Faculty Scholarship

In additition to teaching, RELS faculty are renowned researchers!  Here's an overview of their recent scholarly accomplishments:

Prof. Holmes-Tagchungdarpa published two articles from her ongoing research on Buddhist communities in the eastern Himalayas. The first, “Negotiating Order in the Land of the Dragon and the Hidden Valley of Rice: Local Motives and Regional Networks in the Transmission of New ‘Tibetan’ Buddhist Lineages in Bhutan and Sikkim” appeared in a volume on Buddhist and Islamic networks in Southern Asia edited by Anne Blackburn and Michael Feener. In her chapter, Prof. Holmes-Tagchungdarpa discusses the historical circumstances around the adoption and flourishing of an Eastern Tibetan Buddhist lineage in the Buddhist kingdoms of Sikkim and Bhutan in the early twentieth century.

In another article published in The Journal of Women’s HistoryEducating the New Himalayan Woman: Global Networks of Gendered Education, Religion and Commerce in Darjeeling and Kalimpong,” Prof. Holmes-Tagchungdarpa explores the gendered dynamics of education in the Indian hill stations of Darjeeling and Kalimpong. These spaces functioned as key urban centers in the dissemination of imperial ideology between the British Empire in India and its Himalayan neighbors in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. This article explores the education of three Himalayan women from Tibet, Bhutan, and Sikkim in Darjeeling and Kalimpong with the intention of developing a nuanced perspective on the history of global interaction in these spaces.  

Finally, in her book chapter “New Buddhist Women Across Borders: Buddhist Influences and Interactions in Alternative Histories of Global Feminisms,” published in Prof. Karma Lekshe Tsomo’s collected volume Buddhist Feminisms and Femininities, Prof. Holmes-Tagchungdarpa expands beyond the Himalayas to consider interactions between Buddhist women and feminism in the age of empire.

Prof. Holmes-Tagchungdarpa has continued her research as a member of a collaborative grant that explores religious diversity in Sichuan Province in China.

As part of her participation in as a Junior Fellow in the Rare Book School-Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography, this year Prof. Holmes-Tagchungdarpa will continue her training in Critical Bibliography at the Rare Book School at the University of Virginia.

In the fall semester, Prof. Upson-Saia was a Visiting Fellow at the American Academy in Rome. While in residence, she conducted research on her forthcoming book on medicine, health and healing in the ancient Mediterranean from 500 BCE to 500 CE.

Prof. Upson-Saia served as guest editor for a special issue of Studies in Late Antiquity: "Rethinking Medical Metaphors in Late Ancient Christianity" that was published in the Fall. The articles in the special issue describe how individual early Christian authors mobilized medical metaphors to comment on ritual practice (eucharist and baptism), asceticism, and ecclesiology; thus illustrating the fusing of religious and medical logic, ideas, and practices. Taken together, the collection of articles force scholars of late antiquity to think more carefully about the precise manner in which early Christians leveraged medical terms, ideas, and practices; how scholars of late antiquity ought to study medical metaphors; and, most exciting, queries the distinctions between metaphoric and literal language.

Both of the above projects relate to Prof. Upson-Saia’s leadership as co-Founder and co-Director of ReMeDHe (pronounced “remedy”), an international working group on medicine, health, and healing.

Finally, this spring, Prof. Upson-Saia published a new article, "Gregory of Nyssa on Virginity, Gardens, and the Enclosure of the Παράδεισος" in which she analyzes Gregory's treatise on virginity--and the broader custom of calling ascetic woman a "garden enclosed"--alongside the study of Romans' material garden spaces. Upson-Saia suggests that Gregory capitalized on common views about the supernatural flourishing and everlasting bounty of gardens in order to amplify his argument that virginity, and the Christian garden paradise, served as a limit or boundary to corruption and death. She further argues that Gregory stationed the Christian virgin at the enclosure of the παράδεισος as a replacement of the conventional garden guardian, Priapus, who was known for his permanently erect phallus and his violent sexual threats against those who trespassed into the garden. This juxtaposition pit the asexuality of Christian virginity against the hypersexuality of the “pagan” demi-god and highlighted virginity's role in admitting outsiders into the utopic space over against Priapus's role of restricting access.

Prof. Lanfer recently published an article on the Tree of Life in Jewish and Christian legendary texts (4 Maccabees, 4 Baruch, Pseudo-Philo, the Life of Adam and Eve, etc.) in a collection on the Tree of Life for Brill (summer 2019 release), and several review articles for Interpretation (April 2019) and The Review of Biblical Literature (forthcoming).

Prof. Lanfer continues to work on his book manuscript, Reading Sacredness into the Badly Behaving Bible, which engages with early Jewish and Christian interpretations of passages of dubious morality in the Hebrew Bible (e.g. patriarchal lying, cheating, stealing, violence, drunkenness, rape, incest, adultery, etc.). Portions of this manuscript were presented in Denver in November 2018 in a paper for the Society of Biblical Literature/American Academy of Religion conference entitled Bathsheba: From Trauma Victim to Un-named Wife. Dr. Lanfer also gave a public lecture entitled: Finding Sacredness in all the Wrong Places: Making Sacred Sense of Drunkenness, Deceit, and Debauchery in the Hebrew Bible for 85 scholars, students, rabbis, pastors, and community members at the University of California Los Angeles in January 2019 for the Center for the Study of Religion and the Alan D. Leve Center for Jewish Life.

In addition to writing chapters on lying, cheating, and stealing, and the abuse of power in the Hebrew Bible, Prof. Lanfer anticipates 2020 publication of an article entitled “Reading John from the Margins: Finding Jesus in the Judean Voice of John’s Gospel,” in a collection of articles for the John, Jesus, and History Project for SBL.