Department of Theology and Religious Studies

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Chris Thornhill

Teaching Associate in Theology, Faculty of Arts



Originally from the edgelands of south Nottinghamshire, I was inspired to study theology to make sense of the arcane references to religious culture I encountered in literature, art and music, and continue to be concerned with the various ways in which the sacred and the mystical can be attended to through cultural productions. I returned to Nottingham to study for an MA in Theology, Philosophy and Language and again to complete my PhD under the supervision of Alison Milbank and Agata Bielik-Robson (funded by the AHRC).

Having taught modules on a range of topics in theology, philosophy and literature alongside my doctoral research, I am delighted to be continuing my relationship with the department as Teaching Associate in Theology.

Expertise Summary

My field of expertise covers a range of topics in theology, philosophy and the arts. My primary research is concerned with the ways in which writers and artists make use of religious sources in ways that blur distinctions between affirmation and profanation. In particular, I am interested in how these sources are used to approach questions of nature and ecology. In this respect, I pursue research in diverse orthodox and heterodox mystical traditions, with a particular focus on Kabbalah and Hermeticism. My doctoral dissertation examined the use and misuse of diverse biblical, philosophical and esoteric texts in the early fiction of Cormac McCarthy and argued that these novels present an authentic eschatological vision, articulated paradoxically between the categories of the natural and the supernatural. I also maintain an interest in literary and philosophical receptions of the Book of Job, literature and ethics, and in the idea of artistic production as a religious practice.

Teaching Summary

This year I will be teaching a range of undergraduate modules on topics in theology, philosophy and the arts, including:

Virtue Ethics and Literature - a level 2 & 3 module that examines the history of the virtue ethics tradition through literary texts including Homer's Iliad, Dante's Divine Comedy, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Cormac McCarthy's The Road.

Christianity and the Crisis of Modernity - this level 1 module introduces students to key thinkers and movements within Christianity since the Enlightenment and assesses how these developments might be understood in relation to the notion of modernity.

Philosophy for Theologians - this level 1 module provides an examination of the mutually intertwined history of philosophical and religious ideas and practices in the western tradition.

Abraham's Children: Religion, Culture and Identity - this interdisciplinary level 2 module introduces students to different approaches to the study of religion, and then invites students to test these approaches by using them to examine texts and artifacts from the three 'Abrahamic' traditions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Bible in Music, Art and Literature - this level 1 module is taught by a team of staff within the department with aim of introducing students to the breadth of influence which the Bible has had upon the creative arts, and asks them to consider in what ways cultural productions work as interpretations of the biblical texts. I have provided sessions on Jesus in film and the literary afterlives of Ancient Near Eastern sea-monsters and chaos gods.

I am also the tutor for the Distance Learning Master's module The Virgin Mary in Christian Tradition

Research Summary

At present, I am continuing my exploration of how the traditional texts and doctrines of theology are being used (or creatively misused) in an era that has been described as 'post-secular' to address… read more

Current Research

At present, I am continuing my exploration of how the traditional texts and doctrines of theology are being used (or creatively misused) in an era that has been described as 'post-secular' to address current conversations regarding environmental ethics. At present, my focus is on the sufficiency of human language to name and describe the non-human.

Department of Theology and Religious Studies

University of Nottingham
University Park
Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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