Susan Ashbrook Harvey Royce Family Professor of Teaching Excellence, Willard Prescott and Annie McClelland Smith Professor of History and Religion

Susan Ashbrook Harvey specializes in late antique and Byzantine Christianity, with Syriac studies as her particular focus. She is the author of Song and Memory: Biblical Women in Syriac Tradition (2010); Scenting Salvation: Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination (2006), Asceticism and Society in Crisis: John of Ephesus and the Lives of the Eastern Saints (1990), co-author, with Sebastian P. Brock, of Holy Women in the Syrian Orient (1998, 1987), and co-editor with David G. Hunter of the Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies (2008). She has published widely on topics relating to asceticism, hagiography, women and gender, hymnography, homiletics, and piety in late antique Christianity.

Brown Affiliations

Research Areas

scholarly work

a.  Books        

Song and Memory: Biblical Women in Syriac Tradition, The Père Marquette Lecture in Theology 2010 (Milwaukee:  Marquette University Press, 2010).

Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies, co-editor with David G. Hunter (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008; paperback edition 2010).

Scenting Salvation:  Ancient Christianity and the Olfactory Imagination (Berkeley:  University of California Press, 2006).  ACLS Humanities E-Book, 2011.

Holy Women of the Syrian Orient, co-authored with S.P. Brock (Berkeley: University of California Press 1987).  Updated paperback edition with new Preface (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998).  Arabic edition, Cadmus Publishing and Distribution (in conjunction with the Syrian Orthodox Archdiocese of Aleppo), Damascus, 2000.  Romanian edition, Sfintele Femeiale Orientului Sirian (Bucarest:  Editura Sofia 2005).  ACLS Humanities E-Book, 2008.

Asceticism and Society in Crisis: John of Ephesus  and the  'Lives of the Eastern Saints' (Berkeley: University of California Press 1990). ACLS Humanities E-Book, 2012.

Published as individual fascicles:

Jacob of Serug on Jephthah’s Daughter, Bilingual Syriac-English edition, with introduction and commentary;  co-authored with Ophir Muenz-Manor (Gorgias Press, 2010) .

“Women’s Voices Bearing Witness: Biblical Memory in Ancient Orthodox Liturgy,” Orthodoxy in America Annual Lecture, (Fordham University Press, 2009).

Volume Editor for the Writings of the Greco-Roman World Series, Scholars Press:

The Rabbula Corpus, ed. and trans. Cornelia Horn and Robert Phenix, Jr. (Scholars Press, forthcoming).

The Acts of Mar Mari, ed. and trans. Amir Harrak (Scholars Press, 2005).


b.  Chapters in Books / Encyclopedia entries (select)

“Guiding Grief: Liturgical Poetry and Ritual Lamentation in Early Byzantium,” Greek Laughter and Tears: Antiquity and After:  Proceedings of the 8th A. G. Leventis Conference in Greek, University of Edinburgh, November 2013, ed. Douglas Cairns and Margaret Alexiou, (University of Edinburgh Press, forthcoming).

“Bearing Witness:  New Testament Women in Early Byzantine Hymnography,”in The New Testament in Byzantium, ed. Derek Krueger and Robert Nelson (Dumbarton Oaks Publications, forthcoming).

 “Patristic Worlds,” Patristic Studies in the Twenty-first Century: Proceedings of an International Conference to Mark the 50th Anniversary of the International Association of Patristic Studies, ed. Brouria Bitton- Ashkelony et al. (Brepols, 2015), 25-53.

“The Senses in Religion,” in Constance Classen, ed., A Cultural History of the Senses.  Volume I:  Antiquity, ed. J. P. Toner (Berg Publishers 2014) 91-114.

“Covenant, Sons and Daughters of,” “Jacob of Sarug,” and “John of Ephesus,” Oxford Dictionary of Late Antiquity, ed. Oliver Nicholson and Mark Humphries (Oxford University Press, forthcoming).

“Encountering Eve in Syriac Tradition,” in Syriac Encounters: Papers from the Sixth North American Syriac Symposium, ed. M. Doerfler, E. Fiano, and K. Smith (Peeters Press, 2014).  Swedish version, “Möten med Eva I Syrisk liturgi,” in Svensk Exegetisk Årsbok 77 (Uppsala 2012), 1-24 (without plates).

