Jessica Boon

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Jessica A. Boon

Associate Professor
Director of the Minor in Christianity and Culture


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
  • Mysticism and Passion spirituality
  • Gender and sexuality
  • History of Science

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 opening up the study of body in mystical texts beyond gender and sexuality to include the body’s physiological and cognitive aspects, as well as its configuration through material culture.

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 early modern period; I thus examine the role of violence and torture in the Christian imagination. I also work on visionaries, including a translation of six “visionary sermons” by the early sixteenth century mystic Juana de la Cruz, and 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, and sexuality. As 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 Buddhisms in premodern Asia and indigenous religions in colonial Latin America.


ACLS Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship (2015)

UNC Junior Faculty Development Grant (2013)

Charles Julian Bishko Memorial Prize, Association for Spanish and Portuguese Historical Studies, best article in medieval Iberian history (2008, for 2007 article in Sixteenth Century Journal)

Javits Fellowship (1998)

Courses recently taught

  • RELI 165 Mysticism
  • RELI 362 Mary in the Christian Tradition
  • RELI 665 Body and Suffering in Christian Mysticism
  • RELI 668 Spanish Religions: Medieval Convivencia and Colonial Encounter

Publication Highlights

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

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 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.