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 reading, seek out the book or article's key thesis (and be able to 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 (identifying "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 and JSTOR.
The structure of the course centers on a core book each week, fourteen monographs in all. Each week we will spend the first two-thirds of our time (roughly 6:00-7:45) 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.
About half of the presentation should tell about the book and its contents, while the other half should deal with the book's context in the author's life and work and in its time period, and its greater significance. I highly recommend that students practice their presentations before class, to make sure that the presentation is strong and fits within the time allotted.
We start on August 30 with introductions to each other and to the course. Then on September 13th we will begin with the first book, by Porterfield and Corrigan. You will sign up for a second book on the first day of class.
To promote discussions of substance, each student will write notes over the week's reading (not required of the second book, however). These notes should cover important contents and points each week's book makes, as well as many of the points mentioned above in connection with reading strategies. Add comments and arguments of your own as they occur to you during the reading. Students will then hand in a copy of their notes each week. Your notes are not a polished paper, but rather they demonstrate to me your understanding of and interaction with the text. Grading of the notes will be on that basis. Also, the notes do not need to be extensive or many pages long to do the job.
Each student will write one paper over the book he or she chose to present in class. The paper will discuss the book's main argument or purpose, its historical context, its author and his or her significance, and the its reception, impact, and place in the literature of religion and American history. Students should consult contemporary and modern reviews, a biography and other relevant secondary sources, articles, and other secondary literature to construct this paper of 8 to 16 pages in length. Databases that could be helpful include ArticleFirst, JSTOR, America: History and Life, Biography Index, Dictionary of Literary Biography, C19, Making of America, Historic New York Times and other historic newspaper databases, and, for earlier works, Eighteenth Century Collections Online and Early English Books Online. The primary goal is the fullest possible expansion of the work's significance.
Use 12-point Times Roman or Times New Roman, double-spaced, with 1" margins all around, or 1-1/4" margins right and left, with page numbers in the margin. Footnotes and bibliography must conform to Turabian standards. Turabian's Manual for Writers of Research Papers, Theses, and Dissertations is widely available at most bookstores and in the reference section of libraries.
The book paper will be due in class THREE WEEKS AFTER YOUR PRESENTATION.
Grades for this course will be based 30% on your book paper, 40% on your notes, 10% on your presentation, and 20% on the quality of your contributions to class discussion.
|Sep 6||Labor Day -- no class|
Amanda Porterfield and John Corrigan, eds. Religion in American
History and O'Toole, James M. The Faithful: A History of Catholics in America
Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness
John A. Ragosta, Wellspring of Liberty: How Virginia's Religious
Dissenters Helped Win the American Revolution and Secured Religious Liberty
Second book: Tracy Stewart: Cotton Mather, Wonders of the Invisible World
Philip F. Gura, American Transcendentalism: A History
|Oct 11||Fall Break -- no class|
Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American
Christianity and Christine L. Heyrman, Southern Cross: The Beginning of the Bible Belt
Mark A. Noll. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis
Molly McGarry, Ghosts of Futures Past: Spiritualism and the Cultural
Politics of Nineteenth-Century America
Clifford Putney, Muscular Christianity: Manhood and Sports in
Protestant America, 1880-1920
Markku Ruotsila, The Origins of Christian Anti-Internationalism:
Conservative Evangelicals and the League of Nations
Randall J. Stephens, The Fire Spreads: Holiness and Pentecostalism in
the American South
Second book: Ardath Lawson: Sinclair Lewis, Elmer Gantry; Laura Zak: Flannery O'Connor, Wise Blood
Wallace D. Best, Passionately Human, No Less Divine: Religion and
Culture in Black Chicago, 1915-1952
Joan DelFattore, The Fourth R: Conflicts Over
Religion in America's Public Schools
Second book: Wade McCasland: Abraham Cahan, The Rise of David Levinsky
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.
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