Caroline Walker Bynum


CAROLINE WALKER BYNUM is Professor emerita of Medieval European History at the Institute for Advanced Study, and University Professor emerita at Columbia University in the City of New York. She studies the religious ideas and practices of the European Middle Ages from late antiquity to the sixteenth century. In the 1980s, her book Holy Feast and Holy Fast was instrumental in introducing the concept of gender into Medieval Studies. In the 1990s, her books Fragmentation and Redemption and The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christendom provided a paradigm for the history of the body. The essays “In Praise of Fragments” (in Fragmentation and Redemption), “Wonder” (in Metamorphosis and Identity), and “Avoiding the Tyranny of Morphology” (History of Religions 53 [2014]) are widely cited in discussions of historical method. Her recent work, in Wonderful Blood (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007), Christian Materiality (Zone Books, 2011), and Dissimilar Similitudes (Zone Books, 2020) is a radical reinterpretation of the nature of Christianity on the eve of the reformations of the sixteenth century. An interpretive essay in art history and history of science as well as religious history, Christian Materiality locates the upsurge of new forms of art and devotion in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries against the background of changes in natural philosophy and theology. The essay collection, Dissimilar Similitudes, continues Bynum’s exploration of medieval and early modern understandings of the material through examination of individual objects and raises larger theoretical questions about the nature of likeness and the enterprise of comparative study. Currently, Bynum continues to work on medieval images (both textual and visual) and on the philosophical problem of resemblance.

BYNUM was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1941. She received her BA from the University of Michigan in 1962 and her Ph.D. from Harvard in 1969. She taught at Harvard from 1969-76, at the University of Washington from 1976-88, and at Columbia University from 1988 to 2003. From 1990-98, she held the Morris A. and Alma Schapiro Chair in History; in January, 1999, she became University Professor, the first woman to hold this title at Columbia . In January 2003 she became Professor of European Medieval History at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. From 1993-94, she was Dean of the School of General Studies and Associate Vice President for Undergraduate Education at Columbia. She served as President of the American Historical Association in 1996 and as President of the Medieval Academy of America in 1997-98. She was a MacArthur Fellow from 1986-1991 and holds honorary degrees from fourteen American and foreign universities. Her articles have won prizes from the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and the Renaissance Society of America. Her book Holy Feast and Holy Fast received the Governor's Award of the State of Washington and the Philip Schaff prize of the American Society of Church History. Her book Fragmentation and Redemption received the Trilling Prize for the Best Book by a Columbia Faculty Member and the Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion in the Analytical-Descriptive Category from the American Academy of Religion. The Resurrection of the Body received the Ralph Waldo Emerson Prize of Phi Beta Kappa given for the best book of the year on "the intellectual and cultural condition of man," and the Jacques Barzun Prize of the American Philosophical Society for the best work in cultural history. Wonderful Blood—a study of blood piety in fifteenth-century northern Germany in its larger European context—won the American Academy of Religion's 2007 Award for Excellence in the Historical Studies category; the 2009 Gründler Prize for the Best Book in Medieval Studies published in 2007; and the Haskins Medal of the Medieval Academy of America in 2011. Bynum is a Fellow of the American Philosophical Society and the Medieval Academy of America and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She received the Distinguished Teacher Award from the University of Washington in 1981, Columbia's Presidential Award for Outstanding Teaching in 1997, and the Mark van Doren Teaching Award of Columbia College in 2002. In 1999 she was Jefferson Lecturer, the highest honor the Federal Government awards to a scholar in the Humanities. In June 2001 she received the Centennial Medal of the Harvard Graduate Society, and in January 2005 the Distinguished Career Award from the American Society of Church History. In 2007 her students presented her with a Festschrift titled History in the Comic Mode: Medieval Communities and the Matter of Person, edited by Rachel Fulton and Bruce Holsinger (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007). In June 2012, she was elected to the Orden Pour le Mérite für Wissenschaften und Künste of the Federal Republic of Germany. On October 4, 2013, she was awarded the Grosses Verdienstkreuz mit Stern (Grand Merit Cross with Star) of the Federal Republic of Germany. In July 2017, she was elected a Corresponding Fellow of the British Academy. For the spring semester of 2015, she served as the Robert Janson-La Palme Visiting Lecturer in the Department of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University.

