Skip to main content

Department ofReligious Studies

Stories

Cathleen Chopra-McGowan, New RS Department Biblical Scholar

Cathleen Kavita Chopra-McGowan grew up in the foothills of the Himalayan mountains in India and moved to the United States to attend Boston College, where she received her BA in 2010. After graduation, she spent a year in Jerusalem on a Fulbright, researching the metaphorical use of childbirth as an expression of military crisis in the Hebrew Bible. During this time, she also served as a staff member on the Leon Levy Archaeological Expedition to Ashkelon. Cathleen returned to the US to begin her MAR in Hebrew Bible at Yale Divinity School.

In 2013, Cathleen moved to Chicago to begin a Ph.D. in Hebrew Bible at the University of Chicago Divinity School. During her time there, she also taught Hindi at Loyola University Chicago, as well as numerous courses at UChicago. She received her Ph.D. in 2019 with a dissertation on the fall of Jerusalem (to the Babylonians in 586 BCE) through a literary and philological analysis of texts from the Hebrew Bible and the Neo-Babylonian empire. Upending a standard scholarly narrative about the city’s fall, her dissertation troubled in particular the idea that a single narrative could be “recovered” by piecing together disparate biblical texts. At the University of Chicago, Cathleen also pursued a secondary set of interests–the political appropriation and theological afterlives of sacred Hindu texts like the Ramayana and Mahabharata.

A biblical scholar trained in historical-critical and literary-critical analysis, Cathleen’s work is especially interested in the intersections between war, gender, and kingship in the ancient Near East. She is currently writing her first book on the destruction of Jerusalem and completing two articles on the use of trees and horses in ancient Near Eastern warfare.

Cathleen teaches courses in Bible at the undergraduate level and loves “re-introducing” students to a text that seems so familiar and is yet often so misunderstood. She is really looking forward to offering a new course on the Ten Commandments (are there really even ten?) in the bible and their afterlives in American political and religious life.

Outside of her academic work, Cathleen and her husband Daniel welcomed their daughter, Uma Joy, into the world in April, and have been enthralled by her ever since! Uma’s whimsical and wonderful personality is especially evident in her love for Charlotte, their labradoodle. When Cathleen is not hanging out with Daniel, Uma, and Charlotte, she loves cooking (especially Indian food) and practicing her calligraphy.