Willemien Otten

Professor of Theology and the History of Christianity; also in the College; Associate Faculty in the Department of History, Social Sciences Division



MA (University of Amsterdam)
PhD (University of Amsterdam)

Willemien 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 has worked extensively on the Carolingian thinker Johannes Scottus Eriugena and on twelfth century humanistic thinkers including Peter Abelard. Her general interest lies in analyzing (early) medieval thought and theology as an amalgam of biblical, ancient, and patristic influences which, woven together, constitute their own intellectual matrix.

Reflecting her lasting interest in medieval conceptions of nature, the volume Eriugena and Creation (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014), co-edited with Michael Allen (Classics) brings together papers from the Chicago Eriugena colloquium in 2011, while in the volume (co-edited with M. B. Pranger and B. S. Hellemans) On Religion and Memory (New York, 2013) she addresses some of the methodological concerns in thinking about nature along broad cultural lines. Besides her medieval work she maintains an active interest in Tertullian, Augustine, and the broader patristic tradition. In collaboration with Editor-in Chief Karla Pollmann, Willemien Otten edited the Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine (430–2000), (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

Seeing theological questions embedded in broader historical and interdisciplinary study, and continuing her interest in twelfth century humanism, Otten’s current work focuses on ideas of nature and self, linking, among others, Eriugena and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Willemien Otten was named a 2015–2016 Luce Fellow by the Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS) and The Henry Luce Foundation, Inc. Otten’s project as a Luce Fellow, for which she is on leave in 2016, is entitled “Natura Educans: The Psychology of Pantheism from Eriugena to Emerson” and will take shape in a book-length project. Offering a reconfiguration of the Christian natural tradition, she aims to deconstruct notions of pantheism to arrive at a more dynamic sense of nature that is animated by the divine but does not cancel out the human self. For winter quarter 2017 Otten has been invited to serve as visiting distinguished Tipton professor of Catholic studies in the department of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

A Dutch native, Otten has served since 2009 on a Task Force for Sustainable Humanities instituted by the Dutch minister of education to strengthen the position of the humanities across the various Dutch universities. The work of the Task Force will be completed at the end of 2016.

(773) 702-1901

Current and Upcoming Courses

History of Christianity

HCHR 30100 History of Christian Thought I

HCHR 48700 Late Medieval Women: Authorship and Authority


THEO 30100 History of Christian Thought I

THEO 48701 Late Medieval Women: Authorship and Authority