Shagan’s Popular Politics and the English Reformation (2000) is a political and social history that argues that the Reformation in England was a proceShagan’s Popular Politics and the English Reformation (2000) is a political and social history that argues that the Reformation in England was a process of collaboration between ordinary people, gentry, and the state, in which shared religious idioms were used in order to advance multiple and sometimes conflicting political, economic, and theological agendas held by different groups who cannot be easily broken down into simply “Protestant” and simply “Catholic.” Shagan is responding to two main historiographical camps within the study of the English Reformation. The first camp is made up of Protestant historians who offer a paradigm of the English Reformation as “liberation” for the English people, a model that contains anti-Catholic prejudices and argues that the English nation was entirely converted to Protestantism by 1559. The second camp are the revisionist historians (beginning in 1975 with Haigh, Scarisbrick, and Duffy) who argue that a better paradigm for understanding the English Reformation is that of “enforcement” by the state, and they emphasize its negative effects on the common people as well as popular piety and resistance. Shagan criticizes both these camps for being controlled by a “confessional lens” that necessarily assesses the English Reformation in terms of its “success” or “failure,” and in so doing are prevented from asking questions about the process of the English Reformation. In other words, if the English didn’t convert en masse to Protestantism, what did they do? Shagan’s argument is based on the following premises: 1) most English people did not embrace evangelical Protestantism yet 2) the Tudor regime doesn’t have the power to enforce religious change, so all changes require eliciting some degree of popular consent. Thus Shagan argues for a collaborative lens that allows us to ask questions about the negotiations that had to occur between the English people and the state in order for the English Reformation to happen as it did. Shagan’s collaborative model is neither a top-down process of the state imposing Protestantism on the people, as per the confessionalization thesis, nor a revolution of the people, as Peter Blickle argues, but something in between....more
Read Chapter 5, "'Have You Ever Prayed to Saint Jude?' Reflections on Fieldwork in Catholic Chicago" for Theories & Methods. I really want to readRead Chapter 5, "'Have You Ever Prayed to Saint Jude?' Reflections on Fieldwork in Catholic Chicago" for Theories & Methods. I really want to read the rest of the book sometime in the future.
"The consequences of all this for our work is that unless we recognize first the elemental fascination and power of religious goings-on and then all the things we want to do with them--share them, control them, mute their power over us and over our memories--our writing about religion will become an exercise in boundary making. This is the emotional ground of the impulse toward functionalism in the field: to tame what is wild and threatening and dangerous specifically to us because of the details of our particular childhoods about different forms of religious experience and practice. This is what makes so much religious scholarship dull and beside the point. It is also the reason why scholars of religion spend so much time in making sterile taxonomies, gridding what we study into safe--and discrete--categories. These various complex anxieties, needs, and discomforts constitute the existential difficulties of fieldwork in one's own religious tradition" (161).
Braude offers to answer the following central question: Given the evidence of significant overlap between people who held Spiritualist beliefs and engBraude offers to answer the following central question: Given the evidence of significant overlap between people who held Spiritualist beliefs and engaged in Spiritualist practices with people who were active in the woman’s rights movement in the nineteenth-century United States, what can we discover about the relationship between the two movements? She also poses two sub-questions specific to the analytical categories of gender, politics, and religion, including: 1) Why did Spiritualism appeal to people troubled by mid-nineteenth century gender roles within the white middle class? and 2) What elements of Spiritualism facilitate the movement’s generally sympathetic orientation to woman’s rights and other radical political and social reforms?
The central claim of Radical Spirits is that Spiritualism’s radical individualism lends itself to social change work, and that its belief in the particular suitability of women as passive, sensitive, and pious individuals—all highly gendered qualities—to receive messages from the spirit world gives women unique access to authoritative, highly public roles as mediums and trance speakers that they were otherwise denied. Thus, Spiritualism and the woman’s rights movement engage in a “two-way exchange” in which Spiritualism helps normalize the idea of women speaking to public audiences and produces trance speakers who become notable leaders for woman’s rights, and in which members of the woman’s rights movement are attracted to Spiritualism’s political potential and religious non-conformity. Spiritualism’s appeal to the succeeding generation of the woman’s rights movement declines after 1875 once the initial barriers to women’s public speaking have been overcome and as Spiritualism shifts from emphasizing trance mediumship to sensational mediumship, a shift that undermines its initial gender subversiveness, and, in the loss of its general credibility, its political thrust. As Braude puts it, “Letters of appreciation and admiration did not follow the appearance of a woman in a sack nailed to the floor.”
Braude’s argument is based on the premise that Spiritualism is a widespread and politically influential nineteenth-century movement worthy of serious attention despite its lack of institutions, hierarchy, doctrine, official leadership, or membership. She draws on primary sources about Spiritualism and the woman’s rights movement, including books and periodicals, press accounts, meeting minutes, and diaries and correspondence in order to argue that nineteenth-century “identification of piety with femininity” could actually help expand the opportunities available to women and support activism for political and social reform. In arguing this, Braude is countering Ann Douglas and others who have argued that Spiritualism’s “feminization” of culture reinforced highly restricted roles for women and encouraged passive sentimentality.
