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Molly Bassett

Associate Professor    Chair    
Education

Ph.D., University of California, Santa Barbara, 2009
M.Div., Harvard University, 2004
B.A., Marshall University, Spanish and Basic Humanities, Classical Studies emphasis, 2001

Specializations

Mesoamerican Religions: Arts of the Americas: Ritual and the Body; Deities and Death; Creation and Cosmology

Biography

Dr. Bassett’s scholarship aims at understanding the intersection of religion and the natural world in Aztec and Nahua cultures. In her first book, The Fate of Earthly Things: Aztec Gods and God-Bodies (University of Texas Press 2015), she explores concepts of god (teotl) and deity embodiment (teixiptla) in Bernardino de Sahagún’s Florentine Codex (c. 1580). Dr. Bassett argues that the Nahuatl term “teotl” carried a set of five culturally dependent denotations. In addition, particular processes of ritual manufacture, such as the wearing of flayed skin and deity paraphernalia, led to the transformation of ordinary materials, including human beings, into living god-bodies.

Dr. Bassett’s current project investigates the distinction (or lack thereof) between the natural and supernatural worlds through the Florentine Codex’s descriptions of key features of the environment, such as ocelots, poisonous fish, and mountains. In this work, she proposes quimilli, “bundle” as an organizational metaphor for the homologies Nahuas recognize(d) in the super/natural world.

Other recent projects include a co-edited volume, Sainthood and Race: Marked Flesh, Holy Flesh (Routledge 2014), and an article on critical thinking in the study of religions as part of a Wabash Center for Teaching and Learning in Theology and Religious Studies colloquy. Dr. Bassett’s work appears in Material Religion, History of Religions, and Teaching Theology and Religion.