Office—106 Central St., Wellesley, MA 02481-8203. E-mail—[email protected]
Educator and author of nonfiction. Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, associate professor, director of medieval-renaissance studies.
First Group Scholar, Smith College, 1985-86; Jacob K. Javits Fellowship, 1988-92; University of Chicago dissertation-year fellowship, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 1992-93; Mellon Post-doctoral Fellowship at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, 1999; Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies, 2007; Helen and Howard R. Marraro Prize in Italian History, Society for Italian Historical Studies, 2007, for The Transformation of a Religious Landscape: Medieval Southern Italy, 850-1150.
The Transformation of a Religious Landscape: Medieval Southern Italy, 850-1150, Cornell University Press (Ithaca, NY), 2006.
Valerie Ramseyer is an associate professor of history and the director of medieval-renaissance studies at Wellesley College. Ramseyer's primary research interest is medieval and renaissance religious life, including church reform and the interactions between Europe and Islam, and the economic and social history of the medieval Mediterranean. Her ongoing projects focus on developing a comprehensive, unified picture of southern Italy during the Middle Ages, when the region was markedly fragmented and ethnically diverse.
Ramseyer's first book, The Transformation of a Religious Landscape: Medieval Southern Italy, 850-1150, fills a frustrating gap in the scholarship on medieval Italy, which almost exclusively focuses on northern Italy and Rome. Drawing heavily from primary sources held in the remarkable archives at the Holy Trinity of Cava monastery, Ramseyer's book has two goals. First, it explores the diversity of early medieval Christian religious worship in southern Italy, which showed a great deal of variety from one locale to the next. Christian worship in this place and time included neither standardized religious practices nor a real ecclesiastical hierarchy, was largely under the control of local dukes, allowed clergy to marry, and relied heavily on lay participation. Second, Ramseyer gauges the changes brought about by the Norman invasion (which brought the region into close contact with northern Europe) and to what degree this sparked reform, reorganization, and consolidation among southern Italy's many churches and monasteries. She also evaluates how completely this reform was executed. Ramseyer concludes by discussing how local and global influences ultimately contributed to the final forms these religious institutions took. This aspect of Ramseyer's scholarship garnered special attention from Paul Oldfield, who noted in his review for the Catholic Historical Review that "one of the greatest strengths of the study is its ability to place repeatedly the ecclesiastical transformations into a wider context, not just South Italian, but Western European, Mediterranean, and Byzantine as well." According to Thomas F.X. Noble, reviewing The Transformation of a Religious Landscape for Church History, the dearth of solid historical research on southern Italy's early medieval period makes "Ramseyer's brief, competent, and interesting book … unusually welcome," concluding that the book was instructive and whetted his appetite to learn more about the period. Oldfield likewise concluded that Ramseyer "offers a valuable analysis of the Church in an important region of Southern Italy … uncover[ing] significant long-term transitions that might otherwise have been missed."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
American Historical Review, October 1, 2007, Uta-Renate Blumenthal, review of The Transformation of a Religious Landscape: Medieval Southern Italy, 850-1150, p. 1246.
Catholic Historical Review, July 1, 2007, Paul Oldfield, review of The Transformation of a Religious Landscape, p. 629.
Church History, June 1, 2007, Thomas F.X. Noble, review of The Transformation of a Religious Landscape, p. 405.
Journal of the American Academy of Religion, December 1, 2007, Louis I. Hamilton, review of The Transformation of a Religious Landscape, p. 1000.
Medieval Review, November 1, 2007, Frances Andrews, review of The Transformation of a Religious Landscape.
Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, April 1, 2008, Richard F. Gyug, review of The Transformation of a Religious Landscape, p. 473.
American Council of Learned Societies Web site,http://www.acls.org/ (July 20, 2008), profile of author.
Wellesley College Web site,http://www.wellesley.edu/ (March 12, 2008), overview of The Transformation of a Religious Landscape; (March 25, 2008), "Valerie Ramseyer F'06 Wins Book Award for Work on Italian History."