Karen Spierling

Karen Spierling

Associate Professor & Director of Global Commerce
Position Type 
2010 - Present
All Affiliations 
Early Modern Europe



Karen Spierling joined the Denison faculty in 2010. She teaches courses on a variety of early modern European topic, including surveys on Renaissance Italy and the Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment, and seminars on Riots and Revolutions; Louis XIV and the Construction of Power; Witches, Saints & Skeptics; violence in early modern Europe; and European travelers their increasingly global contexts.

Dr. Spierling’s research interests focus on the history of the Reformation, in particular the interplay among religious, social, and political concerns in the development and spread of Reformed (Calvinist) Protestantism in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Her first book, Infant Baptism in Reformation Geneva: The Shaping of a Community, 1536–1564 (Ashgate, 2005; paperback–Westminster John Knox, 2009) examined the ways that negotiations among reformers, civic leaders, and church members influenced the Reformed practice of baptism, a fundamental ritual in any Christian society. Other publications include an edited volume, Calvin and the Book: The Evolution of the Printed Word in Reformed Protestantism (V&R, 2015); “Negotiating Penance” in Charles Parker and Gretchen Starr-LeBeau, Charles H. Parker, Judging Faith, Punishing Sin: Inquisitions and Consistories in the Early Modern World (Cambridge University Press, fall 2016); and Defining Community in Early Modern Europe, co-edited with Michael Halvorson (Ashgate, 2008). Her current book project, Scandalizing Christians: Forging Reformed Societies in Reformation Geneva and Beyond, explores sixteenth-century concepts of scandal and the roles those ideas played in defining and shaping Reformed communities. She has received a Robert C. Good Faculty Fellowship to fund her research and writing and will be on leave in France during 2016-2017.

Dr. Spierling is the past president of the Calvin Studies Society and has served on a variety of committees for the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference and the Society for Reformation Research. Starting in the fall of 2017, she will be the Director of Denison’s new Global Commerce major.

B.A., Yale University; M.A., Ph.D., University of Wisconsin, Madison