World Religions

The MCLLC faculty in the World Religions cluster explore different religious traditions from various disciplinary approaches to the study of religion including religious studies, history, literary and cultural studies, folkloristics, archeology and anthropology.. MCLLC faculty teach many courses that count toward the World Religion minor, an expansive orientation to the diversity of human religious phenomena and the place these have in a complex, global society and its intellectual traditions.

Jeanmarie Rouhier-Willoughby is currently researching a project on vernacular religion and religious legends about three sacred springs in western Siberia located on the site of Stalin-era prison camps (GULAGs). Believers' interactions with these springs illustrate the complex strands of contemporary Siberian Russian identity. The project explores the legacy of the USSR and attitudes toward the Soviet past, the role of the springs within the community of believers over time, and the memory of GULAG victims.

James A. Francis (emeritus), has applied his broader research interest in visuality in antiquity to John of Damascus, an 8th-century CE writer who constructed the Christian theology of images and icons. This research demonstrates that John was not only concerned with images per se, but also with the process of seeing and the nature of visual representation as a whole. In this, he deploys many concepts from pagan antiquity, but also uses these to argue why the Old Testament prohibition of "graven images" does not apply to Christian images. A summary of this research is published in “Ancient Seeing/Christian Seeing: The Old and the New in John of Damascus," Studia Patristica 96 (2017): 469-76 and "Seeing God(s): Images and the Divine in Pagan and Christian Thought in the Second to Fourth Centuries C.E.” Studia Patristica 59 (2013): 5-10; more broadly in “Late Antique Visuality: Blurring the Boundaries Between Word and Image, Pagan and Christian,” in Shifting Cultural Frontiers in Late Antiquity, 139-149 (Farnham, Surrey & Burlington VT: Ashgate, 2012.)

Daniel Frese's research is focused on the ancient Israelites during the Iron Age - which is to say, roughly the period of time described in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament. His interests are broad, and include historical and narrative criticism of the Hebrew Bible, the archaeology of ancient Israel, and the intersection of these two sources of data. His current book project (currently out for review with Brill) focuses on the public civic forums found in ancient Israelite city gates: their architecture, their various functions in society, and their symbolism in the Hebrew Bible.