“Biblical Women in Syriac Christianity,” for The Bible and Women/Donna e Bibbia: An Encyclopedia of Exegesis and Cultural History, Vol. V.1: Ancient Use of Biblical Texts in Constructing Female Gender Models, ed. Kari Elizabeth Børresen and Emanuela Prinzivalli (to be published in four languages by Irmtraud Fischer, Mercedes Navarro, Jorunn Oekland, Adriana Valerio).

“Bibliskt Minne I den Syriska Traditionnen” (Biblical Memory in Syriac Tradition) and “Bibliska Kvinnor som bilder av Kyrkan” (Biblical Women as Images of Church in Early Syriac Literature), in Patristica Nordica Annuaria 26 (Lund, Sweden, 2011), 37-52, and 53-74.  In Swedish.

“Performance as Exegesis: Women’s Liturgical Choirs in Syriac Tradition,” Inquiries into Eastern Christian Worship: Acts of the Second International Congress of the Society of Oriental Liturgy, ed. Basilius J. Groen, Stephanos Alexopoulos, and Steven Hawkes-Teeples, Eastern Christian Studies 12 (Leuven: Peeters, 2012), 47-64.

“The Despised Woman: Jacob of Serug at the Nativity Feast,” Byzantine Religious Culture:  Studies in Honor of Alice-Mary Talbot, ed. Elizabeth Fisher, Denis Sullivan, and Eustratios Papaioannou (Leiden: Brill, 2011). 3-18.

"Housekeeping:  An Ascetic Theme in Late Antiquity," "To Train His Spirit with Books":  Studies in Syrian Asceticism in honor of Sidney H. Griffith, ed. Robin A. Darling Young and Monica Blanchard (Catholic University of America Press, 2011), 134-54.

Hagiography," "John of Ephesus," "Monasticism," "Rabbula of Edessa," “Theodora,” “Women in Syriac Tradition,” for the Encyclopedic Dictionary of the Syriac Heritage, ed. Sebastian Brock, George Kiraz and Lucas Van Rompay (Gorgias Press, 2011).

“To Whom Did Jacob Preach?” in Jacob of Serugh and His Times: Studies in Sixth-Century Syriac Christianity, ed. George Anton Kiraz (Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press, 2010), 115-31.

“Holy Impudence, Sacred Desire: the Women of Matthew 1: 1-16 in Syriac Tradition,” in If These Stones Could Speak: Texts and Contexts, ed. George Kalantzis and Thomas Martin (Lewiston, NY: Edwin Mellen Press, 2009), 27-48.

“Incense and Olfactory Experience in Worship,”  Cambridge Dictionary of Christianity, ed. Daniel Patte (Cambridge University Press, 2010).

“Bride of Blood, Bride of Light:  Biblical Women as Images of Church in Jacob of Serug,” Malphono w-Rabo d-Malphone: Festschrift for Sebastian P. Brock, ed. George Kiraz (Gorgias Press, 2008), 189-218.

“Martyrology and Hagiography,” Oxford Handbook of Early Christian Studies, ed. S.A. Harvey and D.G. Hunter (Oxford University Press, 2008), 603-27.

"Syria and Mesopotamia," Cambridge History of Christianity, Vol. 1:  Early Christianity:  Origins to Constantine, ed. Margaret Mitchell and Frances M. Young (Cambridge University Press, 2006), 351-65.

“Locating the Sensing Body:  Perception and Religious Identity in Late Antiquity,” The Religious Self in Antiquity, ed. David Brakke and Michael Satlow (Bloomington:  University of Indiana Press, 2005). Pp 140-62.

“ ‘Incense in Our Land’:  Julian Saba and Early Syrian Christianity,” Wilderness: Essays in Honour of Frances M. Young, ed.  R. S. Sugirtharajah (T & T Clark, 2005). Pp. 120-31.

"On Mary's Voice:  Gendered Words in Syriac Marian Tradition," The Cultural Turn in Late Ancient Studies: Gender, Asceticism, and Historiography Ed. Patricia Cox Miller and Dale Martin (Duke University Press, 2004). Pp. 63-86.

“Women in the Syrian Christian Context,” co-authored with Eva Synek, Women in the Middle Ages:  An Encyclopedia, ed. Katharina Wilson and Nadia Margolis (Westport, CT:  Greenwood Press, 2004) 2:  871-8.

"Women and Words:  Texts on or by Women," ch. 35, Cambridge History of Early Christian Literature, ed. Lewis Ayres, Andrew Louth, and Frances M. Young (Cambridge University Press 2004), pp. 382-90.

