Rachel Teubner is Research Fellow in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at the Institute for Religion and Critical Inquiry (Australian Catholic University). She was formerly Tibor Wlassics Fellow in Dante Studies at the University of Virginia (UVa), where she completed her PhD in 2018. At UVa she held a graduate teaching fellowship, offering undergraduate instruction in religion and literature, American studies, and the history of Christian thought. From 2011-2013 she worked as Public Engagement Officer at the University of Cambridge, coordinating knowledge exchange networks and supporting the University’s annual festivals. She holds an MAR in Religion and Literature from Yale University and a BA in English and Religion from St. Olaf College.

She is presently revising a first monograph, Practicing Humility: Poetry and Paradox in Dante’s Commedia. Her current research explores the relationship between literary form, ecclesiastical authority and spiritual independence in the lyric writings of early modern laywomen in Europe. Her research focuses on the theological methods and religious claims of medieval and early modern literary texts, with forays into their intertextual relationships with textual sources and textual responses. Her work remains sensitive to feminist analyses of religious thought and culture, and to the constructive possibilities of early modern feminisms and proto-feminisms.

Theo-experiments and (proto) feminisms in Vittoria Colonna, Marguerite of Navarre, and Mary Sidney
ICI Affiliate Project 2019-20

This research project explores the relationship between literary form and religious ingenuity in the works of three early modern laywomen: Vittoria Colonna (c. 1492-1547), Marguerite of Navarre (1492-1549) and Mary Sidney (1561-1621). Drawing on studies that have focused on cloistered women and their responses to constraint and exclusion, I examine lyrics that respond to the Reformed spiritualities and ecclesiastical authorities of their volatile cultural and devotional contexts. These lyrics communicate both their authors’ deference to authorities as well as independence from such authorities (civically, clerically or sexually defined), indicating the literary and theological affirmation extended to women by Reformed teachings.

Moreover, they are works demonstrating religious experimentation in both form and content, exploring spiritual possibilities at the same time that they test the boundaries of literary genres. In analyzing these texts, I ask: what is the relationship between power and submission in these expressions of independent spirituality? How does the possibility implicit in the lyric “I” relate to the concern for orthodoxy; i.e., is it symbiotic, or destabilizing? As cultural artefacts, how do these writings disrupt the conventional dichotomy between monotheistic religion and feminist theory; and what sort of feminism, or proto-feminism, do these projects constitute?