Florence Harkness Professor of Religion and Chair Department of Religious Studies
Timothy Beal is the Florence Harkness Professor of Religion at Case Western Reserve University and editor-in-chief of The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Bible and the Arts (in progress). He has published 13 books and many scholarly articles on the cultural history of the Bible, religion and popular culture, and relations between critical theory and academic religious studies. He has also published essays on religion and American culture for The New York Times, The Chronicle of Higher Education, CNN.com, The Washington Post, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer, and is a regular contributor to The Huffington Post. He has been featured on national radio shows including NPR’s All Things Considered, The Bob Edwards Show, WBUR’s On Point, and Interfaith Voices.
For me, teaching is about creating a space in which a unique and genuinely collegial intellectual community can take shape. I strive to treat every student as a colleague with something unique to offer the class. I believe that one of the highest goals of education should be to learn to ask good questions, and that the best questions are often those that survive all their answers. Education is a lifelong affair. As Marian Wright Edelman puts it, “Education is not just about making a living. It’s about making a life.”
I teach courses in biblical literature, cultural history of the Bible, theory and methodology for religious studies, and in thematic areas of broad, comparative interest. My courses include: Introduction to the Study of Religion; Introduction to Biblical Literature; Special Topics in Biblical Literature: Introduction to the Study of Religion; Method and Theory in the Study of Religion; Special Topics in Biblical Literature (advanced exegetical seminars on specific biblical texts and topics, e.g., “Job and the Problem of Pain,” “The Legends of Genesis,” and “The Parables of Jesus”); Ritual; Religion and Visual Culture; Religion and Ecology; Religion and Horror; and Senior Seminar. In a recent senior seminar, my students and I planned and conducted a research project called The Case Pluralism Project, which began mapping the religious landscape of the undergraduate student body at Case in order to better understand how religion impacts undergraduate education and life on campus. I also teach in the SAGES core curriculum, including “What Is Soul?” (team-taught with Louis B. Rice in the School of Medicine), which explores the cultural history of soul, from Moses, Socrates, and the Buddha to Ray Charles, soul food, and the hospital bed.
Research and Writing
I find writing, including the research that it necessarily involves, to be a generative process. In my experience, writing doesn’t simply give expression my ideas; it invents and forms them. For a fuller list of my publications, visit my website at timothybeal.com.
Home and Family
I was born in Hood River, Ore., and grew up in Alaska (about twenty miles outside Anchorage, near Flat Top Mountain). I spent my youth hiking and hunting and messing around in the forests and foothills of the Chugach Mountains. I feel deeply connected to Alaska, although I rarely have the opportunity to visit. My family has five acres on a small pond called Loon Lake in a wilderness area about 60 miles south of the Alaska Mountain Range, near Talkeetna. I dream of building a cabin there one day.
I am married to Clover Reuter Beal, a Presbyterian minister at Forest Hill Church in Cleveland Heights. Clover and I met during college in Seattle (in a philosophy of religion course). I call Clover a Presbyterian shaman.
Clover and I live in Shaker Heights, Ohio, with our two kids, Sophie and Seth. We love to travel together. In fact, my Roadside Religion book project began with a family road trip — a travel seminar, let’s call it — through the Bible Belt in a 29-foot rented motorhome. Learn more about that by visiting my website.