Associate Professor, Religion Studies
Students carry assumptions about the content of religion courses that differ from those they bring to other classes. As a teacher, I believe that disassembling and examining these assumptions are what make studying religion a rewarding and vital component of the liberal arts. In the process, students develop skills needed for critical analysis and reasoned argumentation, but there are deeper benefits to studying religion as well. Learning about religious traditions also trains students to recognize the diverse maps of meaning that humans construct and maintain in order to make the cosmos knowable. This prepares them to engage with a complex globalized world with greater nuance and understanding.
At Muhlenberg, I teach courses that serve both the department of religion studies and the Jewish studies program. As a guiding principle, I allow my research to permeate and direct my teaching in order to make my students participants in the scholarly process. I do this at every level of my courses, whether through reading the Hebrew Bible backwards to reveal signs of the text’s scribal formation, or examining photos of exhibits at the Creation Museum as an exploration of the ways we make and support claims as writers.
Research, Scholarship or Creative/Artistic Interests
My research straddles disciplinary boundaries by exploring the nexus between religion, politics and identity in the formation of the Hebrew Bible. My current book project reflects my interest in these areas by offering a new interpretation of the origin and development of the Bible’s representation of the Israelite tribes as “brothers” and its impact on the development of early Jewish identity.
My biblical research has led me to other projects devoted more broadly to the history, peoples and languages of the ancient Near East. Above all, this includes work on tribal identities in Akkadian documents from the ancient site of Mari in east Syria (ca. 1830-1761 BCE).
My teaching has also affected my research interests. Thus, a grant to support the development of my first-year writing seminar allowed me to conduct field research at the Creation Museum located in Petersburg, Kentucky in June of 2016. While my course examines the museum’s rhetorical function as a site of “public memory,” my time at this Young-Earth Creationist facility has also led me to write and present on its representation of Jews and its implications for the future of Evangelical-Jewish relations in the United States.