Theology of Grace
Spirituality and Mysticism in the Abrahamic Faiths
Belief and Unbelief
Creation, Grace and Resurrection
Foundations for the Study of Christian Spirituality
History of Christian Mysticism to the Reformation
Dr Edward Howells
My teaching and research are on Christian spirituality and mystical thought, with particular attention to the theological texts and writers of the medieval and early modern periods.
My interest began as an undergraduate at Bristol University, where I studied mystical theology in a final year course; then in master’s study of medieval theology at Oxford University; and finally in doctoral work at the University of Chicago with Bernard McGinn (completed in 1999). I wrote my dissertation on the mystical anthropology of John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila (published in 2002). I taught briefly at the University of Birmingham as a lecturer in Systematic Theology before moving to Heythrop College as a lecturer in Christian Spirituality in 2001.
I have been Convenor of the MA in Christian Spirituality since 2002. My teaching is centrally concerned with helping students bring the historical resources of the Christian traditions to bear on the study and practice of spirituality today, aiming for a balance between an understanding that is academically critical, on the one hand, and also capable, on the other hand, of a transformative reading for today. This requires close attention to the dynamics of the texts by which readers are engaged spiritually. I greatly value (and am influenced by) the conversations with students that emerge in this way.
My research is in the late medieval and early modern texts of mystical theology, particularly John of the Cross and Teresa of Avila, and other writers in the Western mystical tradition (for instance, in articles on Augustine and on Pierre de Bérulle). I am currently working on the Oxford Companion to Mystical Theology, which I am co-editing with Mark McIntosh (Loyola University Chicago), to be published in 2016, a collection of essays analysing mystical thought using theological categories (theological anthropology, Christology, knowledge of God, etc). The book seeks to show how mystical theology belongs at the heart of Christian theology, and how theology looks from the perspective of mystical theology. In the process of putting together the book, there are opportunities for the (about 30) authors to gather at key points, to stimulate new conversations and collaboration, with the aim of making this a significant and substantial contribution to the field.
I enjoy working with doctoral students on topics in mystical theology and spirituality, especially in the Carmelite tradition. I am currently supervising dissertations on: Elizabeth of the Trinity; the spirituality of Jean Vanier and John of the Cross, as related to people with intellectual disabilities; Teresa of Avila’s Letters as a source for understanding her spirituality; a comparison between John of the Cross and Martin Luther on faith and religion. I welcome applications from students with research proposals in the field of the Western Christian mystical tradition.
Additional Areas of Interest
- See my homepage URL: http://www.heythrop.ac.uk/about-us/college-staff/academic-staff/dr-edward-howells.html
- Erik Varden, Redeeming Freedom: the Principle of Servitude in Bérulle Heythrop Journal, [Book Review]
- Reading medieval mystical texts for personal transformation today (2017) Peeters. Leuven, pp.7-21 [Book Section]
- Mystical Theology and Human Experience (2017) Oxford University Press. Oxford, [Book Section]
- A Short History of Christian Spirituality (2017) I.B. Tauris. London, [Monograph]
- Is Darkness a Psychological or a Theological Category in the Thought of John of the Cross? (2017) Crossroad Publishing Company. New York, pp.140-161 [Book Section]
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My family (wife and three boys); local parish church in the Chilterns (Church of England); music, walking, Exmoor (which I visit several times a year).