Associate Professor, History
School of Humanities
Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, History
Phone: History Department: (949) 824-6521
Fax: (949) 824-2865
University of California, Irvine
249 Krieger Hall
Mail Code: 3275
Irvine, CA 92697
Late Medieval Intellectual and Gender History
My research focuses on the political interaction of competitive truth claims and their attendant epistemologies. In particular, I’m interested in understanding why some individuals are allowed to intervene authoritatively in political and intellectual debates and others are discounted as irrelevant to the conversation. Additionally, I am interested in how individuals or groups are able to convince their societies that their understanding of the world is valuable and necessary to careful decision making.
In view of these interests, my recent book, Jean Gerson and Gender: Rhetoric and Politics in Fifteenth-Century France (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2015), studied the authentication strategies employed by one of the most important thinkers of early fifteenth-century Europe: the French royal preacher and university chancellor, Jean Gerson (d.1429). Gerson made crucial contributions to late medieval, early modern, and modern ideas of academic freedom, intellectual authority, representative government, natural rights, religious reform, philosophical skepticism, and witches. Significantly, the influence he exercised exceeded his institutional authority. In fact, one could argue that Gerson carved out a new space from which university intellectuals could intervene in church and royal politics.
My book pays particular attention to the role that polemics played in Gerson’s promotion of his own authority. Gerson colonized well-established discourses about women’s authority for the purpose of portraying the expert advice of male theologians as simultaneously compelling and non-threatening to the magnates he was trying to persuade. To date, Gerson’s discussions about women and female types of authority have been interpreted as a literal reflections of his personal attitudes towards real women. I argued instead that Gerson, who worked during a period of political and ecclesiastical disorder, used widely accepted discourses about women to overcome his own political vulnerability and potential irrelevance. This argument uses gender as an analytical lens for situating the late medieval university within its political and rhetorical context. It also provides a contextual explanation for Gerson’s aggressive critiques of ascetic women visionaries, as well as the ways in which these critiques both resonated with Gerson’s contemporaries and contributed to European fears of witches.
In addition to this book project, I have written articles that explore both the ways in which conflict within the University of Paris shaped Gerson’s understanding of the university’s political and religious authority and the ways in which Gerson used the seven deadly sins as a means of demonizing his Christian and non-Christian opponents.
I am currently working on a book length project addressing the late medieval deadly sins.
"Jean Gerson's Vivat rex and the Vices of Political Alliance." In La pathologie du pouvoir: vices, crimes et délits des gourvernants: Antiquité, Moyen Âge, épolque modern, edited by Patrick Gilli. Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2016, 329-355.
"Medieval Misogyny or Gendered Politics: Rethinking John Gerson (1363-1429)." History Compass 14, no. 1 (2016): 19-28.
Jean Gerson and Gender: Rhetoric and Politics in Fifteenth-Century France. Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2015.
“Silencing the Widow with a Prayer for Peace: Gerson, Valentina Visconti and the Body of Princess Isabelle (Paris, 1404-1408).” Quaestiones Medii Aevi Novae, 19 (2014): 187-209.
"The Deadly Sins and Contemplative Politics: Gerson’s Ordering of the Personal and Political Realms." In Sin in Medieval and Early Modern Culture: The Tradition of the Seven Deadly Sins, edited by Richard Newhauser and Susan Ridyard. Woodbridge, Suffolk: York Medieval Press, 2012, 132-156.
"Personal Narrative and the Systematization of Knowledge in the Thought of Jean Gerson." Mediaevalia 29, no. 1 (2008): 83-107.
Jean Gerson as Secular Priest and University Master." In A Companion to Jean Gerson, edited by Brian Patrick McGuire. Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2006, 249-291.
"When What Does Not Exist May Be Useful: The Evolution of Franz Anton Mesmer’s Theory of Animal Magnetism from an Orthodox Explication of Human Tidal Flux to a Heterodox Practice of Charismatic Healing." In Looking Up: Science and Observation in the Early Modern Period, edited by Jason M. Kelly. Ottawa: Legas Publishing, 2002, 97- 124.