Dissertation Dinners

Held multiple times a semester. Doctoral fellows, visiting scholars, and staff who are working on or have completed their prospectus present a dissertation chapter to a community of colleagues for the purpose of sharing their research and benefiting from constructive feedback. The dinner forums are informal meetings that are aimed at providing feedback for work-in-progress, and have also featured practice job talks and conference presentations. The Dissertation Dinner is designed as a collegial event that provides a venue for sharing your research to interested students with shared interests. 

Selected previous events are listed below.


March, 2015. Jamie Boulding, University of Cambridge

February, 2015. Nan Hutton, Harvard Divinity School

January 2015. Marc Loustau, Harvard Divinity School


Nov. 19, 2014.  "Animating Eve: The Confessing Subject and the Human ‘Other’ in Karl Barth’s Reading of Genesis 2." Faye Bodley-Dangelo, ThD Candidate, HDS, will present, as part of the "DIssertation Dinner" series.

Swiss theologian Karl Barth [1886-1968] is often presented as the poster child for patriarchal and heteronormative theologies of sexual difference. In the resurgence of scholarship on Barth, feminist and queer theologians have found resources within his theology to rehabilitate his account of human friendship, love and desire. But they view Barth’s lengthy exegesis of Genesis 2 as the problematic biblical core of his account that must be marginalized or ignored in reconstructive work. Faye argues that Barth’s reading of Genesis 2 itself provides resources for an internal critique of Barth’s account. Barth uses biblical characters like the virgin Mary, John the Baptist, and Adam to model a responsive and grateful mode of human agency that exemplifies to the reader the proper way of responding to the gifts of God communicated through creaturely others. But when Barth’s model-subject is Adam encountering an immobile and silent Eve, Barth departs from his usual way of depicting human agency. Faye exposes features of Barth’s reading of Genesis 2 that unsettle its heteronormative force and open it up to egalitarian construals of the self in its relationship to multiple creaturely others.

October 22, 2014.  "Claiming Darwin: Stephen Jay Gould and the Resurgence of Creationism in the United States, 1980 - 1995." Myrna Perez Sheldon, Rice University, will present, as part of the "Dissertation Dinner" series.

When creationism reappeared on the national scene in the early 1980s, this political controversy had a significant impact on technical debates within evolutionary biology. During this period, many evolutionists criticized Harvard biologist Stephen Jay Gould for publicizing his revisions to traditional Darwinian theory and opening evolution to criticism by creationists. Both he and his critics, including Richard Dawkins, claimed to be carrying the mantle of Darwinian evolution. By the end of the 1990s, the debate over which evolutionary thinkers were the rightful heirs to Darwin’s evolutionary theory was also a conversation over whether Darwinism could be defended against creationists in the broader cultural context. Gould and others’ claims to Darwin shaped the contours of a political, religious and scientific controversy.

September 25, 2014. "Shepherds of the Personality: The Medical and Scientific Roots of Modern Pastoral Counseling." Mara Block, Harvard University, will present.

Mara’s dissertation examines relations between psychology, psychiatry, and the emergence of Christian pastoral counseling in mid-20th century America.  She focuses on the decisive impact of medical and scientific rhetoric on the growing pastoral discourse on sexuality and on the pastoral counseling practices used to treat sexual matters.  She will present her second chapter, in which she shows how three widely read pastoral works on religion, health, and medicine written in the early 1940s by pastoral theologians Carroll Wise, Seward Hiltner, and Russell Dicks reflect a broader cultural interest in psychosomatic medicine and in the role of religion in treating physical illness.  She argues that the earliest book-length works on ‘pastoral counseling’ published between 1949 and 1951 were decisively influenced by modern psychology.  She shows this through an analysis of four key moral-theological categories that are replaced or conjoined with psychological categories prominent in the discourse of modern pastoral counseling. Mara’s dissertation chapter will be circulated via email a few days before the event.