Susan A. Keefe


Susan A. Keefe Papers

Collection Details

Collection Number: KEEFE

Title: Susan A. Keefe Papers

Date: 1981-2012

Creator: Keefe, Susan A.

Extent: 3.75 linear feet

Repository: Duke Divinity Library Archive

Language: Materials in English, Latin, French, Spanish, German

Series in this Collection

1. Correspondence Series

2. Manuscript Series

3. Course Materials Series

4. Research Materials Series

5. Biographical Series

Collection Overview

In 1988, medievalist and historian Susan Keefe captured the imaginations of Duke Divinity School faculty and students with a presentation on texts and practices used in the education of Carolingian clergy. As a result, she was asked to join the faculty at Duke Divinity, embarking on twenty-four years of research and instruction, during which she continued her scholarship and teaching on the formation and education of Christian clergy in the Carolingian era while actively contributing to the education of Christian clergy in the (North) Carolinian region.

Susan A. Keefe (1954-2012) was a church historian whose research focused on liturgy, education of clergy, and worship practices in Medieval Christianity. Her particular focus was on Carolingian manuscripts that discussed preparation for baptism and the baptismal rite. Receiving degrees from the University of Pennsylvania (B.A., 1975) and the University of Toronto (M.A., 1976; Ph.D., 1981), Professor Keefe taught at Harvard University (1987-88), Davidson College (1983-87), and the California Institute of Technology (1981-83), before beginning her twenty-four-year tenure on the faculty of Duke Divinity School (1988-2012). Although a committed Catholic, Dr. Keefe was invited to join the Divinity faculty on the strength of Dean Dennis Campbell's desire that the Patristic and Medieval theology be presented to students in a positive way that would make them feel the tradition was their heritage as well.1 She was elated to work with such a "committed" student body, though she noted wryly that her field was occasionally confused with "Carolinian Studies."2

Among her published works is the two-volume Water and the Word—Baptism and the Instruction of the Clergy in the Carolingian Empire: A Study of Texts and Manuscripts (University of Notre Dame Press, 2002). Much of her research involved combing over unpublished manuscripts and comparing different copies of baptismal tracts or commentaries by the same medieval author, and preparing a critical edition of the text. As a result of her research and her specialization being so rare, her book manuscripts took a notoriously long time to move through publishing houses. At the Divinity School, she taught courses on the History of the Liturgy, Canon Law, the Early Medieval Church, the Latin Fathers, Female Monasticism, Mysticism, the history of the church in North Africa, and the Cult of the Saints, as well as reading courses and independent studies in medieval Latin texts.

Dr. Keefe worked at Duke Divinity School for 24 years, during which the school grew and changed in its student body and its faculty. She was there for the introduction of computers for regular faculty use, and was an early advocate for them as she had found computers and certain software programs incredibly helpful to her meticulous work comparing manuscript copies of the same text. Here, too, there were growing pains, as Dr. Keefe and others embraced computers but not email, and as the Divinity School weathered the uncertainties of Y2K with the rest of the world. Dr. Keefe's irritation with the latter upheaval is evident in a letter she composed to her mentor, Roger Reynolds, on New Year's Eve, 1999, by hand, "because we are not allowed to use our computers."3

In July of 2012, Dr. Keefe received news that a former Duke Divinity student had dedicated his most recent book to her. The Feminine Genius of Catholic Theology focuses on presenting an introduction to Catholic doctrine through the lens of women mystics' experiences and writings. Dr. Keefe was absolutely delighted. She wrote back, "If I was on the landscape, due to my course, at that inspirational time in your life, it is mere coincidence. It was of course not me but these women and the Spirit that were forming you into the deeply insightful professor you have become."4 Unexpectedly, Dr. Keefe died a month after receiving the book and its praise for her teaching. In that sad context, the book's dedication becomes a fitting tribute to Dr. Keefe's quiet life of study, prayer, and teaching. Levering's acknowledgments page explains,

