Willemien Otten

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

MA, PhD (University of Amsterdam)

Willemien Otten studies the history of Christianity and Christian thought with a focus on the medieval and the early Christian intellectual tradition, especially in the West, and an emphasis on the continuity of Platonic themes. She has worked on the Carolingian thinker Johannes Scottus Eriugena and on twelfth-century humanistic thinkers including Peter Abelard. Her preferred approach is to analyze (early) medieval thought and theology as an amalgam of biblical, classical, and patristic influences which, woven together, constitute their own intellectual matrix. Within this matrix the place and role of nature and humanity interest her most.

Reflecting her lasting interest in medieval conceptions of nature, the volume Eriugena and Creation (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014), which she co-edited with Michael Allen (Classics), brings together papers from the Chicago Eriugena colloquium, while the volume (co-edited with M. B. Pranger and B.S. Hellemans) Religion and Memory (New York, 2013) addresses some of the methodological concerns in conceiving nature along broad cultural lines. Besides her medieval work Otten maintains an active interest in Tertullian, Augustine,and the broader patristic tradition. In collaboration with Editor-in Chief Karla Pollmann, Willemien Otten edited the three-volume Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine (430–2000) (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013) and with Susan Schreiner she co-edited Augustine Our Contemporary. Examining the Self in Past and Present (Notre Dame: Notre Dame University Press, 2018). 

Seeing theological questions embedded in broader historical and interdisciplinary study, even as she pursues her interest in medieval history and culture, Otten currently deals with 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. for a book-length project entitled “Natura Educans: The Psychology of Pantheism from Eriugena to Emerson.” In winter 2017 Otten was invited to be visiting distinguished Tipton professor of Catholic studies in the department of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. She is currently completing the manuscript related to her nature-project.

Willemien Otten is director of the Martin Marty Center for the Public Understanding of Religion.



Select work: 
(773) 702-1901
Swift 301

Current and Upcoming Courses
  • History of Christian Thought II
  • The Religious Thought of Emerson and W. James
  • Augustine Confessions
  • Theological Criticism: Christology
  • Theories and Methods in the Study of Religion