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Indiana University Bloomington
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Nancy Levene

Associate Professor, Department of Religious Studies
Adjunct Faculty, Jewish Studies

My academic interests are focused on the intellectual history and thought of the European Modern West, including the conception and periodization of modernity. My first book (Spinoza's Revelation: Religion, Democracy, and Reason [Cambridge University Press, 2004]) takes up Spinoza's critique of religion in the light of his defense of both divine and human laws, and argues that this defense was designed to redraw religion, as well as reason, in political and historical terms. This reading places Spinoza in conversation with those thinkers—medieval and modern—who struggled with the relationship between reason and history, and raises anew the question of how to think about the history of these struggles. In my current research, I am working on borders in European historiography, and on the motif of reason as a mode of desiring to escape such borders. My research and teaching consider Europe in the broadest terms—religious, secular, multilingual, mythic, fantastical, utopian, dominating, and dominated—while also seeking other ways of thinking about the West and its heritage. Over the last several years, I have worked with a research collective in Jewish studies focused on reading classical texts, and the traditions they support, in light of contemporary questions, concerns, and critiques. The volume I co-edited (Textual Reasonings [Eerdmans, 2002]) is one fruit of that engagment. Additional interests include critical theory, German idealism, Marx, theories of democracy, gender and cultural studies, and critical readings of literature (including the Bible and its interpretations, the 19th century novel, and contemporary fiction), visual art, and music. I teach courses that touch on all of these areas of interest, as well as introductory courses on theories of religion and more specialized courses on particular thinkers, movements, and conceptual problems.


  • Ph.D. at Harvard University, 2000


  • New Frontiers in the Arts and Humanities Exploration Traveling Fellowship, Indiana University (Summer 2006)
  • Indiana University College of Arts and Humanities Institute Conference Grant (Summer 2006)
  • Robert A. Borns and Sandra S. Borns Program in Jewish Studies at Indiana University Conference Grant (Summer 2006)
  • Class of 1945 World Fellowship, Williams College (2003-2004)
  • Yad Hanadiv Beracha Foundation Junior Faculty Fellowship (2003-2004)
  • Charlotte W. Newcombe Dissertation Fellowship for the Study of Ethical and Religious Values (1997-98)

Research Interests

  • Modern European Thought and Intellectual History (17th-19th centuries)
  • 20th Century German and French Thought
  • Jewish Thought and Philosophy
  • Religion and Political Theory

Courses Recently Taught

  • REL-R 333, Religion and its Critics
  • REL-R 665, Interpretations of Religion
  • REL-R 264, Introduction to the Study of Religion
  • REL-R 202, God and the Human Condition
  • REL-R 300, Freud and Religion
  • REL-R672/780, Kant and Hegel
  • COLL-E 103, Atheism, Theism, and Existentialism
  • REL-R 462/581, History and Religion

Publication Highlights


Spinoza’s Revelation: Religion, Democracy, and Reason (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Textual Reasonings: Jewish Philosophy and Text Study at the End of the Twentieth Century, co-editor with Peter Ochs (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).


“Does Spinoza think the Bible is sacred?” Jewish Quarterly Review 101, 4 (Fall 2011): 545-573.

“Memento Mori: Gary Lease and the Study of Religion,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 21, 2 (2009): 139-156.

“Traces of History in St. Anselm,” Method and Theory in the Study of Religion 20, 4 (2008): 171-184.

“Athens and Jerusalem: Myths and Mirrors in Strauss’s Vision of the West,” Hebraic Political Studies, 3, 2 (Spring 2008): 113-155.

"Reflections on Knowledge and Obscurity from Anselm to Freud," Soundings: An Interdisciplinary Journal LXXXIX, 1-2 (Spring/Summer 2006): 101-134.

"Sources of History: Myth and Image." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74: 1 (March 2006): 79-101.

"Response to Gavin Flood." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74:1 (March 2006): 59-63.

"Reply to José Cabezón." Journal of the American Academy of Religion 74:1 (March 2006): 105-106.

"The Fall of Eden: Reasons and Reasoning in the Bible and the Talmud," Philosophy Today 50: 1/5 (2006): 6-23.

"Levinas’s Beginnings: Ethics, Politics, and Origins," Journal of the European Legacy 9: 1 (2004): 12-54.

"Judaism’s Body Politic," Women and Gender in Jewish Philosophy, ed. Hava Tirosh-Samuelson (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2004): 234-262.

"From Law to Ethics... and Back: Trajectories in Jewish Ethics," A Companion to Religious Ethics, ed. William Schweiker (Cambridge: Blackwell, 2004): 188-196.

"Spinoza’s Bible," Philosophy and Theology 13: 1 (2001): 93-142.

"Ethics and Interpretation, or How to Study Spinoza’s Tractatus Theologico-Politicus without Strauss," The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy 10 (2000): 57-110.