Deeana Klepper, Dissertation Fellow

Dissertation Fellowship, 1992

Deeana Klepper Alumnae Dissertation Fellow, 1992 I earned my Ph.D. from Northwestern University in Medieval European History, under the direction of Robert Lerner. I am currently Associate Professor of Religion and History at Boston University, where I have taught since the fall of 2000. Most of the classes I teach explore Christianity, Judaism, and Islam in historical contexts. In addition to my work with undergraduates, I also work extensively with graduate students and have had the pleasure of directing several dissertations as primary advisor. My research focuses on Christian-Jewish encounter in medieval Europe. In addition to the Alumnae Fellowship, I have enjoyed research support from the American Academy in Rome, the University of Pennsylvania Center for Advanced Judaic Studies, the American Philosophical Society, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the Boston University Center for the Humanities. I have published one book so far, The Insight of Unbelievers: Nicholas of Lyra and Christian Reading of Jewish Texts in the Later Middle Ages, and numerous articles and essays, including, most recently, “The Encounter Between Christian Authority and Jewish Authority over Scriptural Truth: The Barcelona Disputation 1263” and “Historicizing Allegory: The Jew As Hagar in Medieval Christian Text and Image.” I am currently working on a project that examines the intersections between Christian theological approaches to Jews and Judaism and the practical engagement between Christians and Jews in medieval European society. I am also very involved in adult continuing education in the Boston area, frequently teaching courses on Jewish history and Christian-Jewish relations in a variety of settings. I live with my husband in West Roxbury, MA; one of our daughters graduated from Boston University in 2013 with a double major in history and anthropology and now lives and works in Washington, DC, the other is currently a junior studying sociology, also at Boston University.

Reflection on the Alumnae Fellowship: "I so clearly remember the year I held the Northwestern University Alumnae Fellowship, trying to finish a dissertation with a two-year old at home and another baby on the way. The Alumnae Fellowship was crucial to my professional success not only in providing material support, but also in serving as a reminder that I was still a scholar, all outward appearances to the contrary! I can’t say how important it was to know that there were others standing behind me, encouraging me along. At that time, no other graduate students in my department had children while working on their degrees, and no one could remember a graduate student having children while working on a degree— at least not a woman. There were almost no role models among the faculty at that time either; there were precious few women in my department, and of that small handful only one had children during my time there. So it felt rather isolating and crazy to think that I could combine serious scholarship and an academic career with having a family. My department wasn’t evil, I just don’t think anyone quite knew how to be supportive of a female Ph.D. student who seemed to be introducing stumbling blocks to the ideal career path. The fellowship gave me time to concentrate on finishing my dissertation and also demonstrated to me that there were people who had confidence in me; who thought I could do this. There is no question that having children slowed my dissertation progress and that my options immediately post-doctorate were somewhat limited by the fact I had a family to take into account. But I am very happy to say that it all worked out. I did finish the dissertation and get my degree. I did not go on the national job market immediately because my husband was not in a position to leave his job and I was not willing to split our family. But within a few years, we were ready to move and I got a fantastic visiting position at Williams College in western Massachusetts, after which I landed a dream job at Boston University."