Krista Dalton is a cultural historian of religion, working primarily with the texts and traditions of ancient Judaism within the Mediterranean context. Her research analyzes the performance of rabbinic expertise and the cultivation of donor networks in late antiquity. When not writing about ancient rabbis, she is exploring the intersections of science fiction, fan communities and the Bible. Dalton is editor-in-chief of the digital journal, Ancient Jew Review.

Dalton teaches courses on the history of Judaism, religious studies, gender and sexuality, magic and miracles, cyborgs and sci-fi, and charitable poverty relief.

Areas of Expertise

Jewish Studies, Religions in Late Antiquity, Women's and Gender Studies


2019 — Doctor of Philosophy from Columbia University

2012 — Master of Arts from Missouri State University

Courses Recently Taught

This course includes brief introductions to four or five major religious traditions, while exploring concepts and categories used in the study of religion, such as sacredness, myth, ritual, religious experience and social dimensions of religion. Traditions such as Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Confucianism, Taoism, Hinduism and Native American traditions may be presented through important texts and practices. This counts toward the 100-level introduction to religious studies course requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every semester.

This course presents an introduction to the study of religion, using the lens of gender and sexuality as a category of analysis. Students will examine constructions of the body, sexuality/celibacy, control and agency of marginalized persons, issues of fertility and purity, and gender performativity. A variety of religious traditions will be explored as well as feminist and gender/sexuality theorists. Open only to first-year students, with the possibility of second-year students with permission of the instructor. This counts toward the 100-level introduction to religious studies course requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.

This course introduces the process by which Judaism became a religious tradition, particularly in the late ancient and medieval world. This period marked the rise of rabbis as an authoritative source of Jewish knowledge, tasked with updating biblical laws for their contemporary communities following the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple in 70 C.E.. This course will explain how rabbis created the major features of present-day Judaism, such as holidays, kosher and Sabbath laws, gender roles, charity/tzedakah, liturgy, and Jewish identity, at the same time as creating their own power and authority. Attention will be paid to Jewish debates, Jewish-Christian discourses, Jews as post-colonial subjects within historically contextual empires, and the ways ordinary Jews navigated rabbinic and non-Jewish power. By the end of this course, students will have a sense of how "traditional Judaism" was created. No prior knowledge of Hebrew or Judaism is necessary. This counts as a Judaism foundation course for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.

This course introduces the changes in Judaism and Jewish life wrought by the advent of modernity and the Jewish Enlightenment (the Haskalah). We will first discuss developments in modern Jewish thought and the ways Jewish movements (such as Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Reconstructing and Renewal Judaism) interacted with the classical Jewish tradition. The latter half of the class will examine the tensions and challenges to Judaism as a normative category in modernity, including intermarriage, conversion, the South American/African/Chinese Jewish diaspora, “cultural” Jews, Chrismukkah, Israeli politics and secularism. Throughout the semester, we will ask: what does it take to be a Jew? What are the relationships between power, tradition, and non-Jewish culture that shape modern Jewish practice? Will Judaism survive modernity? This counts toward the Judaism requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.

This course is an introduction to the context and reception of the books which comprise the core of all Bible canons. The first half of this course will examine the Bible’s textual formation, historical context, and the role memory played in the compilation and editing of its final form. Several key texts will be traced in their reception to Jewish, Christian, and Islamic traditions in the second half of this course, paying special attention to the ancient scribal process of “rewriting the Bible.” We will analyze ancient techniques for textual interpretation, as well as examine the imaginal world of “sacred” biblical texts that informs different interpretive strategies. Open to students of all levels and recommended for students passionate about literature. This counts toward the Judaism requirement for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.

This course examines the formation of Judaism and Christianity in the Ancient Mediterranean, focusing on their shared developments, tensions and relationships. What aspects of their religious worlds did Jews and Christians share? What were the continuities and disruptions on their stances on issues ranging from communal authority, scriptural interpretation, ritual action and tolerance? How did they confront social issues like gender, ethnicity, legal power and poverty? We will explore these and other questions by focusing on a variety of approaches ranging from “lived religion,” material culture, contemporary readings of critical theory and others. This is an introductory Judaism or Christianity tradition course. No prerequisite. Offered every two to three years.

Jews from antiquity to modernity have sought to control and defend themselves against unseen forces teeming around them. Whether through the crafting of amulets and spells, mystical incantations to ascend to heaven or bind angels to their will, or powerful knowledge of witchcraft and talismans, Jews have dabbled in the enchanted as a defense against the darkness in their world. This course examines the Jewish magical tradition from antiquity through the Middle Ages and investigates how it survived and underwent transformation in the modern world. We will examine different Jewish definitions of magic and ritual power to analyze the occasions when such practices were deemed acceptable or wholly outside normative Jewish practice. This course will interrogate conceptions of mysticism and magic, their relationship with “religion” and “philosophy,” contextualize Jewish magical practices alongside their neighbors and will conclude by examining the reception of Jewish mysticism into the modern West. This counts as an elective for the major. No prerequisite. Offered every two or three years.

Most recognized religions originated millennia before human discovery of electricity, let alone computer technology, and many predate printing, photography, radio and even writing. They also fundamentally center humans as the primary subject of concern. This course imagines how a redefinition of humanity's place in the world by both the technological and the biological continuum upsets or reframes religion as a category. We will ask: What does it mean to be human? How have various changes in technology and media affected the practices and meanings of religion? What role would religion play in a posthuman present/future? The course will read recent work in post/transhumanist theory along with science fiction in order to interrogate the categories of religion and humanness. This is a theory course. No prerequisite. Offered every two years.

This course is designed as a capstone experience in religious studies for majors in the department. Themes of the course will vary according to the instructor. Past themes have included religious autobiography, religion and cinema and new religious movements. Religious studies minors are encouraged to enroll, provided there is space. Non-majors should consult the instructor for permission to register. This is a required course for all senior majors. Offered every fall.

The department reserves individual studies to highly motivated students who are judged responsible and capable enough to work independently. Such courses might entail original research, but usually they are reading-oriented, allowing students to explore in depth topics that interest them or that supplement aspects of the major. Students may pursue individual study only if they have taken all the courses offered by the department in that particular area of the curriculum. An individual study course cannot duplicate a course or topic being concurrently offered. Exceptions to this rule are at the discretion of the instructor and department chair. Students must secure the agreement of an instructor to provide guidance and supervision of the course. The instructor and student agree on the nature of the work expected (e.g., several short papers, one long paper, an in-depth project, a public presentation, a lengthy general outline and annotated bibliography). The level should be advanced, with work on a par with a 300 level course. The student and instructor should meet on a regular basis, with the schedule to be determined by the instructor in consultation with the student. Individual studies may be taken for 0.25 or 0.5 units, at the discretion of the instructor. A maximum of 0.50 units of IS may count towards major or minor requirements in RLST department. A student is permitted to take only one 0.5-unit class of IS in the department (one 0.5-unit course or two 0.25-unit courses). A student must present a petition with compelling reasons in order to obtain special permission to take an additional IS course. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the end of the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of the proposed individual study preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline. Prerequisite: GPA of at least 3.0. Exceptions (e.g., languages not taught at Kenyon are granted at the discretion of the instructor, with the approval of the department chair.)\n