Notre Dame Byzantinist Awarded Prestigious Dumbarton Oaks Fellowship

Author: Rebecca West

Alexis TorranceProf. Alexis Torrance

Alexis Torrance, assistant professor of theology and Archbishop Demetrios College Chair of Byzantine Theology at Notre Dame, has been awarded a residential fellowship for the 2017-2018 academic year at the Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection in Washington, D.C.

Established as a research center for Byzantine Studies in the 1940s, the Dumbarton Oaks Library has its origins in the early twentieth century in the private collections of Robert Woods Bliss, a diplomat, and his wife Mildred Bliss, a wealthy heiress. Now administered by the Trustees of Harvard University, Dumbarton Oaks has grown to become the premier library worldwide for the study of the Byzantine world.

The Medieval Institute's strengths in Byzantine studies have similarly grown in recent years. As Medieval Institute Director Tom Burman explains, Notre Dame is rapidly becoming a leading center for the study of Byzantium with the Institute library’s Anastos collection, which Burman calls "the envy of Byzantine scholars around the world,” and two chairs in Byzantine Studies. 

Torrance's residence highlights the flourishing relationship between Dumbarton Oaks and the Medieval Institute, now both powerhouses of Byzantine study. He is the second Notre Dame medievalist this year to become part of the D.C. center: earlier this year MI alumnus Joshua Robinson (Ph.D., 2014) joined Dumbarton Oaks as their new Byzantine Studies Librarian. Robinson notes that, at Dumbarton Oaks, Torrance will enjoy an unparalleled breadth of resources as well as the benefits of daily connection with a body of other remarkable scholars also studying Byzantium. 

During his residence, Torrance will devote his time to his latest research, a monograph entitled The Human Ideal in Byzantine Theology. His project, which explores the nature of sanctification and perfection in Byzantine Christianity, “is an attempt to build up a clearer picture of how the Byzantines answered fundamental questions regarding human identity and destiny.” He also plans to highlight new points of contact between the Christianity of the medieval East and West and to assist in raising awareness of the understudied richness of Byzantine theology.

"This project is an attempt to build up a clearer picture of how the Byzantines answered fundamental questions regarding human identity and destiny."

Torrance looks forward to returning with fresh energy and ideas to contribute to the growing momentum for Byzantine Studies in the MI, Theology, and Notre Dame as a whole. The Medieval Institute looks forward to the knowledge and enthusiasm with which Prof. Torrance will return to Notre Dame, and we wish him a profitable and enjoyable fellowship year.

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