This course is a graduate level introduction to significant scholarship in American religious history, from the colonial era to the present. We will meet for weekly discussions, focusing on historical interpretations, themes, and conceptualizations, with special attention to sources, argumentation, and methods employed in research and exposition. By the end of the semester you will have a solid foundation in the field.
I have carefully selected readings to cover major themes in the historiography of U.S. religion, to expose you to representative works of important scholars, and in sum to constitute a very good starter or reference library of religious history for your bookshelf. Everyone will read all assigned works with care and critical attention, coming to class ready to engage in active discussion. In addition, you will be asked to write a short (2-4 pp.) paper on nine of the thirteen core monographs. In reading, seek out the book or article's key thesis (and summarize it in a few sentences). Also, you should be alert to its structure and rhetoric, note the claims made for advances over previous studies (relationship to the "literature"), and sketch out the conceptual or theoretical apparatus employed (identify "keywords" and the ways they are employed). Finally, you should assess the work's evidentiary base, the scope and scale of the study within the context of the issues and events it addresses, and its relationship with other aspects of American history. Analysis of the book in this way prepares you for critical discussion and clear writing. Ideally you should each come to class with several questions written out for us to address as a group; I will have a sizable list of such questions as well, so we should have ample resources to work from.
Book reviews can aid the reading process. Look for them especially in such major journals as the Journal of American History, American Historical Review, Reviews in American History, and H-Net (Humanities Online), along with such specialized journals as Church History, The Catholic Historical Review, American Jewish History, and Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion. You can access on-line and hardcopy indexes to journal articles at the library, and many of these journals are available through the Internet or the library Website, particularly through the databases America: History and Life and ArticleFirst. See also general book review indices such as Book Review Digest.
The structure of the course centers on a core book each week, thirteen monographs in all. Each week we will spend the first two-thirds of our time (roughly 6:00-7:40) critically assessing the core study. Following a 15-minute break, one student will present a summary and critique of a second, supplementary work that relates to the main book (20-25 minutes). Then we will close with comparative comments and thoughts on research initiatives this discussion has opened up.
We start on August 30 with introductions to each other and to the course. Then on September 6th we will begin with the first book, by Jon Butler, et al. The number of presentations will depend on the number of students signed up: if less than 6, each will do two; if more, each will do one. The total number of presentations then will vary. You will sign up for a second book on the first day of class.
All class members may take four "vacation days" from writing during the term. Simply hand in a sheet of paper with your name and "vacation day" written on it, instead of the paper. You may well wish to correlate your days off with your presentation dates. I will distribute suggested paper topics, but you may write on a topic of your own devising if you wish. Should you create your own paper topic, it must not be in the form of a basic summation of the text, but instead should be either critical or comparative. (You may assume that I have read the book and do not need it summarized.)
Unless some disaster intervenes, I will return all papers at the next class session, with comments and grades. If the initial version of your paper is in need of substantial work to meet graduate level standards, I will return it to you with an "R" designation (for rewrite), then will grade the revised version when it is re-submitted the following week.
Grades for this course will be based 60% on your writing, 10% on your presentation, and 30% on the quality of your contributions to class discussion. For double presenters, the proportions will be 50, 20, and 30. Thus participation in discussions is critical. Note: Religion can be a tricky and very personal subject to discuss. Each of us must take care to respect the opinions of others and to keep the discussion close to the themes, evidence, historiography, and other scholarly aspects of the subject at hand. Thus we ought to steer away from theological debates and so forth.
Jon Butler, Grant Wacker, and Randall H. Balmer,
Religion in American Life: A Short History
R. Laurence Moore, Selling
God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture
Second book: Moore, R. Laurence. Touchdown Jesus: The Mixing of Sacred and Secular in American History
Richard Wightman Fox, Jesus in America:
Personal Savior, Cultural Hero, National Obsession
James A. Morone, Hellfire Nation:
The Politics of Sin in American History
Second book: Bercovitch, Sacvan. The American Jeremiad
James Cooper, Tenacious of Their Liberties: The Congregationalists in
Second book: Michael P. Winship, Making Heretics: Militant Protestantism and Free Grace in Massachusetts, 1636-1641
John L. Brooke, The Refiner's Fire: The Making of Mormon Cosmology,
Second book: Hall, David D. Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England
Susan Juster, Disorderly Women: Sexual Politics & Evangelicalism in
Revolutionary New England
Second book: Marilyn J. Westerkamp, Women and Religion in Early America, 1600-1850: The Puritan and Evangelical Traditions
William R. Hutchison, Religious Pluralism in America:
The Contentious History of a Founding Ideal
Second book: Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in America
John H. Wigger, Taking Heaven by Storm: Methodism and the Rise of Popular
Christianity in America
Second book: Dee Andrews, The Methodists and Revolutionary America, 1760-1800: The Shaping of an Evangelical Culture
Albert J. Raboteau, Canaan Land: A Religious History of African Americans
Second book: Paul Harvey, Freedom's Coming: Religious Culture and the Shaping of the South from the Civil War through the Civil Rights Era
George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of
Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925
Second book: Ernest R. Sandeen, The Roots of Fundamentalism: British and American Millenarianism, 1800-1930
|Nov 22||Thanksgiving holiday. No class.|
Mark A. Noll,
America’s God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln
Second book: E. Brooks Holifield, Theology in America: Christian Thought from the Age of the Puritans to the Civil War
Orsi, Thank you, St. Jude: women’s
devotion to the patron saint of hopeless causes
Second book: Michael Alexander, Jazz Age Jews
Americans With Disabilities Act: Any student who, because of a disabling condition, may require some special arrangements in order to meet course requirements should contact the instructor as soon as possible to make necessary accommodations. Students should present appropriate verification for Disabled Students Services, Dean of Students Office.
Student Absence for Observation of Religious Holy Days: A student who is absent from classes for the observation of a religious holy day shall be allowed to take an examination or complete an assignment scheduled for that day within a reasonable time after the absence if, not later than the fifteenth day after the first day of the semester, the student had notified the instructor of each scheduled class that the student would be absent for a religious holy day.
The professor reserves the right to change this syllabus at his discretion. Changes will be announced in class and posted at the Web address listed above.
This page was last modified December 18, 2006 04:24 PM