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 American 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 list of such questions as well, so we should have ample resources to work from.
The structure of the course centers on a core book each week, thirteen monographs or collections of essays 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 a student's 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 28 with introductions to each other and to the course. Then on September 4th we will begin with the first book, by Pestana. Students 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 12 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.
Carla Gardina Pestana, Protestant Empire: Religion and the Making of
the British Atlantic World
No second book this week
David D. Hall, A Reforming People: Puritanism and the
Transformation of Public Life in New England
Frank Lambert, The Founding Fathers and the Place of Religion in
Linford D. Fisher, The Indian Great Awakening: Religion and the
Shaping of Native Cultures in Early America
Second book: Frank Bellizzi: Thomas Paine, Age of Reason
Thomas Kidd, God of Liberty: A Religious History of the American
Amanda Porterfield, Conceived in Doubt: Religion and
Politics in the New American Nation
Second book: James Vice: Cotton Mather, Wonders of the Invisible World
George C. Rable, God's Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of
the American Civil War
Sarah Barringer Gordon, The Mormon Question: Polygamy and
Constitutional Conflict in Nineteenth-Century America
Jonathan P. Herzog, The Spiritual-Industrial Complex:
America's Battle against Communism in the Early Cold War
Dochuck, Darren. From Bible Belt to Sunbelt: Plain-Folk Religion,
Grassroots Politics, and the Rise of Evangelical Conservatism
John McGreevy, Catholicism and American Freedom
Second book: Abel Rios: Hal Lindsey, The Late, Great Planet Earth
Any student who intends to observe a religious holy day should make that intention known to the instructor prior to the absence. A student who is absent from class for the observance 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.
Any student who, because of a disability, may require special arrangements in order to meet the course requirements should contact the instructor as soon as possible to make any necessary arrangements. Students should present appropriate verification from Student Disability Services during the instructor’s office hours. Please note: instructors are not allowed to provide classroom accommodations to a student until appropriate verification from Student Disability Services has been provided. For additional information, please contact Student Disability Services in West Hall or call 806-742-2405.
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 October 16, 2014 05:02 PM