During my Master's studies at Duke Divinity School, Professor Susan Keefe, a person of deep prayer, introduced me to the writings of the women mystical theologians. I gained a real understanding of how Edith Stein could have picked up Teresa of Avila's biography by chance, read it through at a sitting, and shortly thereafter been baptized as a Catholic. The present book is therefore dedicated to Susan Keefe in gratitude and appreciation. Against the trends of the academy, she taught me that 'we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal' (2 Cor 4:18).5

The Divinity School Library possesses Dr. Keefe's papers and correspondence, as well as collections of photos from her travels to various archaeological sites in Europe and the Middle East, which she undertook for research purposes and in order to have the photographs as a teaching resource. These are currently being organized in an archival collection which will be made available to researchers as the collection is processed.

1 Letter to Roger Reynolds, 3 March 1988.

2 Letter to Maryanne Kowaleski, 23 March 1990.

3 Letter to Roger Reynolds, 31 December 1999.

4 Letter to Matthew Levering, 14 July 2012.

5 Matthew Levering, The Feminine Genius of Catholic Theology (New York: T & T Clark, 2012), viii.

Citation Guidelines

Preferred citation for the digital version:

[Identification of item], [Date of item], Susan A. Keefe papers, Digital Version. Duke Divinity School Library, Duke University. [Item URL].

Preferred citation for the original documents in the archives on campus, if consulted:

[Identification of item], [Date of item], Susan A. Keefe papers, Duke Divinity School Library, Duke University.

Contents of the Collection

1. Correspondence Series

1.1 California Institute of Technology (1981-1983) [Box 1, Folders 1-2]

1.2 Davidson College (1983-1987) [Box 1, Folders 3-5]

1.3 Harvard University (1987-1988) [Box 1, Folders 6-7]

1.4 Duke Divinity School (1988-2012) [Box 1, Folders 8-15]

1.5 Correspondence with Students [Box 1, Folders 16-19]

2. Manuscript Series

2.1 Dissertation [Box 1, Folders 20-27]

2.2 Water and the Word: Baptism and the Education of the Clergy in the Carolingian Empire [Box 1, Folders 28-29]

2.3 The Making of Christendom [Box 1, Folder 30]

2.4 Articles and Book Chapters [Box 1, Folder 31]

2.5 Book Reviews and Encyclopedia Entries [Box 1, Folder 32]

2.6 Poetry and Media [Box 1, Folder 33]

2.7 Public Lectures [Box 1, Folders 33–34]

3. Course Materials Series

3.1 Syllabi for Courses prior to Duke appointment (1981–1988) [Box 2, Folder 35]

3.2 Syllabi for Courses at Duke Divinity School (1988–2012) [Box 2, Folder 35]

3.3 Life within the University: Curriculum Vitae, Self-Evaluations, Course Evaluations [Box 2, Folder 36]

3.4 Tenure Dossier [Box 2, Folder 36]

3.5 Faculty Meeting Minutes [Box 2, Folders 37–39]

4. Research Materials Series

4.1 Faculty Research Grant, Davidson College, 1985

4.1a Journal: Research trip to France, Italy, and Spain (1985)

4.2 Mellon Faculty Fellowship, Harvard University, 1987–1988

4.3 American Council of Learned Societies, Grant-in-Aid, 1991

4.4 URC Major Grant, Duke University, 1991; URC Regular Grant, Duke University, 1992

4.5 National Endowment for the Humanities, 1995–1998

4.5a Journal: Research trip to France and Spain (1996)

4.6 Research trip to North Africa (2000)

4.6a Journal: Research trip to North Africa

4.6b Photographs: Travels in Tunisia

4.7 Research Trip to Turkey (2003)

4.8 Research trip to Greece (2005)

4.8a Journal: Research trip to Greece

4.8b Photographs: Journeys through Greece

4.9 Research Trip to Spain and Portugal (2009)

4.10 Research Trip to Croatia

4.11 Correspondence related to manuscript copy requests

5. Biographical Series

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