Rachel Fulton Brown
Associate Professor of Medieval History

Department of History
1126 East 59th Street
The University of Chicago
Chicago, IL 60637

Office: Harper East 686
Telephone office (773) 702-4326
Fax department (773) 702-7550

Rachel Fulton 2008
Research and Teaching Specialties

  • History of Christianity
  • Medieval European Cultural, Religious, and Intellectual History
  • Liturgy and Prayer
  • Devotion to the Virgin Mary
  • Scriptural Exegesis and Hermeneutics
  • Subcreation and the Works of J.R.R. Tolkien


  Bridge to Graduate Studies in Medieval History  

Current Research

My principal research concerns the intellectual and affective making of prayer in the medieval Christian West, with special emphasis on the practices that developed from the tenth through the fifteenth centuries for prayer to the Virgin Mother of God. Foremost among these practices was the recitation of an office of the Virgin modeled on the monastic liturgy of the Hours. My immediate purpose is to find a way to describe monastic and Marian prayer as a practical art, that is, as a practice that takes skill and uses particular tools.  My ultimate goal is to develop an understanding of the meaning and importance of the aesthetics of worship, that is, of worship as itself a creative act.

In pursuit of this goal, I am currently at work on two major projects:

  • a monograph entitled The Virgin Mary and the Art of Prayer on the history, experience, and meaning of the so-called Little Office, or Hours of the Virgin Mary (Table of Contents);
  • a translation of John of Garland's Epithalamium beate virginis Marie, an elegiac poem of nearly 6000 lines narrating the life of the Virgin from her conception and birth in the Holy Land to her assumption into heaven and marriage to Christ, intended as a textbook in theology and the liberal arts.

I am also editing a volume on Medieval Marian Devotion for Brill's Companions to the Christian Tradition.

Selected Publications

"Exegesis, Mimesis, and the Voice of Christ in Francis of Assisi's Office of the Passion." The Medieval Journal 4.2 (2014): 39-62.

"Mary in the Scriptures: The Unexpurgated Tradition." The Theotokos Lectures in Theology 7. Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2014.

"What's in a Psalm? British Library, MS Arundel 60 and the Stuff of Prayer." In Rome and Religion in the Medieval World: Studies in Honor of Thomas F.X. Noble, eds. Valerie L. Garver and Owen M. Phelan, pp. 235-52. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2014.

"Penisgate: Response to Matthew J. Milliner, 'The Sexuality of Christ in Byzantine Art and in Hypermodern Oblivion.'" Religion and Culture Web Forum. The Martin Marty Center for the Advanced Study of Religion, The University of Chicago. January 2014.

"Anselm and Praying with the Saints." In Experiments in Empathy: The Middle Ages, ed. Karl Morrison and Rudolph M. Bell, pp. 95-112. Turnholt: Brepols, 2013.

"Hildegard of Bingen's Theology of Revelation." In From Knowledge to Beatitude: St. Victor, Twelfth-Century Scholars and Beyond. Essays in Honor of Grover A. Zinn, Jr., eds. E. Ann Matter and Lesley Smith, pp. 300-27. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2013.

Review of Leslie Brubaker and Mary B. Cunningham. The Cult of the Mother of God in Byzantium: Texts and Images (2011), in The Medieval Review 12.10.08.

"Oratio." In The Cambridge Companion to Christian Mysticism, eds. Patricia Z. Beckman and Amy Hollywood, pp. 167-77. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012.

"My Psalter, My Self; or How to Get a Grip on the Office According to Jan Mombaer (d.c. 1501): An Exercise in Training the Attention for Prayer." Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 12.1 (Spring 2012): 75-105.

"Three-in-One: Making God in Twelfth-Century Liturgy, Theology and Devotion." In European Transformations: The Long Twelfth Century, eds. Thomas F.X. Noble and John Van Engen, pp. 468-97. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2012.

Review of Gary Waller, The Virgin Mary in Late Medieval and Early Modern English Literature and Popular Culture (2011), in The Medieval Review 12.02.29.

"Mary." In Christianity in Western Europe c. 1000-c. 1500, eds. Miri Rubin and Walter Simons, pp. 283-96. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

History in the Comic Mode: Medieval Communities and the Matter of Person. Co-edited with Bruce Holsinger. New York: Columbia University Press, 2007.

"Praying by Numbers." Studies in Medieval and Renaissance History, 3rd. series, volume 4 (2007): 195-250.

"Praying with Anselm at Admont: A Meditation on Practice." Speculum 81.3 (July 2006): 700-733.

"'Taste and See That the Lord is Sweet' (Ps. 33:9): The Flavor of God in the Monastic West." The Journal of Religion 86.2 (April 2006): 169-204.

"The Virgin in the Garden, or Why Flowers Make Better Prayers." Spiritus: A Journal of Christian Spirituality 4 (Spring 2004): 1-23.

From Judgment to Passion: Devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary, 800-1200. New York: Columbia University Press, 2002.

