University of Minnesota's Religious Studies Graduate Minors share their research projects, special interests, and goals for the future
Stephen Brasher is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of Writing Studies. His research interests concern the intersection between modern rhetoric--defined as the study of the foundations of ideology and knowledge in discourse--and institutional religion. Stephen is currently at work writing his Ph.D. dissertation, which explores the cultural rhetoric of divinity. The dissertation conceives the Arian Controversy of the fourth century C.E. and the subsequent emergence of orthodox Trinitarian doctrine in the form of the Nicene Creed, as a paradigmatic case-study for exploring both the competing rhetorical constructions of the concept of Jesus' divinity, and how religious creeds function as regulative technologies of self and society in late antiquity. Stephen is a member of several professional organizations, including the Rhetoric Society of America, the American Society of Church History, and the American Academy of Religion. He is married with two daughters.
Don Burrows continues to work on his dissertation, which is examining lying and deception in the Greek novel, especially Longus's Daphnis and Chloe. His studies of the Greek novel regularly intersect with early (and contemporary) Christian writings, insofar as both have been examined as to their common narrative structures and respective responses to empire. Any work on Longus also necessarily runs aground of the rich religious imagery in the work, from the pastoral worship of Pan and the Nymphs to the Dionysian festivals and allusions throughout, to neoplatonic interpretations of the work as a discourse on the all-encompassing power of Eros.
Rachael Cullick came to the University of Minnesota in 2009 with an M.A. in Classics from Queen's University in Kingston, Ontario and is starting her third year in the Ph.D. program in Classics. She will be finishing coursework this year, and is looking forward to rounding out her Religious Studies courses with Theory and Method in the Study of Religion and Professor Sellew's seminar, Death in Greece and Rome. She will also be investigating possibilities for dissertation research, looking at representations of myth and religion in poetry. This summer she investigated different portrayals of Medea and is particularly curious about why she, and the murder of her children, was a popular motif for many Roman sarcophagi.
Katherine Eerdman's dissertation research, scheduled to begin Fall 2012, will explore what objects people use to interact with the supernatural, who participates in these interactions, and why they do so. This project addresses these issues in the context of Gallo-Roman religion with a focus on artifacts recovered by archaeologists from the Source de la Douix, a freshwater spring in Chatillon-sur-Seine, France. The archaeological material from this period of intense cultural interaction illustrates how religious traditions are negotiated in multi-cultural contexts. Katherine will draw on approaches from the fields of anthropology, religious studies, classics, and history to address this subject. Understanding the objects used and who participated in these rituals will shed new light on complex and diverse Gallo-Roman ritual practices, and also illustrate the role and importance of objects in prehistoric rituals.