Champoux’s dissertation, “Visionary Architecture: Monastic Magic and Cognition in John of Morigny’s ‘Liber florum,’” is concerned with the 14th-century Benedictine monk who participated in ritual magic and had visionary experiences. Besides being fascinating reading, John’s text, says Champoux, has altered the study and classification of medieval religions.
“Through a detailed examination of John’s visions and the historical context in which they were written, I argue that magic unsettled medieval theological boundaries and imbued John with a degree of creative license that forced theological interventions from his more orthodox peers,” says Champoux.
Patricia Miller, Champoux’s adviser, says this kind of research is rooted in the latter-day work of Hélène Cixous—specifically, her concept of “productive exile”—and of Michel Foucault, whose study of utopias and heterotopias has changed our understanding of space and time. Miller also points out that Champoux’s research rocks the fractious scholarly field of magic at its “conceptual and definitional core.”
“She is intellectually bold to enter into these discussions,” says Miller, who serves as the Bishop W. Earl Ledden Professor of Religion. “I think her approach—which emphasizes the idea of what magic does, intellectually, rather than what it is—will make a real contribution toward de-essentializing this topic and enabling its study as a legitimate expression of religion.”