This year's Hanna Holborn Gray Fellows will be presenting their research at a panel presentation on Tuesday, Sept. 24, from 4:30-6:30 p.m. in Room 224, Old Library. We're highlighting their research in a series of online profiles.
Alex Tucker '20, Classical Languages
"Soul, Spirit, and the Incarnation in Clement of Alexandria"
Abstract: Clement of Alexandria, the second-century Platonizing and Stoicizing theologian, was at pains to establish and defend his own religious doctrine against his Christian and Jewish contemporaries. His adaptation of the allegorical exegesis undertaken roughly one hundred and fifty years prior by the Jewish Platonist Philo of Alexandria allows insight into Early Christian points of contention and self-definition. Clement’s proto-orthodox doctrine of the incarnation, wherein Jesus was both human and divine rather than only human (as Jews thought) or only divine (as some now-heretical sects thought) led to his unique understanding of how the human soul relates to the divine and the human spirit. I analyze the writings of Philo, Clement, and some of their polytheist contemporaries and predecessors to understand what each author thinks and how this relates to non-Abrahamic cosmologies and understandings of humanity. Philo’s construction of the soul in relation to human spirit and to God indicates that an individual is akin to a dim mirror image of God. Clement of Alexandria, on the other hand, treats the human soul and spirit as parallels of the eternal divine Word and the Holy Spirit.
Was there anything surprising about the work you did for your project?
At the beginning of my project, I had a bunch of questions that I thought would only be useful for helping me avoid making easy but anachronistic assumptions. These questions ended up being central to my work.
What was the highlight of your work?
The highlight of my work, looking back, was the thing that (at the time) felt like the absolute lowest point. It's very difficult to find editions of some of this stuff in Greek, so I had been using scholarship without checking the translated quotes against the original Greek for the first couple of weeks. When I did go digging for the originals, I found out that the passages from ancient texts that these people were citing contradicted their arguments. I couldn't rely on what other scholars had said about some of these things, so I had to meticulously go through it all from scratch. It was frustrating at the time, but it was also at this moment that things really came together for me and I found the missing puzzle piece that would become a huge part of my argument.
How will you use your research in future studies?
It's valuable to be able to say, "I know I can do independent research because I've done it before." I'm currently heading into a senior thesis about something vaguely related, and now that I've already gone through the process of research and writing, I feel more prepared than I otherwise would have. I also got very comfortable with certain research tools, like the Thesaurus Linguae Graecae (TLG), which is cumbersome to use but an absolute life-saver.
The Hanna Holborn Gray Fellowships offer funded independent research in the humanities. Each summer, Bryn Mawr College awards up to 15 students a summer fellowship of $4,500 to undertake an independent research project in the humanities or humanistic social sciences. The research may either be the beginning of the senior thesis or a project that stands alone, but is relevant to their intellectual interests and must be supported by a faculty advisor.