Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. It questions many of our most common assumptions about the relations between the secular and the religious in American life, and in so doing, helps us understand why we don't think twice when the band strikes up 'Glory, Glory, Hallelujah,' but probably should. Rather, she considers the institutional and discursive conditions under which it is useful for powerful groups to be able to identify certain beliefs, practices, and forms of identification as religiously neutral. Her chapter on The Great Gatsby is a tour de force. In this collection of perceptive and insightful essays on subjects that range from the colonial period to the twentieth century, Fessenden does not propose a new way to clarify the boundaries between religion and the secular.
In this collection of perceptive and insightful essays on subjects that range from the colonial period to the twentieth century, Fessenden does not propose a new way to clarify the boundaries between religion and the secular. Candy Gunther Brown Indiana University, Bloomington. As popular articulations of more deeply entrenched heuristics, each Fair locale reveals descriptive and diagnostic contours for what too often serve as obfuscating scholarly shorthand: religious liberalism, secularization, and industrial religion. This is a book that absolutely must be read and contended with by all serious scholars of American culture. The author sensitively tracks the ironies of efforts by reformers such as W. Fessenden shows this process to be thoroughly implicated, moreover, in practices of often-violent exclusion that go to the making of national culture: Indian removals, forced acculturations of religious and other minorities, internal and external colonizations, and exacting constructions of sex and gender. One of the things we continue to value about The Scarlet Letter is the way in which it artfully reveals how, when it comes to dealing with a personal predicament, we are apt to draw on the resources of our clergy, our caregivers, and our wordsmiths.
I know how lucky I am in the students past and present whose friendship, imagination, and intelligence have comforted and inspired me during the period of writing; they include Crista Cloutier, Doe Daughtrey, Jeni Drinen, Lee Seale, Laurin Stennis, Toni Trapani, Josh Vidich, and especially Brandon Cleworth, who read every word. The stated purpose of Culture and Redemption is to make religion a standard category of analysis in the study of American literature, but the book defines religion so narrowly that it leaves an impression of the author's suspicion of religious activity and her inclination to speak quickly and be done with it. Recent postcolonial theorists, for example, have taken issue with secular liberalism's Protestant bias toward belief that neglects practical or ritual dimensions of religious life, its pretense to an impossible neutrality, its naiveté about institutional power and social inequality, its reproduction of colonial categories that privilege modern secularism over barbaric religious fundamentalism, its introduction of intolerant and exclusive models of religion in place of more fluid spiritual practices, its reliance on a semiotic ideology that normalizes dematerialized conceptions of language and truth, its valorization of private freedom at the expense of public institutions, its misplaced confidence in the disenchanting power of enlightenment reason, and its role in establishing the self-evidence of an epistemic logic and aesthetic sensibility that privileges certainty, calculability, and rationality in the formation and disciplining of modern subjects Asad 2003;Curtis 2011b; Fessenden 2006;Hurd 2008;Jakobsen and Pellegrini 2008;Keane 2007;Modern 2011;Nandy 2002;Wenger 2009. Fessenden maps out a cultural history in which religion does not disappear from life so much as disappear into it. In this heated political atmosphere, rural Catholics continue to create and care for more than 3,000 wayside crosses. According to the institutional genealogy given by Giles Gunn, for example, critical interest in the coalescence of the literary and the religious took shape in the nineteenth century as the attempt to reconstitute something admittedly in a state of collapse—that is, religion— on a different basis. The experience of a religious landscape this diverse was unprecedented and had profound effects on how religious belief was experienced.
In this I am indebted also to the Young Scholars Program in American Religion at Indiana University—Purdue University Indianapolis, and to the irreplaceable network of scholarly friends formed there who continue to nurture, inspire, and enliven: Ava Chamberlain, Kate Joyce, Laura Levitt, Liza McAlister, Deborah Dash Moore, Leonard Primiano, and Jennifer Rycenga. Examining American legal cases, children's books, sermons, and polemics together with popular and classic works of literature from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries, Culture and Redemption shows how the vaunted secularization of American culture proceeds not as an inevitable by-product of modernity, but instead through concerted attempts to render dominant forms of Protestant identity continuous with democratic, civil identity. House of Representatives, offers a rare public forum in which the Secular Coalition tried to strike a balance between the two halves of its mission: advocating for nontheists and promoting secular government. As I write, it is unclear whether H. The book makes a compelling case for seeing particular forms of Protestant religion as an 'unmarked category' in American cultural analysis and urges a rethinking of some major works of American literature in relation to that category.
