Philosophy and World Religions

Faculty: Martha Reineke

Professor of Religion

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Martha Reineke

"Religion has always captivated me. In fact, one of my most powerful early memories attests to my fascination with religion. When I was six, I saw two children fighting. One threatened the other, "if you don't stop that, you're going to hell!" Running home, I told my dad what I had heard. My dad tried to explain hell to me, describing some of its more colorful features while also asserting, "I don't actually believe in hell." I was more than a little intrigued; I was hooked. I wanted to know how and why some people believed in a place filled with such drama and horror. In the years that followed, I continued to find religion of compelling interest, especially its darker side. Today, my research and teaching interests focus on violence and religion. Drawing on existentialist philosophies and psychoanalytic theory, I explore the origins of violence and of religious belief and chart ways in which religion both contributes to and counters violence."


Bartlett 2101

(319) 273-6233


Ph.D., Religion, Vanderbilt University

MA, Religion, Villanova University

BA, Philosophy, Earlham College

Research Interests: 
  • Contribute to scholarship in religion that utilizes feminist, psychoanalytic, and mimetic theories
  • Develop and currently employ an innovative model for the analysis of sexually differentiated violence that draws on the work of Jacques Lacan, Julia Kristeva, and Rene Girard.
Teaching Interests:Teach courses that build religious literacy in UNI students (LAC - Religions of the World), support the major in the Study of Religion through courses in the sociology of religion (Religion and Society), and build on research strengths in philosophy and psychoanalysis through courses in Existentialism and the psychology of religion (Why We Believe).
Regularly Taught Classes:Religion and Society, Why We Believe, Existentialism, Religions of the World
In Process:
  • Book project in development: The Road to the Living God: Ana María Rizzuto and the Psychoanalysis of Religion, edited by Martha J. Reineke and David M. Goodman.
  • Book project in development: Handbook of Mimetic Theory; I am part of an international team of six scholars working on this project by invitation of the British publishing house, Palgrave MacMillan.
Selected Publications:


Intimate Domain: Desire, Trauma, and Mimetic Theory, Michigan State University Press, 2015.

Sacrificed Lives: Kristeva on Women and Violence, Indiana University Press, 1997.

Other Publications:

"'Not a Country for Old Men: Mimesis and Violence in Santa Varvara," in Murder, Revolt, and Betrayal in the Novels of Julia Kristeva, ed. Benigno Trigo, SUNY Press, 2013.

"Transforming Space: Creativity, Destruction, and Mimesis in Winnicott and Girard," Critical Issues and Creative Possibilities for Mimetic Theory: Mimesis, Creativity and Reconciliation, eds. Vern Redekop and Tom Ryba. Rowman and Littlefield, 2013.

"After the Scapegoat: Rene Girard's Apocalyptic Vision and the Legacy of Mimetic Theory," Philosophy Today, Vol. 56, Issue 2, Summer 2012, pg. 141-153.

"Sacrifice and Sexual Difference: Insights and Challenges in the work of René Girard," in For René Girard: Essays in Friendship and in Truth, eds. Sandor Goodhart, Jorgen Jorgensen, Tom Ryba, and James G. Williams, East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2009, pg. 247-258.

"Transforming Space: Creativity, Destruction, and Mimesis in Winnicott and Girard," in Contagion: Journal of Violence, Mimesis, and Culture, Vol. 14, Fall 2007, pg. 79-96.

"Our Vital Necessity: Julia Kristeva's Theory of Sacrifice," in French Feminism and Religion, Eds. Kathleen O'Grady, Morny Joy, and Judith Poxon. New York: Routledge, 2003, pg. 101-116.

Professional Awards:

2013, Class of 1943 Teaching Excellence Award, University of Northern Iowa

2012, Teaching Excellence Award, American Academy of Religion

2010, UNI Diversity Matters Award

2009, Liberal Arts Core Outstanding Teaching Award, University of Northern Iowa