Publications include:

Statuta Casinensia (Saec. (XIII-XIV) (an edition of custumals of Monte Cassino with introduction, done in collaboration with T. Leccisotti), in Corpus Consuetudinum Monasticarum, vol. 4 (Siegburg: Francis Schmitt, 1972), 191-258.

Docere Verbo et Exemplo: An Aspect of Twelfth-Century Spirituality, Harvard Theological Monographs (Missoula, Montana: Scholars Press, 1979).

Jesus as Mother: Studies in the Spirituality of the High Middle Ages (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1982).

Gender and Religion: On the Complexity of Symbols, ed. Caroline Bynum, Stevan Harrell, and Paula Richman (Boston: Beacon Press, 1986).

Holy Feast and Holy Fast: The Religious Significance of Food to Medieval Women (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1987). Translated into French, Italian, German, Norwegian, and Czech.

Fragmentation and Redemption: Essays on Gender and the Human Body in Medieval Religion (New York: Urzone Publishers, 1991).

"Why All the Fuss About the Body? A Medievalist's Perspective," Critical Inquiry 22 (Autumn, 1995), pp. 1-33.

The Resurrection of the Body in Western Christianity, 200-1336 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1995). Expanded edition to appear in November, 2017, with a new introduction.

Body-Part Reliquaries, ed. Caroline Bynum and Paula Gerson, Gesta 36.1 (1997), special issue.

"Death and Resurrection in the Middle Ages," Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 142.4 (1998), pp. 589-96.

"Miracles and Marvels: The Limits of Alterity," in Vita Religiosa im Mittelalter: Festschrift für Kaspar Elm zum 70. Geburstag (Berlin, 1999), pp. 799-817.

Last Things: Eschatology and Apocalypse in the Middle Ages, ed. Caroline Bynum and Paul Freedman (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000).

Metamorphosis and Identity (New York: Zone Books, 2001).

"Das Blut und die Körper Christi im Mittelalter: Eine Asymmetrie," Vorträge aus dem Warburg Haus 5 (2001), pp. 75-119.

"Violent Imagery in Late Medieval Piety," Bulletin of the German Historical Institute 30 (Spring, 2002), pp. 3-36.

[with Susan R. Kramer], "Revisiting the Twelfth-Century Individual: The Inner Self and the Christian Community," in Das Eigene und das Ganze: Zum Individuellen im mittelalterlichen Religiosentum, ed. Gert Melville and Markus Schuerer (Muenster: LIT Verlag, 2002), pp. 57-85.

"The Blood of Christ in the Later Middle Ages," Church History 71.4 (2002), pp. 685-715.

"Curriculum Vitae: An Authorial Aside," Common Knowledge 9.1 (Winter, 2003), pp. 1-12. An autobiographical essay. Also appeared as "My Life and Works," in Women Medievalists in the Academy, ed. Jane Chance (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 2005), pp. 995-1006.

"Soul and Body," Dictionary of the Middle Ages, Supplement, ed. William C. Jordan with Joel Kaye and Lynn Staley (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 2004), pp. 588-94.

"The Presence of Objects: Medieval Anti-Judaism in Modern Germany," Common Knowledge 10 (Winter, 2004), pp. 1-32.

"Seeing and Seeing Beyond: The Mass of St. Gregory in the Fifteenth Century," in The Mind's Eye: Art and Theology in the Middle Ages, ed. Anne-Marie Bouché and Jeffrey Hamburger (Department of Art History, Princeton University, 2005), pp. 208-240.

Wonderful Blood: Theology and Practice in Late Medieval Northern Germany and Beyond, (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2007).

“The P Word,” Perspectives on History: The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association 45.7 (October 2007), p. 58.

“Preface” and “Forms of Female Piety in the Later Middle Ages, ” in Crown and Veil: The Art of Female Monasticism in the Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Hamburger et al. (New York: Columbia University Press, 2008), pp. xiii-xviii and 172-190.

“Perspectives, Connections and Objects: What’s Happening in History Now?” Daedalus (Winter 2009), pp. 71-86.

“Teaching Scholarship,” Perspectives on History: The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association, 47.9 (December 2009), pp. 14-16.

“Violence Occluded: The Wound in Christ’s Side in Late Medieval Devotion,” in Feud Violence and Practice: Essays in Medieval Studies in Honor of Stephen D. White, ed. Belle S. Tuten and Tracey L. Billado (Ashgate, 2010), pp. 95-116.

