The 2010 Père Marquette Lecture in Theology is the forty-first in a series commemorating the missions and explorations of Père Jacques Marquette, SJ (1637-75). This series of lectures was begun in 1969 under the auspices of the Marquette University Department of Theology.
Susan Ashbrook Harvey is the Willard Prescott and Annie McClelland Smith Professor of Religious Studies at Brown University. She received her BA degree in Classics from Grinnell College in Iowa, and her MLitt and PhD degrees from the University of Birmingham, England, in Byzantine History. She specializes in Syriac studies, early Christian history, and Christianity of the Byzantine and Syriac traditions. She taught at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and at the University of Rochester before moving to Brown University in 1987.
Several areas of interest have dominated Prof. Harvey’s work. She has long had a profound love for the cult of saints, early monasticism, hagiography, and especially Syriac ascetic traditions. From these interests came her first two books, Asceticism and Society in Crisis: John of Ephesus and the Lives of the Eastern Saints (1990); and, co-authored with Sebastian P. Brock, Holy Women of the Syrian Orient (1998, 1987). Her awareness of the intensely beautiful sensory imagery that characterizes Syriac hagiography led to her work on religion and the senses. This culminated in her study of smell as a category of religious experience in ancient Christianity across the Mediterranean world, Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination (2006). With attention to the larger spectrum of early Christianity, she co-edited with David G. Hunter The Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies (2008). From the very start, however, she has worked on women in early Christianity, and especially in women in Syriac Christianity. In recent years, she has focused particularly on the presentation of biblical women in early Syriac hymns and verse homilies, and on the women’s choirs that sang about them. She is hoping to bring her work on this material into another book soon. At the same time, she is also engaged in a new collaborative project with a group of scholars from the United States, Israel, and the Netherlands, looking at comparative Jewish and Christian liturgical poetry in late antiquity. The group is working with texts in Hebrew, Aramaic, Syriac, Greek, and Latin.
In addition to her academic obligations, Dr. Harvey serves on the Eastern Orthodox – Roman Catholic Bilateral Theological Consultation for North America.