College of Liberal Arts & Social Sciences > Academics > History > Faculty > Karen Scott

Karen Scott

  • Associate Professor
  • ​​​​PhD, University of California, Berkeley​​​
  • History; Catholic Studies
  • Faculty
  • ​​​Medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation Europe
  • 773-325-1566
  • SAC 590

I am a historian specializing in medieval and Renaissance Europe. I became interested in history as a child: I am an American, but was brought up in France, near Paris, and went to French elementary and high schools. My BA degree is from Harvard, where my concentration was in history and literature. I received an MA and PhD in history from the University of California, Berkeley. While completing research on my doctoral dissertation, I lived for many years in Siena, a medieval city near Florence in Tuscany, Italy. I moved to Chicago in 1989 to teach in the History Department at DePaul University. Later, I was involved in the creation of Catholic Studies as an interdisciplinary program, and I served as the first Chair of Catholic Studies when it became a department.

My scholarly focus is the letters and other writings dictated by St. Catherine of Siena, the medieval Italian mystic and church reformer (1347-1380). I have also worked with the saint’s lives composed about her by others shortly after her death.  I have published essays on St. Catherine’s views of herself as a lay “apostle” and peacemaker, on her ministry through letter writing, and on her mysticism. I am currently working on a book about St. Catherine’s Biblical culture. An uneducated lay woman associated with the Dominican order, Catherine dictated letters and mystical/doctrinal treatises steeped in short Scripture quotations that she had encountered in medieval preaching and the liturgy. 

At DePaul University, I teach Catholic Studies core courses on the Catholic experience from the early church through the 1700s; Catholic Studies courses on “Beauty” and on the Medieval mystics; and History courses on late antique, medieval, Renaissance, and Reformation intellectual history, culture, and society. For the First-Year program, I teach Focal Point Seminars, “Mary of Nazareth” and “Joan of Arc,” and the Chicago Quarter course, “Explore the Medieval City in Chicago.” I have also taught extensively in DePaul’s Study Abroad Programs in Paris, Florence, and Rome.  And I teach the graduate course, “History of World Christianity,” at Catholic Theological Union.