WEBINAR: On Peter Abelard and Bernard of Clairvaux

May 7, 2020
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Willemien OttenUniversity of Chicago Divinity School


Peter Abelard (d. 1142) and Bernard of Clairvaux (d. 1153) were contemporaries who both emerged from the new twelfth-century schools. But their dispositions, personalities, and eventual conflict have come to represent a conflict between the rising scholastic and the traditional monastic cultures of learning. Professor Willemien Otten will introduce these iconic twelfth-century personalities, the direction of their work, and the theological controversy that put them on opposing sides.

This lecture is part of our Spring Webinar Series on "Reason and Wisdom in Medieval Christian Thought"

What can reason discover about God? Are there other possible ways to know God? Medieval Christians undertook great rational enterprises—including the sharp logic of Abelard and the grand system of Thomas Aquinas—as well as practiced experiential and contemplative modes of knowing, as did Bernard of Clairvaux. This course will examine how different preeminent medieval Christian thinkers saw the relationship between reason and wisdom, how to arrive at them, and so how to seek the face of God.

This series is cosponsored by the Collegium Institute, the Nova Forum, the Saint Benedict Institute, the Beatrice Institute, the Harvard Catholic Center
and the Calvert House Catholic Center.

Upcoming Seminars

Thursday, May 14, 7PM
Julian of Norwich | Katie Bugyis (University of Notre Dame)

Thursday, May 21, 7PM
Bonaventure | Kevin Hughes (Villanova University)

Thursday, May 28, 7PM
Meister Eckhart
| Bernard McGinn (University of Chicago)

Thursday, June 4, 7PM
Nicholas of Cusa
| David Albertson (University of Southern California)


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).