  • Awarded the 2006 John Nicholas Brown Prize by the Medieval Academy of America for "a first book or monograph on a medieval subject judged by the selection committee to be of outstanding quality."

  • Awarded the Journal of the History of Ideas Morris D. Forkosch Prize for "the best book in intellectual history published in 2002."

  • A Choice Magazine Outstanding Academic Title of the Year.

  • Reviews by Sarah Hamilton, History: Journal of the Historical Association 92.1 (January 2007): 108-9; Sarah Jane Boss, American Historical Review 111.5 (December 2006): 1576-77; Penny J. Cole, Theological Studies 67.4 (December 2006): 886-88; Kevin Madigan, History of Religions 45.3 (February 2006): 270; Marsha L. Dutton, The Catholic Historical Review 92.1 (January 2006): 107-110; Karl Morrison, "Constructing Empathy," Journal of Religion 84 (April 2004): 264-69; M.B. Pranger, "On Devotional Historiography," Dutch Review of Church History 84 (2004); Wanda Zemler-Cizewski, Speculum 79.4 (October 2004): 1071-72; Thomas F.X. Noble, Theological Studies 65.4 (December 2004): 861-64; Arthur G. Holder, Church History 73.1 (March 2004): 197-199; Janice Pinder, The Medieval Review, 04.06.11; Henrietta Leyser, European Review of History--Revue europĂ©enne d'Histoire 11.3 (Autumn 2004): 429-30; and Benedicta Ward, Journal of Theological Studies 54.2 (October 2003): 817-18.
Review of Donna Spivey Ellington, From Sacred Body to Angelic Soul: Understanding Mary in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (2001), in The Medieval Review, 02.03.08.

"'Quae est ista quae ascendit sicut aurora consurgens?': The Song of Songs as the Historia for the Office of the Assumption." Mediaeval Studies 60 (1998): 55-122.

"Mimetic Devotion, Marian Exegesis, and the Historical Sense of the Song of Songs." Viator 27 (1996): 86-116.

The above research has been supported with fellowships from the National Humanities Center (1998-99), the American Council of Learned Societies (1998-99, 2008-09), the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation (2008-09), and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation (1992-93, 2003-06), among others.


Undergraduate Only
History of European Civilization:
I. Early Middle Ages to Enlightenment
II. Enlightenment to Present Day

Knights and Samurai
War in the Middle Ages
Tolkien: Medieval and Modern

History Colloquium: Writing Historical Fiction

BA Theses Advised

Advanced Undergraduate and Graduate
Europe in the Early Middle Ages
Religion and Society in the Medieval West
Medieval Monasticism
Medieval Travelers
The Arts of Language in the Middle Ages: The Trivium

Mary and Mariology
Animals in the Middle Ages

MA Theses Advised

Graduate Colloquia and Seminars
The Psalms in Medieval Christianity
Peter Lombard's Sentences
Medieval Biblical Exegesis
Sacrament and Liturgy in the Medieval West
Praying by the Book
Religious Thought in the Twelfth Century
Religious Thought in the Later Middle Ages
Manuscripts and Medieval Culture
The Conversion of Europe
Intellectuals in the Twelfth Century
Problems in Medieval History I
Problems in Medieval History II
The Meaning of History
The Passion of Christ

Spiritual Exercises: History and Practice

Dissertation advising

Ankerstein castle

My teaching at the University of Chicago has been recognized with the Provost's Teaching Award (2006) and the Llewellyn John and Harriet Manchester Quantrell Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching (2007).

Medieval Studies at The University of Chicago

Undergraduate and Graduate Programs in Medieval Studies
Medieval Studies Workshop

    Click here for more Ankerstein buildings
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Ask Fred
U.S. Fencing
Illinois Division of the USFA
Fencing Center of Chicago

My USFA rating: C15 Foil

My best results:

    6th Place Finalist, Veteran Women's Foil 50-59, USFA Summer Nationals, San Jose, CA, June/July 2015.

    Bronze Medalist, Veteran Women's Foil 50-59, North American Cup, Reno, NV, February/March 2015.

    Bronze Medalist, Veteran Women's Foil 40-49, North American Cup, Dallas, TX, December 2013.

    6th Place Finalist, Veteran Women's Foil 40-49, USFA Summer Nationals, Columbus, OH, July 2013.

    5th Place Finalist, Veteran Women's Foil 40-49, North American Cup, Reno, NV, March 2013.

    8th Place Finalist, Veteran Women's Foil 40-49, North American Cup, Milwaukee, WI, December 2012.

    Silver Medalist, Veteran's Women's Foil 40-49, USFA Summer Nationals, Anaheim, CA, July 2012.

    8th Place Finalist, Veteran Women's Foil 40-49; Top 32, Div II Women's Foil, USFA Summer Nationals, Reno, NV, July 2011.

    5th Place Finalist, Veteran Women's Foil 40-49, USFA Summer Nationals, Atlanta, GA, July 2010.

Other Useful Links

JP Brown's Serious Lego
George Hardy's Ankerstein Builders' Page

Text and photographs copyright Rachel Fulton Brown, 2002-2013.