessary but not excessive number. Like the nails that hold together the wall in which they are fixed, these cannot be moved from their places but orbit with the firmament as they keep it solidly fixed together.” (Liber Divinorum Operum I.2.39)

Hildegard then proceeds to offer an allegorical interpretation of the place of each physical feature of the universe within the life of faith and the history of salvation. Of these sixteen principal stars arranged along the outer circumference of the sky, she writes:

These signify that in the pure wholeness of divine power exist the principal teachers (doctores) who have taught and continue to teach that the ten commandments of the law are to be fulfilled throughout the six ages of the world. (…) For these teachers exhort the faithful throughout the four parts of the world to tremble at the fear of the Lord (…), so that because of this holy dread, they should stop sinning.
         —Liber Divinorum Operum I.2.42
Little could Hildegard have known that one day, her name would be added to the catalogue of these great and stellar teachers of the faith.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Women’s Ordination, Part 2: More Thoughts and Reconsiderations

St. Hildegard of Bingen,
Scivias II.5: Orders of the Church.
Rupertsberg MS, fol. 66r.

After offering an initial set of thoughts in my last post on the possibilities for using ancient notions of ordination to expand the authority of women in today’s Church while also preserving the sacramental reasons for the male priesthood, I had a lively conversation with various friends and colleagues that brought to light several areas of concern, reconsideration, and clarification:

1. An Order of Doctors? The magisteria of bishops and of theologians