Jessica Boon

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Jessica A. Boon

Associate Professor
Adjunct Associate Professor of History
Adjunct Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies


Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, Religious Studies, 2004
B.A., Yale University, Humanities, 1998

Research Interests

  • Christian thought and culture in late medieval and early modern Europe
  • Religion in Spain, particularly Christian mysticism, Passion spirituality, and Marian devotion
  • History of Medicine; History of Gender and Sexuality; Materiality; History of Emotion
  • Queer and trans theory; disability theory; theories of race, religion, and anti-Semitism in the Iberian World

Professional Biography

I study medieval and Renaissance Catholicism, particularly spirituality and mysticism in Spain 1450-1550 during its transition from a pluri-religious society to a Catholic global empire. My theoretical interests focus on the study of embodiment in mystical texts and guides to meditation, including the body’s physiological and cognitive elements as understood in premodern medical theory, the impact of embodied emotion on mystical methods, the intersections of gender, sexuality, race, and disability in visionary texts, and the body’s configuration through material culture in the process of spiritual practices.

My first book, The Mystical Science of the Soul: Medieval Cognition in Bernardino de Laredo’s Recollection Mysticism (The University of Toronto Press, 2012), examines the intersection of medical and mystical discourses in Spanish “recollection” mysticism in order to reposition the medical body and the embodied soul as critical elements of sixteenth century spirituality. My current book project focuses on Passion meditation (the suffering and death of Christ) as the principal spiritual practice promoted by Spanish reformers in the late medieval and early modern period; I thus examine the role of violence and torture in the Christian imagination. I also work on premodern visionaries, including co-editing a translation of six “visionary sermons” by the early sixteenth century mystic Juana de la Cruz, publishing studies of Juana’s Christology, Mariology, and angelology, and writing articles on gender, sexuality, and theology in the poetry of the medieval Flemish visionary Hadewijch of Antwerp.

The vast majority of my courses fulfill the Christianity and Culture minor, as they attend to the social location of the individuals and practices studied, particularly considering gender, race, sexuality, and disability. Since I specialize in Spain, the only location in medieval Europe that had Muslim kingdoms as well as Christian ones, I understand the study of Christianity to require attention to the other religious discourses with and against which it constitutes itself. My courses therefore frequently introduce students to religions beyond Christianity, particularly Judaism and Islam, but also indigenous religions in colonial Latin America and Buddhisms in premodern Asia.


Charles Julian Bishko Memorial Prize, Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, best article in medieval Iberian history (winner 2008 for “Agony of the Virgin”, co-winner 2021 for “The Body-and-Soul in Pain”)

Best Article Prize, Society of Medieval Feminist Scholarship (“At the Limits of (Trans)Gender”), 2019

Schwab Academic Excellence Award for teaching and scholarship, IAH-UNC, 2018

Visiting Researcher, Medieval Studies Unit, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Madrid, 2016

ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship (2015)

UNC Junior Faculty Development Grant (2013)

Javits Fellowship (1998)

Courses recently taught

  • RELI 266 Medieval and Renaissance Christian Cultures
  • RELI 362 Mary in the Christian Tradition
  • RELI 368 Race, Sexuality, and Disability in the History of Western Christianity
  • RELI 668 Religion and the Spanish Inquisition: Abrahamic Religions, Indigenous Traditions, and Empire

Publication Highlights

Books (Authored and Co-edited):

The End of the World in Medieval Thought and Spirituality, ed. Eric Knibbs, Jessica A. Boon, and Erica Gelser. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2019.

Mother Juana de la Cruz, 1481–1534: Visionary Sermons. Ed. Jessica A. Boon and Ronald E. Surtz. Introductory material and notes by Jessica A. Boon. Trans. Ronald E. Surtz and Nora Weinerth. The Other Voice in Early Modern Europe: The Toronto Series. Toronto: Iter Academic Press; Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2016.

The Mystical Science of the Soul: Medieval Cognition in Bernardino de Laredo’s Recollection Method. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2012.


“The Body-and-Soul in Pain: Medico-Theological Debates in Late Medieval Castilian Passion Treatises.” Viator 50.1 (2019): 249-87.

“At the Limits of (Trans)Gender: Jesus, Mary, and the Angels in the Visionary Sermons of Juana de la Cruz, 1481-1534.” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 48.2 (2018): 261-300.

“Gender and Materiality: Caroline Walker Bynum.” Cultural Approaches to Studying Religion: An Introduction to Theories and Methods, ed. Sarah J. Bloesch and Meredith Minister, 111-26. London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.

“Violence and the ‘Virtual Jew’ in Castilian Passion Narratives, 1490s-1510s.” Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies 8.1 (2016): 1-20.

“The Agony of the Virgin: The Swoons and Crucifixion of Mary in Sixteenth Century Castilian Passion Treatises.” Sixteenth Century Journal 38.1 (2007): 3-26.

“Trinitarian Love Mysticism: Hadewijch, Ruusbroec, and the Gendered Experience of the Divine.” Church History 72 (2003): 484-503.