“Why the Perfume Mattered:  the Sinful Woman in Syriac Exegetical Tradition," In Dominico Eloquio/ In Lordly Eloquence:  Essays on Patristic Exegesis in Honor of Robert Wilken, ed. P. Blowers, A. Christman, D. Hunter, and R. Darling Young (Eerdmans, 2001), 69-89.

"Syriac Christian Thought," Oxford Companion to Christian Thought, ed. Adrian Hastings et al. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000) 692-3. Repr. Christian Thought:  A Brief History, ed. Adrian Hastings, Alistair Mason, Hugh Pyper (Oxford, 2002), 33-7.

"Antioch and Christianity," in Antioch:  the Lost Ancient City, ed. C. Kondoleon (Princeton University Press, 2000) 39-49.

"Olfactory Knowing:  Signs of Smell in the Lives of Simeon Stylites," After Bardaisan: Studies on Continuity and Change in Syriac Christianity in Honor of Han J. W. Drijvers, ed. G.J. Reinink and A.C. Klugkist (Leuven: Peeters Press, 1999) 23-34.

"Almsgiving," "Anchorites," "Asceticism," "Bnay Qyomo," "Dendrites," "Encratites," "Holy Fools," Guide to the Late Antique World, ed. G.W. Bowersock, Peter Brown, and Oleg Grabar (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999) 287-8, 298, 317-8, 344, 407,  425-6, 495-6.

"Incense Offerings in the Syriac Transitus Mariae:  Ritual and Knowledge in Ancient Christianity," The Early Church in its Context:  Essays in Honor of Everett Ferguson, ed. Abraham Malherbe, Frederick W. Norris, and James W. Thompson (Leiden: Brill, 1998) 175-91.

"Johannes von Ephesus," (with H. Brakmann) Reallexikon für Antike und Christentum 18  (1997)  554-63.

"Women in the Syriac Tradition," Woman in Prism and Focus:  Her Profile in Major World Religions and in Christian Traditions, ed. Prasanna Vazheeparampil, CMC (Rome: Mar Thoma Yogam, 1996) 69-80.  Reprinted with permission in St. Nina Quarterly 1.4 (fall 1997).

"The Odes of Solomon," Searching the Scriptures:  a Feminist-Ecumenical Commentary, E. Schüssler Fiorenza, ed., (New York: Crossroad, 1994 ) 86-98.

"The Memory and Meaning of a Saint: Two Homilies on Simeon Stylites," Festschrift for Sebastian P. Brock, ed. Shafiq Abouzayd,  Aram 5/6 (1993-4) 1-23.

"The Holy and the Poor: Models from Early Syriac Christianity," 'Through the Eye of the Needle': Judeo-Christian Roots of Social Welfare, ed. Emily Albu Hanawalt and Carter Lindberg (Thomas Jefferson University Press 1994) 43-66.

Foreword to Robert Doran, The Lives of Simeon Stylites (Kalamazoo: Cistercian Publications, 1992) 7-12.

"Women in Early Byzantine Hagiography: Reversing the Story," 'That Gentle Strength':  Historical Perspectives on Women  and Christianity, ed. L. Coon, K. Haldane, and E. Sommer (Charlottesville/ London: Univ. of Virginia Press 1990) 36-59.

"Jacob of Serug's Homily on Simeon the Stylite," Ascetic Behavior  in Greco-Roman Antiquity: A Sourcebook, ed. V.Wimbush (Philadelphia: Fortress 1990), 1-15.

"John of Ephesus,""Nestorianism," "Nestorius," "Persia," "Philoxenus of Mabbug," "Rabbula of Edessa," for the Encyclopedia of Early Christianity, ed. E. Ferguson, M. McHugh,  F. Norris, and D. Scholer (New York: Garland, 1990;  2nd ed. 1997) 499, 644-647, 648,  717-8, 732, 775.

"Women in Early Syrian Christianity," Images of Women in Antiquity, ed. A. Cameron and A. Kurht  (London: Routledge, 1983, rev. ed. 1993) 288-98.

"The Politicisation of the Byzantine Saint," The Byzantine Saint,  ed. S. Hackel, Studies Supplementary to Sobornost 5 (London:  Fellowship of St. Alban and St. Sergius, 1981) 37-43.


c. Refereed Articles (select)

“Sensing More in Ancient Religion,” Svensk Teologisk Kvartalskrift 89 (2013):  97-106.

“Liturgy and Ethics in Ancient Syriac Christianity: Two Paradigms,” Studies in Christian Ethics 26.3 (2013): 300-316.

“Singing Women’s Stories in Syriac Tradition,” Internationale Kirchliche Zeitschrift 100.3 (2010):  171-89.