Tracy Fessenden contends that the uneven separation of church and state in America, far from safeguarding an arena for democratic flourishing, has functioned instead to promote particular forms of religious possibility while containing, suppressing, or excluding others. Balkun provides new readings of traditional texts such as The Great Gatsby, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, and The House of Mirth, as well as readings of less-studied texts, such as Walt Whitman's Specimen Days and Nella Larsen's Passing. Ultimately, I argue that while the sociology of religion was marginal to many of the general concerns of social theory in the recent past, today the subfield appears well positioned to become a central contributor. One of his favored endeavors is hunting, and his writings are filled with the lore of hunters and a vanishing wilderness. This article critically interrogates the discourses of secularism and pluralism by analyzing their surprising effects in a 2003 dispute about the adhan Islamic call to prayer in Hamtramck, Michigan. This article shows how 19th-century Jews embraced the American legal system. And for the past quarter century or more, Republican administrations and conservative intellectuals in American civil society have made a point of disparaging and harassing scholarly fields associated with the political left.
Her new readings of Emerson, Whitman, Melville, Stowe, Twain, Gilman, Fitzgerald, and others who address themselves to these dynamics in intricate and often unexpected ways advance a major reinterpretation of American writing. And this is so because the assumption that some religions or aspects of religion have simply played themselves out, or ought to, or eventually will, is crucial to the developmental schema of good and bad religion—the first associated with freedom and enlightenment, the second with coercion and constraint—implicit in the progress narrative of democracy. Here Fessenden's own politics is clearer than the evidential basis for her claims. But the counterfeit can also be a means by which the authentic is measured, thereby creating our conception of the true or real. I was fortunate to be able to bring parts of this book or early rehearsals of its arguments to many academic conferences and to more intimate scholarly gatherings at Berkeley, Colorado, Harvard, Indiana, Santa Cruz, Tulane, Vassar, and Yale. This essay introduces a special forum on the study of American religions.
Examining American legal cases, children's books, sermons, and polemics together with popular and classic works of literature from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries,Culture and Redemptionshows how the vaunted secularization of American culture proceeds not as an inevitable by-product of modernity, but instead through concerted attempts to render dominant forms of Protestant identity continuous with democratic, civil identity. In short, a fascinating book. Examining American legal cases, children's books, sermons, and polemics together with popular and classic works of literature from the seventeenth to the twentieth centuries,Culture and Redemptionshows how the vaunted secularization of American culture proceeds not as an inevitable by-product of modernity, but instead through concerted attempts to render dominant forms of Protestant identity continuous with democratic, civil identity. Culture and Redemption enters into conversation with scholars in American literary and religious history to argue that there are dangerous political implications to the silent partnership between Protestantism, writ as the sum total of religion, and secular progress narratives of American democracy. On the one hand, the comforting rhetoric of domesticity provided a subtle cover for sentimental writers to advance controversial new beliefs, practices, and causes such as Methodism, revivalism, feminist theology, and even female clergy.
Culture and Redemption suggests otherwise. Far from being a neutral matrix, then, the secular sphere as constituted in American politics, culture, and jurisprudence has long been more permeable to some religious interventions than to others. Increasingly, however, scholars are stepping away from such rise-and-fall narratives and asking how literature—both literary texts and literary modes of reading—might contribute to shifting our understanding of secularism. Critics deem too crude the notion that science or, in the humanistic version, literature supersedes religion as a site of authority and experience. Fessenden proposes that the narrative of secularism maintains such a stronghold on cultural and scholarly imaginaries that Americanists have been at a loss to explain the evangelical presence in politics or an American culture so seemingly bifurcated between religious conservatives and secular liberals. While Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau are often credited with inventing American environmental writing, Matthew Wynn Sivils argues that the works of these Transcendentalists must be placed within a larger literary tradition that has its origins in early Republic natural histories, Indian captivity narratives, Gothic novels, and juvenile literature.
Chapter 4 sets the public school movement alongside the literature of the American Renaissance, including its classic manifestations in the canon of Whitman, Emerson, Melville, and others as well as the larger body of sentimental and domestic fiction more recently championed as belonging also to this period of literary flourishing. John Corrigan has been a friend to me and to this project for many years; no one has done more to make me feel at home among scholars of American religion or to smooth my passage into their ranks. In the first dedicated study of the religious contents of sentimental literature, Claudia Stokes counters the long-standing characterization of sentimental piety as blandly nondescript and demonstrates that these works were in fact groundbreaking, assertive, and highly specific in their theological recommendations and endorsements. Among those at Arizona State whose warm collegiality has furthered this project, I owe special thanks to three who have chaired the Department of Religious Studies: Linell Cady, James Foard, and Joel Gereboff. Legible dominion: Puritanism's new world narrative ; Protestant expansion, Indian violence, and childhood death: the New England primer ; From disestablishment to consensus: the nineteenth-century Bible wars and the limits of dissent ; Conversion to democracy: religion and the American Renaissance -- Secular fictions.