My dissertation, Doubt, Faith, and the World to Come in Peter of Cornwall’s Book of Revelations, explores the relationship between the visible, material world, and the invisible, spiritual world. My engagement with the visible and the invisible speaks directly to current scholarly discussions regarding medieval doubt, and the emotional experience of this doubt. I focus on one large collection of visions and revelations, entitled the Liber revelationum, or the Book of Revelations. The Liber revelationum was compiled in London by an Augustinian canon named Peter of Cornwall around the year 1200. He collected scores of visions and revelations from books, friends, and acquaintances in order to prove that angels, God, and the human soul exist. My work focuses on the first book of the collection dealing with proofs for life after death.

Peter’s collection allows us a unique opportunity to approach the subject of religious doubt at the end of the twelfth century. A number of scholars, such as Susan Reynolds, John Arnold, Robert Bartlett, Peter Dinzelbacher, and Stephen Justice, have recently engaged with doubt in the medieval period, and the evocative wording of Peter’s preface, suggesting doubt in the existence of God himself, has attracted attention. Rarely, however, have their studies gone on to engage with the actual contents of Peter’s collection. My work aims to accomplish exactly this goal. Peter’s conception of doubt and the ways that uncertainty functions in the stories he selected not only demonstrate the ability of medieval people to doubt and question the supernatural, but also illustrate the essential functions of doubt and uncertainty in their religious life.

In my exploration of the role of doubt in the religious life illuminated through the stories in the Book of Revelations, I focused on questions of access to the supernatural. In my analyses, I began to note the centrality of human emotions, particularly desire and love, in accounts of human voyages to the Other World or conversations between the living and the dead. The role of human affect in travel between worlds in the Book of Revelations led me to an interest in queer theory as well as the history of the emotions. My current work elaborates on both of these interests.

My article, “In a Corporeal Flame: The Materiality of Hellfire before the Resurrection in Six Latin Authors,” in the Autumn 2013 issue of Viator, arises from research on the third chapter of the dissertation. It interrogates one under-appreciated meeting point between spirit and matter, in the form of the corporeal hellfire which tormented spirits before the resurrection. This flame’s materiality may at first appear contradictory; as it tormented the spirits of the damned while they lacked bodies. Medieval discussions of visions often insist on this fire’s corporeality, while arguing that everything else encountered by a visionary is only an incorporeal image. My study of the nature of hellfire contributes to the current scholarly conversation regarding “Christian materiality,” or the role of matter and embodiment in Western religious history. I also argue that pre-thirteenth-century conversations regarding souls and fire are neglected precursors to the more famous discussions of pain and the human soul studied by scholars of medieval philosophy. The subject matter of this article has exerted a decisive influence on my current project which also interrogates medieval encounters with flame.