Reason, Wisdom, and Beauty in Medieval Christian Thought

Nov 29, 2016
Gavin House
1220 E 58th St.
Chicago, IL 60637
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Willemien OttenUniversity of Chicago Divinity School

Bernard McGinnUniversity of Chicago

Aaron CantySaint Xavier University

Robert PorwollGustavus Adolphus College

Peter J. CasarellaDuke Divinity School

Paul Mankowski, SJLumen Christi Institute

Ralph KeenUniversity of Illinois at Chicago

Perry HamalisNorth Central College

6:00 Dinner | 6:30 Lecture

Intended for current students and faculty. Others interested in attending: please contact Registrants are free to attend as many sessions as they choose.

With the recovery of the works of Aristotle in the Latin West, the development of the scholastic method of reasoning, and the creation of the universities, a style of academic philosophy and theology developed in the late medieval period in which the practice of reasoning about Christian revelation was developed independent of spirituality and, often, the search for wisdom. Previously, in the works of the Church Fathers and the great monastic writers, theology was rooted in a spiritual life uniting prayer and the search for understanding.

This course will introduce students to major Christian figures and themes of the medieval period, with special attention to the relationship of faith and reason.

Willemien Otten (University of Chicago)
October 11

Bernard of Clairvaux
Bernard McGinn (University of Chicago)
October 18

Anselm of Canterbury
Aaron Canty (Saint Xavier University)
October 25

Hugh & Richard of St. Victor
Robert Porwoll (University of Chicago)
November 1

Peter Casarella (Univeristy of Notre Dame)
November 8

*Beauty as Splendor
Fr. Paul Mankowski, SJ (Lumen Christi Institute)
November 15

Thomas a Kempis
Ralph Keen (University of Illinois at Chicago)
November 22

John Climacus
Perry Hamalis (North Central College)
November 29

*Note the speaker and topic for this session has been changed. We hope to reschedule a talk by Denis McNamara in the future.

Willemien Otten is Professor of Theology and the History of Christianity; also in the College; Associate Faculty in the Department of History, Social Sciences Division at the University of Chicago. She holds an M.A. and PhD from the University of Amsterdam. Otten studies the history of Christianity and Christian thought with a focus on the Western medieval and the early Christian intellectual tradition, including the continuity of Platonic themes. She is coeditor of Eriugena and Creation (2014), On Religion and Memory (2013), and the Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine (430–2000) (2013). Her most recent book is Thinking Nature and the Nature of Thinking: From Eriugena to Emerson (2020).

Bernard McGinn is the Naomi Shenstone Donnelley Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology and of the History of Christianity in the Divinity School and the Committees on Medieval Studies and on General Studies at the University of Chicago. He has written extensively about the history of apocalyptic thought, spirituality, and mysticism. McGinn's many books include Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with EvilThe Presence of Goda multivolume history of Western Christian mysticism, and most recently Thomas Aquinas’s Summa theologiae: A Biography.

Aaron Canty is Professor of Religious Studies at Saint Xavier University. His current research focuses on the development of medieval Christology, eschatology, and scriptural exegesis. He is author of Light and Glory: The Transfiguration of Christ in Early Franciscan and Dominican Theology (Catholic University of America Press, 2011), A Companion to Job in the Middle Ages, eds. Franklin T. Harkins and Aaron Canty (Leiden: Brill, 2017), and an edition of excerpts from John of La Rochelle’s commentaries on the Synoptic Gospels (in Archivum Franciscanum Historicum).

Robert Porwoll has taught courses for the University of Chicago Graham School and History Department, and he is currently a visiting professor at Gustavus Adolphus College. His research includes the Christian liberal arts tradition in education, with a specialized focus on the liberal arts in Christian education at schools and at early medieval universities. He studied Historical Theology at Saint Louis University (MA) and the History of Christianity at the Divinity School of the University of Chicago (PhD). His scholarship includes the relationship of faith and reason, religious environmental ethics, Neoplatonic and scholastic thought, and the medieval School of Saint Victor Abbey (Paris). 


Peter J. Casarella is Professor of Theology at Duke Divinity School. He received his PhD in Religious Studies at Yale University. Casarella previously served as professor of Systematic Theology at the University of Notre Dame and as director of the Latin American North American Church Concerns (LANACC) project in the Kellogg Institute for International Studies. Casarella has served as president of The American Cusanus Society, The Academy of Catholic Hispanic Theologians in the U.S. (ACHTUS), and the Academy of Catholic Theologians (ACT). He is currently serving a second five-year term on the International Roman Catholic-Baptist World Alliance Ecumenical Dialogue and served also on the Roman Catholic-World Communion of Reformed Churches Dialogue. He has authored or edited several books, including: Cuerpo de Cristo: The Hispanic Presence in the U.S. Catholic Church (1998), A World for All? Global Civil Society in Political Theory and Trinitarian Theology (2011), and most recently, Word as Bread: Language and Theology in Nicholas of Cusa (2017)

Paul Mankowski, SJ, is the Scholar-in-Residence at the Lumen Christi InstituteA native of South Bend, Indiana, and a member of the Society of Jesus, he has an A.B. from the University of Chicago, an M.A. from Oxford, and a PhD in Semitic Philology from Harvard University. He taught for many years at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome and has published in the areas of language, theology, and the biblical text.

Ralph Keen is Professor of History and Arthur J. Schmitt Foundation Chair in Catholic Studies at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He holds a B.A. from Columbia University, an M.A. from Yale University, and a PhD in the History of Christianity from the University of Chicago. A historian of Early Modern Europe, Professor Keen works with how thinkers in one era retrieve and apply the writings of earlier figures in the tradition. He has authored two books, Divine and Human Authority in Reformation Thought and Exile and Restoration in Jewish Thought, as well as a textbook from Prentice Hall, entitled The Christian Tradition. He has also edited or compiled nine other books and written dozens of articles for a variety of books and journals.


Perry Hamalis holds the Cecelia Schneller Mueller Professor of Religion endowed chair at North Central College. He holds a B.A. from Boston College, a master of divinity degree from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, and a PhD from the University of Chicago. Hamalis teaches and pursues scholarship in the field of Religious Ethics, with special interest in the Eastern Orthodox Christian tradition, virtue ethics, and the intersection of religion and political philosophy. His works have been published in Studies in Christian Ethics, the Journal of Religion, the Journal of the Society of Christian Ethics, the Greek Orthodox Theological Review, and in numerous encyclopedias; and he has contributed essays to edited volumes including The Orthodox Christian World, Toward an Ecology of Transfiguration, and Thinking Through Faith. His forthcoming monograph, Formed by Death: Insights for Ethics from Eastern Orthodox Christianity, will be published by University of Notre Dame Press.