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 the twelfth century renaissance including Peter Abelard, and has developed a general interest in analyzing (early) medieval thought and theology as weaving biblical, ancient, and patristic influences into the open cultural outlook of medieval humanism.
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 has also maintained an interest in Tertullian and Augustine and the 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 humanism, Otten's current work focuses on ideas of nature and self, linking, among others, Eriugena and Ralph Waldo Emerson.
She 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 will be 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 that offers a reconfiguration of the Christian natural tradition. Otten’s aim is to recalibrate the Christian tradition on nature through a deconstruction of pantheism in order to arrive at a dynamic sense of nature that is animated by the divine without canceling out the human self.
A Dutch native, Otten has served since 2009 on the Dutch National Task Force for Sustainable Humanities, whose aim is to strengthen the position of the humanities across the various Dutch universities. The work of the Task Force is expected to be completed in 2016.