Braude identifies two significant contributions of her work. Because Braude is writing at the apex of the New Age movement, she suggests that her study of a “comparable” religious expression might help us better understand spiritual experiences outside of religious institutions and how people explain and contextualize them. She also suggests that this study might help us better understand how spirituality motivates people to take social and political action. I would agree that these are significant contributions, and I would add that Radical Spirits is also significant in how it highlights the extent to which a focus on institutions and denominational identities has impacted the study of religion in the United States. Braude persuasively demonstrates that Spiritualism had widespread popular participation and contributed to major social and political reform movements, yet it has generally been treated as a curious side-note in the history of American religion....more
O’Malley’s Trent and All That (2000) is an intellectual history that examines the terms historians have used to describe the “Catholic side” of the eaO’Malley’s Trent and All That (2000) is an intellectual history that examines the terms historians have used to describe the “Catholic side” of the early modern period enduringly dubbed “the Reformation” by Lutheran historians in the late seventeenth century. O’Malley identifies a problem in how historians have unreflectively used loaded terms like “reform” and “reformation” to describe the Catholic side in this period, and he wants to propose his own solution—the term “Early Modern Catholicism.” In order to demonstrate the advantages of his solution, O’Malley provides an overview of how the many terms for this period developed. He starts by reviewing the earliest historical work and the “classic position” of Catholic historian Hubert Jedin (1900-1980), who emphasized the role of the Council of Trent and proposed the complex term “Catholic-Reformation-and-Counter-Reformation.” Importantly, Jedin puts a new spin on the idea of “Counter Reformation” by depicting it as a “defense” against Protestant aggressions. O’Malley then reviews how twentieth-century historians have adapted Jedin’s terms for their own purposes and/or proposed entirely new ones, examining the advantages and limitations of the following: “Counter-Reformation,” “Catholic Reform” or “Catholic Reformation,” “Tridentine Era,” and “Confessional Catholicism” or “Social Disciplining.” In summary, the advantage in using each of these terms is that they accurately capture different political, religious, or social aspects of the historical reality, but also minimize or obscure other aspects, with the attendant disadvantages of doing so. O’Malley closes by arguing that the comprehensive “Early Modern Catholicism” should be added to the existing list of historical terms, but that historians should use it in combination with other terms in order to most effectively describe the complexities of the early modern period.
O’Malley suggests that the main contribution of his book is to help his audience “view ‘the Catholic side’ with new eyes, so that we become more aware of a breadth, depth, and complexity that earlier historians frequently either missed, or more often, forced into an inappropriate or inadequate interpretative framework—by inadequate naming.”...more
Pretty sure I read this for my independent study on Christianity and community with Prof. Kaufman back in 2007, but I just noticed I don't have it logPretty sure I read this for my independent study on Christianity and community with Prof. Kaufman back in 2007, but I just noticed I don't have it logged in my Goodreads account....more
Philip Rieff (1922-2006) is an American sociologist and cultural critic most active during the mid-twentieth century. His primary concern is the statePhilip Rieff (1922-2006) is an American sociologist and cultural critic most active during the mid-twentieth century. His primary concern is the state of “Western” or “Christian” culture, which he considers to be “dying” at the end of a long period of “deconversion.” For Rieff, the “triumph of the therapeutic” after Freud is not a good thing. But it’s not entirely Freud’s fault, because his psychotherapy focuses on helping individuals control their instincts within the Christian cultural setting. For Rieff, the fault lies with Freud’s successors, who challenge the authority of culture to dictate the meaning of individual’s instincts. These successors include C.G. Jung, psychoanalyst and the father of the archetype and the idea of the collective unconscious; D.H. Lawrence, a novelist who celebrates the power of the erotic; and Wilhelm Reich, a psychoanalyst who combined his therapeutic work with Marxist politics.
