Prior to joining the OU Religious Studies faculty, Mara Willard was a lecturer at Harvard Divinity School, where she taught Christian ethics and political theory, including the course "Religion and American Public Life," for which she twice received Bok Center teaching awards.
Dr. Willard studies the intersection of religion, ethics, and politics: a constellation that she finds just about everywhere. Her first book examines religious imagery and insight in the work of Hannah Arendt, the German-American theorist of totalitarianism and evil in the twentieth century. Arendt argues that absolute, world-transcending truth has no place in public life, yet she harvests biblical and theological sources to make her case for a politics of action. This book presents Arendt's intellectual formation in Protestant Christian Germany and her political awakening during the German Jewish revival, before showing the impact of her education in major mid-century writings.
Dr. Willard is also interested in the literary arts as sites of social critique and moral imagination. She writes on the political work of religious imagery in the literature of Toni Morrison and is co-editing a volume entitled "'Have Mercy'": The Religious Dimensions of the Writing of Toni Morrison." This research feeds her OU courses on "Religion, Culture and the Meaning of Life," "Introduction to Christianity" and "Christianity, Gender and Sex." She has also taught "Religion, Race and Nation" and "Religion, Ethics and Politics." Dr. Willard's second project is on the so-called "Crisis in the Church" of 2002: the Boston clergy sex abuse scandal and its aftermath. Here she presents the strategies and rhetoric of lay Catholics in their movement toward Cardinal Law's accountability.
Dr. Willard serves on the Committee on the Public Understanding of Religion of the American Academy of Religion, and has published in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin, the on-line journal Religion & Politics, and the Journal of the American Academy of Religion.
She received a BA with distinction from Swarthmore College, and holds an MDiv from Harvard Divinity School and a PhD in the Study of Religion from the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences. In Fall 2015 Dr. Willard joined the OU Religious Studies Program as Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, and is affiliated faculty with both Jewish Studies and Women's and Gender Studies.