Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




The tension between the beauty of the cross and the violence of the crucifixion creates a dissonance within Christian theology. In terms of atonement theologies, this dissonance has been interpreted through the development of a converted sense of beauty in which the cross, as perceived and interpreted by the believer in the context of faith, expands Christian aesthetics. One of the more prominent examples of this construction can be found in the theology of Hans Urs von Balthasar, wherein divine beauty culminates in Christ's kenotic self-surrender at the cross. In a feminist hermeneutic, the identification of divine beauty with crucified love is dangerous, as it runs the risk of glorifying suffering and self-sacrifice.

This dissertation brings a feminist hermeneutic to bear upon the way in which the beauty of the cross patterns right relations and the praxis of faith in Balthasar's theological aesthetics and dramatics. I argue that this construction of aesthetics, when paired with the gender symbolism and violence implicit in Balthasar's dramatic narrative of redemption, mutes the embodied subjectivity of women by sanctifying the wounds of violence and eclipsing human possibilities for wholeness. Drawing upon the soteriological contributions of feminist and womanist theologians, I argue that beauty must stake a claim in human flourishing, in particular the spiritual and material well-being of women. The project concludes by offering a critical reconstruction of aesthetics and atonement rooted in embodied original grace.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.