skip to content

Faculty of Divinity



University of Cambridge, PhD in Theology & Religious Studies (viva Jan 2023)
 - King's College

University of Chicago, MA in Divinity
 - US Dept. of Education Foreign Language and Area Studies Fellow

Peking University, MPhil in China Studies (Philosophy and Religion)
 - Yenching Scholar 燕京学堂

University of Notre Dame (Honors Program), BA in Theology
 - Hesburgh-Yusko Scholar, Glynn Scholar, Dean's Fellow
 - Phi Beta Kappa
President, Class of 2016

University of Oxford, Visiting Student in Theology
 - Oriel College 


John "Jake" Grefenstette works on S.T. Coleridge's literary and theological legacy from John Henry Newman to Geoffrey Hill. Originally from Pittsburgh, PA, Jake has studied theology, philosophy, and literature at Notre Dame, Chicago, Beijing, Oxford, and Cambridge.

Jake's broader interests include philosophy and film; Roman Catholic poetry (especially Gerard Manley Hopkins); and modern Chinese literature (especially Hai Zi). Jake holds a "Special Thanks" credit on the extended cut of Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life. He has received research grants to Beijing, Shanghai, Qingdao, Tokyo, Kyoto, Rome, Chimbote, Notre Dame, Chicago, Oxford, and Harvard. For 2021-2022 he was co-convener of Cambridge's Religion in Contemporary Poetry group and co-editor of Noesis, graduate journal of the Faculty of Divinity.

Jake has instructed undergraduates for The Question of God (A5); Great Christian Theologians (B8); Christ, Salvation, and the Trinity (B8); Theology and Literature (B13); and Philosophy in the Long Middle Ages (D1e).

He passed his viva examination with Rowan Williams and James Engell in January 2023.


Research Languages:
French, German, Spanish, Mandarin Chinese. Basic knowledge of Koine Greek, Latin, Italian, Japanese.


Key publications: 

The Coleridgean School of Literature and Theology [monograph in preparation]

“‘All-Shaped Shadows’: Imagining Coleridge in Beijing,” The Coleridge Bulletin, N.S. 60, Winter 2022. 

“Owen Barfield’s This Ever Diverse Pair as an Apology for the Coleridgean Imagination,” Journal of Inklings Studies, 12.1, April 2022.

“Coleridge Versus Eliot: Form and Incarnation in Owen Barfield’s The Tower,” The Coleridge Bulletin, N.S. 57, Summer 2021.

“On Robert Bresson’s Diary of a Country Priest,” in Thinking Film: Philosophy at the Movies, eds. Richard Kearney and Murray Littlejohn (Bloomsbury, forthcoming)

“Memory and Desire for God in Terrence Malick’s To the Wonder,” in Art, Desire, and God: Phenomenological Perspectives, eds. Kevin Grove, Christopher Rios, and Taylor Nutter (Bloomsbury, forthcoming)


Book reviews:

"Richard Greene, The Unquiet Englishman: A Life of Graham Greene." In Newman Studies Journal, 19.2 (Winter 2022): 83-85.

"James Lawson, Loving and Hating the World: Ambivalence and Discipleship." In Theology 125.5 (Sept/Oct 2022): 378-379.

"Jeffrey Barbeau, The Cambridge Companion to British Romanticism and Religion." In The Coleridge Bulletin N.S. 59 (Summer 2022): 91-94.


Selected presentations:

"C.S. Lewis and Harold Bloom on J.R.R. Tolkien's Theory of Sub-Creation." Conference paper, "And it Was Very Good": On Creation, de Nicola Center for Ethics and Culture, University of Notre Dame. (Nov 2022)

"Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poetry, Despair, and Catholic Faith." Invited lecture at Saint Vincent College, PA. (Oct 2022)

“Owen Barfield on the Incarnation: Logos and the Poetic Imagination.” Invited lecture at the C.S. Lewis Society, Pusey House, University of Oxford. (June 2022)

“Lived Catholicism and Catholic Poetry: A Case Study in Gerard Manley Hopkins.” Research presentation, Paradox and Prophecy: Why the Study of Lived Catholicism Matters, Durham University Centre for Catholic Studies. (Nov 2021)

Bildungsroman Catholicism: Spiritual Architecture in Loss and Gain.” Conference paper, John Henry Newman: Scholar, Sage, Saint, co-sponsored by Oriel College, Oxford; the National Institute for Newman Studies; University Church of St. Mary the Virgin; and Duquesne University. (Sept 2021)

“Coleridge and Catholic Literature: A Reassessment in John Henry Newman.” Conference paper, Early Career Conference in Catholic Theology and Catholic Studies, Durham University Centre for Catholic Studies. (June 2021)

A Literary History of Green Chartreuse.” Conference paper, Devouring Men: Food, Masculinity & Power, University of St. Andrews. (Sept 2020)

“Coleridgean Dialogue in Owen Barfield’s Burgeon Trilogy.” Conference paper, Barfield, Coleridge and the Imagination, University of Cambridge Centre for the Study of Platonism. (May 2020)

“Beyond Wong Kar-wai: Conflations and Delineations of Hong Kong Cinema in the Age of Netflix.” Conference paper with travel funding, Oxford China Humanities Graduate Conference, University of Oxford. (Jan 2018)

“Qingdao, Shanghai, Hengdian, and Contentions in Canonizing Chinese Film History.” Funded collaborative research presentation, China in Transition Conference, Peking University. (June 2017)

Teaching and Supervisions


The Question of God (A5)
Great Christian Theologians (B8)
Christ, Salvation, and the Trinity (B8)
Theology and Literature (B13)
Philosophy in the Long Middle Ages (D1e)

Contact Details

Email address: 
Not available for consultancy


Collaborator profiles: 


Current students and supervisors can access the Faculty’s Moodle page by clicking on the image below.