Willemien Otten

Professor of Theology and the History of Christianity; also in the College; Associate Faculty in the Department of History

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. Having worked on Johannes Scottus Eriugena early on, her focus shifted to the twelfth century culminating in her book From Paradise to Paradigm: A Study of Twelfth-Century Humanism (Leiden 2004), in which she offered a re-interpretation of Abelard and ‘Chartrian’ authors like Bernard Silvestris and Alan of Lille. Throughout her writings Otten is especially interested in analyzing (early) medieval thought and theology as weaving biblical, ancient, and patristic influences into the open cultural outlook of medieval humanism. Seeing theological questions embedded in broader historical and interdisciplinary study, and continuing her interest in humanism, Otten is currently involved in a book project on ideas of nature and self, linking, among others, Eriugena and Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Reflecting her interest in nature, the volume Eriugena and Creation (Turnhout: Brepols, 2014), coedited 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 along broad cultural lines. In collaboration with Editor-in Chief Karla Pollmann, Willemien Otten edited the Oxford Guide to the Historical Reception of Augustine (430–2000) (Oxford University Press, 2013).

A Dutch native, Otten has serviced since 2009 on the  Dutch National Task Force for Sustainable Humanitieswhose aim is to strengthen the position of the humanities across the various Dutch universities.