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Fall 2004

Professor Mark Stoll
742-1004 ext. 250   Holden Hall 135
E-mail: mark.stoll@ttu.edu   Web: http://www2.tltc.ttu.edu/stoll/
Office Hours: Wednesday 10:00-12:00 and Thursday 11:00-12:00

Course Description

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.

Readings and Coursework

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 eight 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. Book Review Digest was formerly available through FirstSearch but appears to have been taken offline.

Class Organization

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 3:00-4:40) 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 31 with introductions to each other and to the course. Then on September 7th we will begin with the first book, by John Frederick Wilson. 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.

Course Schedule

Aug 31 Introduction
Sep 7

John Frederick Wilson, Religion and the American Nation
Second book: James Axtell, The Invasion Within: The Contest of Cultures in Colonial North America

Sep 14 R. Laurence Moore, Religious Outsiders and the Making of Americans
Second book: R. Laurence Moore, Selling God: American Religion in the Marketplace of Culture
Sep 21

Perry Miller, Errand into the Wilderness
Second book: David D. Hall, Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England

Sep 28 George M. Marsden, Jonathan Edwards
Second book: Philip Greven, The Protestant Temperament: Patterns of Child-Rearing, Religious Experience, and the Self in Early America
Presenter: Matt Tippens
Oct 5 Jonathan Butler, Awash in a Sea of Faith
Second book: Rhys Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790
Presenter: Steve Eldridge
Oct 12 Nathan O. Hatch, Democratization of American Christianity
Second book: Robert Abzug, Cosmos Crumbling: American Reform and the Religious Imagination
Presenter: Corey Ashcraft
Oct 19 Albert Raboteau, Slave Religion
Second book: Milton C. Sernett, Bound for the Promised Land: African American Religion and the Great Migration
Oct 26 Jan Shipps, Mormonism
Second book: Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: The Shakers, the Mormons, and the Oneida Community
Presenter: Jim Cook
Nov 2 Susan Hill Lindley, You Have Stept Out of Your Place
Second book: Ulrich, Laurel. Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750
Presenter: Beth Purcell
Nov 9 No class
Nov 16 Jon H. Roberts, Darwinism and the Divine in America
Second book: Edward J. Larson, Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion
Presenter: Ben Pfeiffer
Nov 23 Robert Orsi, Madonna of 115th Street
Second book: Jay P. Dolan, In Search of an American Catholicism: A History of Religion and Culture in Tension
Presenter: Kevin Dibble
Nov 30 Grant Wacker, Heaven Below
Second book: George M. Marsden, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism, 1870-1925
Dec 7 Robert Wuthnow, Restructuring of American Religion
Second book: Amanda Porterfield, The Transformation of American Religion: The Story of a Late-Twentieth Century Awakening
Presenter: Michelle Hill

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 July 31, 2010 01:45 PM