Christian Materiality: An Essay on Late Medieval Religion (New York: Zone Books, 2011).

"Why Paradox? The Contradictions of My Life as a Scholar," The Catholic Historical Review 98.3 (July 2012), pp. 432-55.

"Religious Practice in a Long Century," The Furrow 63.7/8 (July/August 2012) pp. 378-382.

Gender, Generations, and Faculty Conflict: Will Academe’s Mothers and Daughters Repeat the Errors of Its Fathers and Sons?The Chronicle of Higher Education (November 19, 2012), pp. 1-5.

Time to Re-tire?Perspectives on History: The Newsmagazine of the American Historical Association (December 2012).

The Sacrality of Things: An Inquiry into Divine Materiality in the Christian Middle Ages,” The Irish Theological Quarterly (2013), pp. 3-18.

Notes from the Field: Materiality,” The Art Bulletin 95.1 (2013), pp. 11- 13.

Aura der Reproduktion,“ Zeitschrift für Ideengeschichte 8.3 (September 2014), pp. 81-82.

Avoiding the Tyranny of Morphology, Or, Why Compare?History of Religions 53 (May, 2014), pp. 341-68.

“Part of the Problem,” Common Knowledge 21.1 (January, 2015), pp. 1-4.

“The Animation and Agency of Holy Food: Bread and Wine as Material Divine in the European Middle Ages,” in The Materiality of Divine Agency in Cross-Cultural Perspective, ed. Beate Pongratz-Leisten and Karen Sonik (Berlin: de Gruyter, 2015), pp. 70-89.

‘Crowned with Many Crowns’: Nuns and Their Statues in Late Medieval Wienhausen,” The Catholic Historical Review 101 (Centennial Issue 2015), pp. 18-40.

Are Things Indifferent? How Objects Change Our Understanding of Religious History,” German History: The Journal of the German History Society 34 (2016), pp. 88-112.

Object,” The Three Penny Review 145 (Spring 2016), pp. 19-20.

The House,” Common Knowledge 22.2 (May, 2016), pp. 171-77.

“Medieval Miracles as Evidence,” in What Reason Promises: Essays on Reason, Nature and History, ed. Wendy Doniger, Peter Galison and Susan Neiman (De Gruyter, 2016), pp. 55-61.

Encounter: Holy Beds,” Gesta 55 (fall, 2016), pp. 129-131.

“Foreword,” to Natural Materials of the Holy Land and the Visual Translation of Place, 500-1500, ed. Renana Bartal, Neta Bodner, and Bianca Kühnel, An Ashgate Book (London and New York, Routledge, 2017). pp. xix-xxi.

The Women’s March: New York, January 21, 2017,Common Knowledge 23:3 (2017), pp. 377-80.

In the Humanities Classroom: A Set of Case Studies,” edited with introduction and afterword by Caroline Walker Bynum, Common Knowledge 23.1 (January, 2017), pp. 57-103. A second set of essays appeared in Common Knowledge 24.3 (August, 2018), pp. 353-429, as “In the Humanities Classroom: part 2,” edited by Caroline Walker Bynum.

“Footprints: The Xenophilia of a European Medievalist,” Symposium: Xenophilia, Part 4, Common Knowledge 24.2 (2018), pp. 291-311.

“Epilogue” to Religious Materiality in the Early Modern World, ed. Suzanna Ivanič, Mary Laven and Andrew Morrall (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2019), pp. 247-55.

“Interrogating ‘Likeness’: Fake Friends, Similia Similibus, and Heavenly Crowns,” Historische Anthropologie 28.1 (2020), pp. 31–56.

Dissimilar Similitudes: Devotional Objects in Late Medieval Europe (New York: Zone Books, 2020).

“Growing Up in the Shadow of Confederate Monuments,” Common Knowledge 27:2 (2021),  pp. 163-70.

“Objects and images:  A medievalist’s response to Carlos Fausto’s Art Effects,” in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory 11 (3) 2021, pp. 1238–1243.

Interview, “Almut Höfert und Xenia von Tippelskirch  im Gespräch mit Caroline Walker Bynum:  Religion, Geschlecht, Körper – mediävistische Verortungen”   In L’Homme. Europäische Zeitschrift für Feministische  Geschichtswissenschaft 33. Jg., Heft 1 (2022), pp.  117-128.