Maeve Callan

Associate Professor of Religion

Phone Number:
Office Location:
Mary Berry Hall 218
Office Hours:
M 12:40-2:40
T 11:30-2:00
W 9:10-10:10
Th 9:05-9:35
or by appointment
B.A., Religion, Pomona College, 1992
M.Phil., Women’s Studies, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland, 1994
Ph.D., Religion (Medieval Christianity), Northwestern University, 2002

In our department, I am the historian to Dr. Everhart’s Bible and Dr. Gammon’s theology. I focus in particular on the Middle Ages, especially its freakier aspects (and that’s saying a lot!). Heresy (both real and imagined), persecution of alleged witches, saints, mystics, and just about anything to do with women and Ireland are among my primary interests. My book, The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish: Vengeance and Heresy in Medieval Ireland, published by Cornell University Press and Four Courts Press, explores Ireland’s handful of heresy trials, their role in the colonization of the island by the English, and their relationship to heresy and witchcraft prosecution in Britain and on the Continent. In my current project, I return to the saints, including St Íte, whose fasting was so extreme it prompted force-feeding by angels and who had a flesh-eating stag-beetle as foster-child, at least until her nuns killed it in horror. God rewarded her love, compassion, and suffering by offering himself in the form of the Christ-child as replacement; the poem which revels in their rapturous relationship, though unlikely to be by the saint herself, may be one of very few extant female-authored works from medieval Ireland. With material like this, how can anyone not be a medievalist?!

Prior to coming to Simpson, I taught for several years at Northwestern University, developing courses such as “The Margins and the Mainstream in Christian History,” “One Nation, Many Faiths: Religious Diversity and American Democracy,” and “Celtic Christianity.” I also taught courses on world religions, Christian mystical theology, and the feminine and the divine in Christianity, among others. I have published repeatedly on the female saints of Ireland and have given papers in Ireland and the United States on topics including medieval women mystics, childbirth and abortion miracles, and ethnic tensions and allegations of heresy. In addition to my longtime interests in medieval Christianity and women’s religious history, I increasingly am focused on contemporary religious issues, especially interfaith dialogue and the intersection of religion and public policy. I am particularly impressed by Simpson students’ commitment to social justice and global awareness and strive to encourage such commitments.

Visit my blog at

My Talk of Iowa interview with Charity Nebbe, Gurwinder Singh Kapur, a practicing Sikh, Prakash Kopparapu of the Hindu temple and Cultural Center of Iowa, and Reverend Dave Sickelka, pastor for the Urbandale United Church of Christ.

My presentation for the Iowa International Center on Religious Diversity in Iowa (9/1/15)

IPR piece about teaching college students about religious diversity

My article in the Irish Times

Selected Publications
The Templars, the Witch, and the Wild Irish: Vengeance and Heresy in Medieval Ireland. Cornell University Press and Four Courts Press, 2015. Released in paperback in 2017.

“Líadain’s Lament, Darerca’s Life, and Íte’s Ísucán: Evidence for Nuns’ Literacies in Early Ireland.” In Nuns’ Literacies in Medieval Europe. Vol. II. Ed. Virginia Blanton, Veronica O’Mara, and Patricia Stoop. Brepols Press, 2015.

“Heresy in Medieval Britain.” In Encyclopedia of Medieval British Literature. Edited by Siân Echard and Robert Rouse. Wiley-Blackwell, 2017.

“Dublin’s First Heretic? Archbishop-Elect Richard de Haverings’ Letter to Thomas de Chaddesworth Regarding Philip de Braybrook, 4 September, 1310.” Analecta Hibernica. 44 (2013): 1-12.

“The Case of the ‘Incorrigible’ Canon: Dublin’s First Conviction for Heresy in an Ongoing Rivalry between its Cathedral Chapters.” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy. 113C (2013): 163-91.

“Of Vanishing Fetuses and Maidens Made-Again: Abortion, Restored Virginity, and Similar Scenarios in Medieval Irish Hagiography and Penitentials.” Journal of the History of Sexuality 21 (2012): 282-96.

Selected Conference Participation
“The Secret of Ledrede’s Success: How Richard de Ledrede, Bishop of Ossory, overcame months of resistance to effect the British Isles’ first execution at the stake (Kilkenny, 1324).” Annual Conference of Irish Medievalists, University College Dublin, Ireland, July, 2015.

“Scothín’s Syneisaktoi and Orbile’s Aging: Sisterhood, Syneisaktism, and Sexual Violence in Irish Hagiography.” Celtic Studies Association of North America Annual Conference. University of California, Berkeley, March, 2015.

“From the Dawn of the Devil-Worshipping Witch to the Heresy of Being Irish: How the Kyteler Case Caused a Call for Crusade in Ireland.” International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May, 2014.

“Saint Samthann’s Righteous Wrath: Don’t Mess with this Abbess.” International Congress of Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, Michigan, May, 2013.

“A Pagan Resurgence in Twelfth-Century Ireland? Aodh Eanghach, Gerald of Wales, and Laudabiliter, Considered.” Annual Meeting of the American Society of Church History, Chicago, Illinois, January, 2012.

“One State, Many Faiths: Religious Diversity in Iowa.” Upper Midwest Meeting of the American Academy of Religion, St Paul, Minnesota, April, 2011. Co-presented with two of my students, Madison Fiedler and Hannah Landgraf.


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