“Impudent Women: Mt 1: 1-16 in Syriac Tradition,” X Symposium Syriacum, ed. Samir Khalil Samir and Nagil Edelby, Parole de l’Orient 35 (2010): 65-76.

"Praying Bodies, Bodies at Prayer: Ritual Relations in Early Syriac Christianity," Prayer and Spirituality in the Early Church, Vol. 4: the Spiritual Life, ed. Pauline Allen, Lawrence Cross, and Wendy Mayer (Sydney:  St. Paul’s Publications, 2006), pp. 149-67.

“Interior Decorating: Jacob of Serug on Mary’s Preparation for the Incarnation,” Studia Patristica 36, ed. Mark Edwards and Frances M. Young (2006).

“Revisiting the Daughters of the Covenant:  Women’s Choirs and Sacred Song in Ancient Syriac Christianity,” Hugoye:  Journal of Syriac Studies 8.2 (July 2005). []

“Women in Syriac Christian Tradition,” Journal of the Canadian Society for Syriac Studies 3 (2003) 44-58.

"On Holy Stench:  When the Odor of Sanctity Sickens," Studia Patristica 35, ed. M. F. Wiles and E. J. Yarnold (Peeters, 2001) 90-101.

"Spoken Words, Voiced Silence: Biblical Women in Syriac Tradition," Journal of Early Christian Studies 9 (2001) 105-31.

"Women's Service in Ancient Syriac Christianity," Kanon 16 (2001) 226-41, special issue "Mother, Nun, Deaconess:  Images of Women according to Eastern Canon Law," ed. Eva Synek.

"Theodora the 'Believing Queen':  A Study in Syriac Historiographical Tradition," Hugoye:  Journal of Syriac Studies 4: 2(2001), special issue on Women in the Syriac Tradition, with myself as Special Guest Editor. []

"Embodiment in Time and Eternity:  A Syriac Perspective," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly 43(1999) 105-30.  Repr. Theology and Sexuality:  Classic and Contemporary Readings, ed. Eugene F. Rogers, Jr. (Oxford:  Blackwell Publishers, 2002), 3-22.

"The Stylite's Liturgy:  Ritual and Religious Identity in Late Antiquity," Journal of Early Christian Studies 6 (1998) 523-39.

"St. Ephrem on the Scent of Salvation," Journal of Theological Studies  n.s. 49 (1998) 109-128.

"Sacred Bonding: Mothers and Daughters in Early Syriac Hagiography," Journal of Early Christian Studies 4 (1996) 27-56.

"Feminine Imagery for the Divine: the Holy Spirit, the Odes of Solomon, and Early Syriac Tradition," St. Vladimir's Theological Quarterly  37( 1993) 111-39.

"The Edessan Martyrs and Ascetic Tradition," V Symposium Syriacum 1988, ed. R. Lavenant, Orientalia  Christiana Analecta  236 (1990) 195-206.

"Remembering Pain: Syriac Historiography and the Separation of the Churches", Byzantion 58 (1988) 295-308.

"The Sense of a Stylite: Perspectives on Simeon the Elder," Vigiliae Christianae 42 (1988) 376-94.

"Physicians and Ascetics in John of Ephesus: An Expedient Alliance," Dumbarton Oaks Papers 38 (1984) 87-93.

"Asceticism in Adversity: An Early Byzantine Experience", Byzantine  and Modern Greek  Studies 6 (1980) 1-11.


d. Non-refereed Journal Articles (select)

"Holy Women, Silent Lives: A Review Essay," (with reference to J. Petersen, Handmaids of the Lord:  Holy Women in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages [1997] and A.-M. Talbot, ed., Holy Women of Byzantium:  Ten Saints' Lives in English Translation [1997]), St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Quarterly 42 (1998) 397-403.

Obituary for the Rev. Dr. Jean-Michel Hornus, Sobornost/ Eastern Churches Review  5:1 (1983 )70-1.      

research overview

I specialize in ancient Christianity of the Syriac and Byzantine traditions. I work on religion and the senses, religious culture and social history, women and gender, monasticism, asceticism, the cult of saints, hymnography, and historiography.

research statement

I am presently working on biblical women in Syriac hymnography and homiletics, and the Syriac women's choirs that performed these works.  I also continue to work on religion and the senses, in particular on the manner in which sensory rhetoric is used to heighten the emotional aspects of late antique religious texts.  Liturgical lament, especially in Syriac and Greek, is another area of my current research.