Rieff’s diagnosis of Western culture’s trouble is closely linked to his theories on why culture is important, and how culture changes and survives. Rieff believes that culture is important because it is a “system of moralizing demands” rooted in institutions that gives human lives meaning based in commitment to purposes greater than the individual self. He’s concerned that the formerly “Christian” culture of faith is being eclipsed by a psychotherapeutic emphasis on self that focuses on the individual’s perceived needs and comfort and cultivates indifference to the demands of the culture of faith, thus undermining it. But—and perhaps this is even worse in Rieff’s eyes—the psychotherapeutic revolution seems incapable of generating a replacement culture that, even if it’s not based on the Christian faith, could provide an equivalent demand structure for people’s moral lives. Rieff’s fear is that without the moral system provided by a robust culture, individuals and society will become degenerate. In his words: “At the breaking point, a culture can no longer maintain itself….it demands less, permits more. Bread and circuses become confused with right and duty.” ...more
John Dewey (1859-1952) is an American public intellectual known for his philosophical work on democracy and civil society and as an advocate for educaJohn Dewey (1859-1952) is an American public intellectual known for his philosophical work on democracy and civil society and as an advocate for education reform. In A Common Faith (1934), Dewey argues that we must separate “religion” from the “religious” in order to act most effectively for social change. Dewey defines the “religious” as an intellectual and emotional attitude or orientation that moves individuals to actively pursue pro-social ideals established and verified by human experience. (Perhaps if Dewey had been writing a few decades later, he would have used the term “spirituality” instead.) Dewey contrasts this with “religion,” which he locates in institutional organizations and defines as a collection of beliefs and practices typically involving the supernatural. Dewey’s view is that modern development of the scientific method enables us to demonstrate the validity of naturalistic “religious” experience which acts in pursuit of ideals of justice, knowledge, and beauty. Thus, we no longer need religion to “dualistically” insist that pro-social values have merit because they are rooted in the supernatural realm. Religion is even harmful in that it can tempt people to waste their time arguing about doctrine or undermine their faith in human reason and experience. Therefore, Dewey wants to entirely separate the “religious” from “religion.”
Dewey’s motivating concern is his belief that we are members of a “continuous human community.” The benefits of civilization were made possible because the people who came before us acted in accordance with their ideals about human relationships, and we have a responsibility to at least pass on, if not expand, this “heritage of values” for future generations. He identifies this responsibility as a “common faith” that humanity has always implicitly shared. Ultimately, Dewey is interested preserving this common faith—and in making it “explicit and militant,” language which evokes the Christian theological language of the “Church Militant,” Christians struggling against sin on earth (as opposed to the “Church Triumphant,” Christians enjoying the glories of heaven). The argument of Dewey’s book is based in his evaluation that while the “religious” has the potential to serve the common good of humanity as a whole, “religion” no longer does. ...more
If you like beer, swearing, and religious discussions, 16th-century Augsburg is the place for you.
----- Hansen’s Religious Identity in an Early ReformaIf you like beer, swearing, and religious discussions, 16th-century Augsburg is the place for you.
----- Hansen’s Religious Identity in an Early Reformation Community (2009) is a cultural history that uses archival records of judicial hearings in Augsburg to examine how religious identities formed and functioned among common people during the early years of the Reformation, prior to the establishment of clear confessional lines between “Catholic” and “Lutheran” territories. The evidence she looks at spans from 1517—the year Martin Luther posts his Ninety-Nine Theses on the door of Wittenberg Cathedral—through 1555—the year the Peace of Augsburg establishes the principle of cuius regio, eius religio and Augsburg is officially declared a biconfessional city. This is a critical intervention in the historiography in that most studies of religious identity in the Reformation have tended to focus on the period after 1555 (“the confessional age”). Hansen’s main argument is that ordinary people in Augsburg during this early period maintained not only relatively peaceful, but often harmonious, relationships in the midst of plentiful religious diversity because of their non-confessional forms of religious identity and their shared social values such as honor, friendship, and peace. This remained true even as they were willing to direct hostility at religious authority figures or institutions or as they tried to leverage religious identities to their advantage in conflicts that were primarily about issues other than religion. Tensions directly related to religious identity only arise in the 1540s and 1550s when particular religious groups become associated with specific political agendas, a process which Scribner calls “stigmatization” (225). ...more
Each Mind a Kingdom is an intellectual and cultural history in which Satter draws on primary and secondary sources in New Thought, Christian Science,Each Mind a Kingdom is an intellectual and cultural history in which Satter draws on primary and secondary sources in New Thought, Christian Science, and nineteenth and early-twentieth century United States history to examine how the meanings attached to mind, matter, self, and desire morph within New Thought in the context of social Darwinist debates about the “evolutionary progress” of the Anglo-Saxon race and “ideal” womanhood and manhood. Her methodology includes close readings of memoirs, articles, novels, and personal correspondence produced by prominent New Thought leaders. This is a critical intervention in the historiography in that Satter is challenging dominant accounts of New Thought as a “fundamentally economic” religious movement that helped Americans deal with the transition from producer capitalism to consumer capitalism at the turn of the twentieth century. These dominant accounts range from A. Whitney Griswold’s “New Thought: A Cult of Success” (1934) to more recent scholarship such as Gail Thain Parker’s Mind Cure in New England (1973), and they neglect the movement’s early years. In contrast, Satter focuses on the period 1870 to 1920 and argues on the basis of her analysis of this period’s concerns about “racialized, gendered selfhood” that changes in New Thought after the turn of the twentieth century are better understood as the ascendance of pro-desire attitudes that had been present from the beginning of the movement, rather than as an abrupt (and crassly motivated) shift from a healing to a prosperity-focused movement. ...more