Faculty Publications

Susie Babka

Through the Dark Field


Theological discourse in the West has consistently valued the word over the image. Aesthetics, which discerns the criteria and value of the beautiful and what "pleases the senses," is the discipline that prioritizes sensual intelligence over the rational; this book advocates a reconsideration of the doctrine of the incarnation through an aesthetics of vulnerability, in which the ethical optics of attention to the vulnerable other becomes the standpoint in which to ponder the significance of "God became human." Relying on such diverse thinkers as Emmanuel Levinas, Maurice Blanchot, Karl Rahner, and Masao Abe, this book explores visual art, images, and poetry as theological sources, designating what Blanchot called "a region where impossibility is no longer deprivation, but affirmation."


Ph.D., University of Notre Dame

M.A., University of Notre Dame

M.T.S., Duke University Divinity School

B.A., Theology, University of Notre Dame

B.A., The Program of Liberal Studies, University of Notre Dame,

Dr. Babka has taught at the University of San Diego since 2007, previously teaching at University of Notre Dame and Catholic Theological Union before transitioning. Dr. Babka received her PhD from the University of Notre Dame and is an associate professor in theology and religious studies at the University of San Diego. Dr. Susie Babka specializes in the relationship between theological aesthetics and doctrines of the trinity and incarnation. She has published on these areas as well as explorations of popular culture and Christology, examining the meaning of kenosis in Christology, as well as the relationship between kenosis (self-emptying) and sunyata in Buddhist-Christian studies.  She has published several articles exploring a range of subjects concerning theological aesthetics, which include the relationship between Christology and popular culture and suffering and art in feminist theology, as well as Buddhist-Christian conversations on kenosis and emptiness.


"A truly profound and thought-provoking study that probes the meaning and existential significance of the incarnation via a gripping engagement with systematic, philosophical, and comparative theology, drawn together via the medium of aesthetics. A highly original work that will prove an invaluable addition to any class in such fields. This stunning monograph will transform how you think and feel alike."
Gerard Mannion, Amaturo Chair in Catholic Studies, Georgetown University


"Beautifully written, Through the Dark Field draws the reader in and calls to conversion. Susie Paulik Babka effortlessly weaves together diverse sources—phenomenology, expressionist art, and Christian theology—in a way that disrupts privileged certainty with compassionate vulnerability. Echoing the artists she engages, her constructive retrieval of the doctrine of the incarnation refuses easy answers to life's difficult questions, challenging the comfortable to do more than look at suffering. This is truly a stunning example of interdisciplinary Christian theological scholarship! Don't miss it!"

Elisabeth T. Vasko, Associate Professor of Theology, Director of Undergraduate Studies in Theology, Duquesne University

Contact Information

Pamela Gray Payton


(619) 260-2538