2016 Graduate Student Paper Competition Winner

Jonathan-Edwards-banner_680x195Emily Dolan Gierer photo

We are pleased to announce the winner of this year’s Jonathan Edwards graduate student paper competition.

We received papers this year from graduate students all over the world. The competition was stiff. But the winner of this year’s prize is Emily Dolan Gierer, a Master of Divinity student at Yale Divinity School.

Gierer’s paper is entitled, “Monstrous Confessions: Seventeenth-Century Women and the Dangers of Divine Revelation.”

Her paper is based on a study of the public confessions of faith recorded by Pastor Thomas Shepard (1605-1649) for his Puritan parishioners in Cambridge, Massachusetts between 1638 and 1645. Gierer argues in her paper that the 51 confessions Shepard recorded during this period “evidence a group of people who were cautiously intentional in their word choices, particularly in the case of the female confessors. For many of the women in Cambridge, their faith confession was the first and only experience of speaking in public that would ever be offered to them. Despite their lack of public speaking experience, they had to speak confidently, yet modestly, of their religious experiences in a community that generally considered it unbiblical for a woman to speak in church. By examining the fifty-one public confessions of faith, and particularly the twenty-two given by women,” Gierer highlights “the rhetorical tactics these women used to protect themselves from accusations of immodesty and even heresy. Relying heavily on references to scripture and sermons in their accounts, the women of Cambridge carefully situated the authority for their religious experiences” in a manner that comported with the patriarchal culture of early New England, setting the stage on which the women of Northampton would participate in its much more public membership debate a century later.

Gierer will receive a check for $500 and publication of her essay soon in Jonathan Edwards Studies.

Congratulations, Emily, on a job well done!