Sara Ritchey writes about religion, gender, medicine, and the body in public and academic venues such as The New York Times, Religion Dispatches Magazine, Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies, the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and elsewhere. Her research interrogates medieval intellectual categories in order to reveal how individuals sorted, valued, and regulated their world. At the same time, she is interested in how such medieval constructions as "nature," "body," and "medicine" continue to resonate in contemporary statements of value and social regulation.
Her first book, Holy Matter: Changing Perceptions of the Material World in Late Medieval Christianity (Cornell University Press, 2014), reimagined the development and defining concepts of Christian theology from the perspective of women’s communities. Holy Matter located in the spiritual imagination of enclosed religious women a fresh articulation of the permeability of the material and immaterial in late medieval theology and religious practice. Using art, theology, liturgy, prayer, poetry, and agricultural projects, the book uncovered a critical shift in the way that late medieval Christians approached the natural world, a transition from drawing on floral and arboreal imagery in order to perceive, describe, and experience divinity, to using the material world itself as a site of divine access.
In 2019, as an NEH & ACLS fellow, she is finalizing a second monograph, entitled Communities of Care: Women, Healing, and Prayer in the Late Medieval Lowlands, which explores the caregiving practiced by hundreds of religious women in thirteenth and fourteenth-century Flanders, Brabant, and northern France.
In 2020, look for Gender, Health, and Healing, 1250-1550, her co-edited volume (with Sharon Strocchia) on Amsterdam University Press.
In the meantime, she is conducting research for a book on "treating" rituals in northern France, the French Atlantic, and south Louisiana. The Treaters: Traiteurs in Rouen, Pointe-à-Pitre, Grand Coteau uncovers the beliefs and practices of so-called "faith healers" known as traiteurs who combined touch, prayer, herbal preparations, and secret knowledge to establish therapeutic relationships within their communities.
She is an Associate Professor of History and Affiliated Faculty in Religious Studies at the University of Tennessee, in Knoxville, where she teaches courses on the history of medicine, gender relations in medieval Europe, historical research methods, and European historiography.