Celia Chazelle

The College of New Jersey

Professor and Department Chair
Department of History

Curriculum Vitae

Early Medieval Forum



When I was a high school student outside Boston at the time of Kent State, I immersed myself in the anti-war movement and — inspired by a terrific teacher — the study of US history. The photo of me is not quite that old, though it is on the dated side, but good pictures of me are rare so I'll hang onto it for awhile yet. Anyway, I thought in high school that I was headed for a career in public service, possibly law and government. But then I went to the University of Toronto, discovered the Middle Ages, and... the subsequent chapters in my professional life are pretty clear from my curriculum vitae.

In the last several years, however, my dismay at the growing social inequalities in this country and at the impact of American foreign policy on the rest of the world has led my scholarly interests back to something akin to their starting point. I am still fascinated by medieval history, in particular the history of the Early Middle Ages — a frequently misunderstood era. The latter point is discussed in the volume of essays I have co-edited with Felice Lifshitz, Paradigms and Methods in Early Medieval Studies.

As a small contribution to the effort to encourage early medieval studies see, too, the website of my listserv, the Early Medieval Forum. But more overtly than my past research, my recent projects concern the contributions that medievalists can make to the study of and advocacy for social justice and human rights. A forthcoming volume of essays I am co-editing with Simon Doubleday, Felice Lifshitz, and Amy Remensnyder will explore these issues: Why the Middle Ages Matter, under contract with Routledge and expected to appear in early 2011.

Away from the arena of medieval scholarship, trying to put words into practice, I work with community organizations and advocacy groups pushing for social justice in Camden, New Jersey, the poorest city in the US. One of these groups is the Center for Environmental Transformation, an environmental justice organization affiliated with Sacred Heart Church in the Camden neighborhood of Waterfront South, an area badly affected by air, water, and ground pollution from truck diesel fumes, a nearby sewage treatment plant, scrap metal recycling, and other blights.

Another increasingly important concern for me is penal reform and the new prison education program (website under construction) at The College of New Jersey, an initiative developed in collaboration with the college's Bonner Center. The program organizes TCNJ faculty and students and some affiliated instructors who volunteer teach a variety of classes and tutor maximum, medium, and minimum security inmates in a nearby state correctional facility. The Times of Trenton recently ran an article about our program, published on the front page (Saturday July 3, 2010); the article was picked up by AP and published in a number of other regional news outlets as well.

The online essays by my husband Bernard eloquently express a perspective on current events and social justice matching my own.

The writer and film critic Kam Williams kindly wrote this article on a lecture I recently gave in Ireland and my work in Camden.

On the history of Christian beliefs about abortion and their relevance to rethinking current public policy, see here.

On the human and financial costs of America's incessant warfare, especially in Iraq and Afghanistan, click here

Recent Media

“Prison Instruction: A Respite from Isolation,” by Michele Alperin, US1 News.

“Higher Ed. Behind Bars: College Students, Teachers Take on Job of Instructing Inmates,” Times of Trenton, by David Karas. The story also appeared on AP and in other newspapers.

“Students, Professors Doing Time to Offset Budget Cuts,” MSNBC. Originally published in The Burlington County Times.

On social activism, by Kam Williams

Times of Trenton profile

Teaching at the College of New Jersey

Some of my courses investigate the social, political, cultural, and religious history of western Eurasia and the Mediterranean, including North Africa, from the Roman Empire to the late Middle Ages. I have also taught the department survey course, “World History I” (prehistory to 1500) and several seminars on contemporary social ethics and their ancient, medieval, and post-medieval background.

Course Offered Fall 2010

  • FSP 115: “Moral and Social Issues in Modern Catholicism”

  • STUDENTS: click here for SOCS website