Interview: Grace Emmett


King’s College London

Areas of Interest/Research:

Masculinity studies, Pauline epistles, New Testament, Bible and film

What is it about your field that you love researching?

Masculinity studies fascinates me because of its ability to interrogate what is often ‘unmarked’ in biblical literature and biblical interpretation; these are texts that (to the best of our knowledge) are written by men, tend to focus on male characters, and whose interpretation has been dominated by men for the best part of their reception history. Using this approach to illuminate Paul’s letters is particularly fun: as David Clines puts it, Paul has, in many ways, been an ‘invisible man’ in the sense that masculinity has not historically been considered as a category of analysis for Paul himself and his texts, so there’s plenty to unpack when it comes to his letters.

What is one “big idea” in your scholarship?

Paul claims to have ‘become a man’ (1 Cor 13:11), and has no problem telling the Corinthians to ‘man up’ (1 Cor 16:13), but these statements can be turned into a series of questions: what sort of man does Paul become? Who else agrees that he has actually become a real man; might the Corinthians wonder if Paul himself has sufficiently ‘manned up’? Framing our approach to Paul’s masculinity in this way helps us to think about the competing perspectives from which masculinity can be viewed and, ultimately, its instability as something that is constructed. My thesis uses this approach to consider four modes of Paul’s self-presentation that he offers in his letters to highlight the complex manner in which his masculinity is constructed. I’m also interested in the way that ‘becoming a man’ is really an ongoing process as Paul is continually being remade in interpreter’s imaginations. 

What is your current research about?

I’ve just defended my thesis so I’m thinking about where to focus my attention next, but there are a few areas in my dissertation that I’d like to develop further. I’ve spent a bit of time looking at the reception history of Paul’s stigmata in Gal 6:17, and particularly how that relates to concerns about masculinity, so that’s something that could be a bigger project. And I’m interested to explore further the manner in which Paul structures his relationship to those in his churches, following on from my research into his use of enslavement metaphors in 1 Cor 9:19 and 2 Cor 4:5.

Who is one of your academic heroes and why do you admire them?

I really admire the work of Colleen Conway; her book Behold the Man has been very influential within the study of New Testament masculinities, and I appreciate her attention to the development of masculinities methodology, which I’ve found to be very helpful for my own work. 

What books have been formative for you in your study? Why were they so important? How did they shape you?

In addition to Behold the Man, Brittany Wilson’s Unmanly Men was a book that I read quite early on in my PhD and was very helpful. I also really appreciated Brian Charles DiPalma’s Masculinities in the Court Tales of Daniel, particularly for his consideration of the theoretical approach to studying masculinities as well as the political implications for this kind of work. 

Do you have any publications we can showcase?

I do! I have a journal article published with Religion & Gender that considers the way Jesus’s masculinity is constructed in the film Mary Magdalene, which is available open access here. I also have an article forthcoming with the Journal of Early Christian History, entitled ‘The Apostle Paul’s Maternal Masculinity’. 

Where can we follow you online?

I’m on Twitter as @grace_emmett, and I am a co-host of The Two Cities podcast.

If we ran into you at SBL/AAR and you didn’t want to talk about your field what would you want to talk about?

Dogs and running. I have a somewhat badly behaved but very cute dachshund called Ruby and I can bore you with photos of her if you’re a dog person; and I’m usually training for a run of some kind or another if that’s your cup of tea and you want to nerd out about Garmins.

Other than your thesis, what research/writing project are you working on right now that you’re excited about?

I’m working on a paper about the film First Reformed in conjunction with ecotheology, which I hope to present somewhere this year, and I’m also interested in analysing contemporary men’s Christian movements, so there might be some research that comes out of that. 

>> Thank you so much, Grace, for taking the time to share a bit about yourself and your work.

Are you a PhD student or Early Career Researcher working in Religion or Biblical Studies? If so, we’d like to hear from you. This website is dedicated solely to interviewing PhD students and ECRs on who they are, what they love about their work, and what has inspired them. If you’d like to be interviewed, head over to the Contact page and fill out the form. There’s no catch. Don’t be shy. Self-promotion is a virtue.

One Comment Add yours

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s