Praised and critiqued, lauded and contested — John Boswell’s scholarship continues to provoke questions, inspire new academic work and in many ways set the bar high for LGBT religious scholarship. In February, 2006, CLGS brought together some of the leading voices in both academic and activist circles to consider the legacy of Boswell’s scholarship and the path it continues to chart for so much work that still needs to be done. CLGS was pleased to make that conference the occasion for establishing a special endowment fund to honor John Boswell’s life and scholarship, which brings leading scholars in LGBTQ religious studies to the PSR campus each spring semester for an annual lecture.
More than twenty-five years ago John Boswell published a book that historian of sexuality Michel Foucault called “a truly groundbreaking work.” Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality: Gay People in Western Europe from the Beginning of the Christian Era to the Fourteenth Century charted bold territory in both historical and religious scholarship, setting a new benchmark of academic excellence for gay and lesbian studies. Equally significant, if not more controversial, was his 1993 book, Same-Sex Unions in Premodern Europe, in which he tried to show historical precedence for the religious blessing of same-sex relationships.
In 1975 Dr. Boswell joined the Yale University faculty as an assistant professor after studying at the College of William and Mary and Harvard University. In 1990 he was named the A. Whitney Griswold Professor of History at Yale where he later served a two-year term as the chair of the history department. In 1987 he also helped organize the Lesbian and Gay Studies Center at Yale.
Martin Duberman, founder of the Center for Lesbian and Gay Studies at the City University of New York, considered Dr. Boswell “one of the major innovative figures in gay and lesbian scholarship. John was very brave and pioneering. And very brilliant.”
Although John Boswell died from AIDS-related illnesses in 1994, his trail-blazing efforts in historical scholarship continue to shape and inspire academic, activist and faith communities of all traditions. The annual John E. Boswell Lecture honors that pioneering legacy.
Upcoming Boswell Lecture:
Dr. Sean Burke, Associate Professor of Religion at Luther College, delivered on April 19, 2018, titiled “Reading The Bible with the Eunuchs.”
Past Boswell Lectures:
Borders & Identity with Jose Antonio Vargas – March 17
In Partnership with Pacific School of Religion’s
Rev. Dr. Emilie M. Townes, Dean of Vanderbilt Divinity School, delivered on April 21, 2016, titiled “The Dancing Mind/Queer Black Bodies.”
Kate Kendell, Esq. delivered the Eight Annual Boswell Lecture on Thursday, April 17, 2015 on the topic of “Liberating Religious Liberty“.
Dr. Jay Michaelson delivered the Seventh Annual CLGS John. E Boswell Lecture on Thursday, April 24, 2014, titled “Queer Theology and Social Transformation: Points of Contact, Points of Conflict.”
Professor Lisa Isherwood, Director of Theological Partnerships at the University of Winchester (UK), delivered the Sixth Annual Boswell Lecture on Tuesday, April 30, 2013, titled, “How Does a Queer Feminist Remain a Christian?”
Orlando Espín, Th.D., Professor of Systematic Theology in the Department of Theology and Religious Studies at the University of San Diego, delivered the fifth annual John E. Boswell Lecture on April 24, 2012, titled, “Who is Human? – The Subversive Question at the Heart of Christianity.”
Patrick S. Cheng, Assistant Professor of Historical and Systematic Theology at Episcopal Divinity School, delivered the fourth annual Boswell Lecture on Thursday evening, April 28, 2011, titled, “The Rainbow Connection: Bridging Asian American and Queer Theologies.”
Kelly Brown Douglas, the Elizaeth Conolly Todd Distinguished Professor of Religion at Goucher College, delivered the third annual Boswell Lecture on April 30, 2010, speaking on “The Black Church and the Blues Body.”
Virginia Burrus, Professor of Early Christianity at Drew University’s Theological School, delivered the second annual Boswell Lecture on April 29, 2009, with the title, “What’s Queer About Christian Couples? Engaging Augustine’s Theology of Marriage.”
Dale B. Martin, Woolsey Professor of Religious Studies at Yale University, delivered the inaugural Boswell Lecture on April 30, 2008: “A Gay, Male, Christian, Sexual Ethic.”