Spring 2006

SOCS 638 (AMST)
Religion and Civic Life in America from the Puritans to the Present

McAlister,Elizabeth

03/20/2006 - 03/24/2006
Monday-Friday 09:00 AM - 05:00 PM

Public Affairs Center 421

This course is an introduction to religion in the United States, and asks "how can we make sense of the present moment by better understanding religious themes in U.S. history?" We will be seeking to make sense of ongoing public debates about the role of religion in American civic life, especially in terms of conservative and liberal Christian views on politics, sexuality and popular culture. We will also seek to understand immigrant religion, and the religious dimensions of acts of aggression and their consequences--such as September 11th, and natural disasters and their aftermath, such as the summer 2005 hurricane Katrina.

We begin by exploring how the Puritans shaped much of the ethos of America, including attitudes toward money, public confession, and sex. We will look at how the First Amendment sets the conditions for the growth of religion, we will analyze the historical patterns of Christian revival and the ongoing narrative of American Civil Religion, and then examine the growing diversity of religion since the 1965 Immigration Act. We will highlight themes of migration, race, gender, American civil religion, and popular religion, and look at the changing role of the media in public discourse.

Readings will include core works on US religion, including selections of Catherine L. Albanese, America: Religions and Religion, Fessenden, ed., The Puritan Origins of American Sex, Conrad Cherry, God's New Israel, Morone, Hellfire Nation: The Politics of Sin in American History, Nancy Ammerman, Bible Believers: Fundamentalists in the Modern World, Robert Orsi, The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, and Melani McAlister, Epic Encounters: Culture, Media and U.S. Interests in the Middle East, 1945-2000. Films to be discussed include The Apostle and Left Behind.

Students will read all assigned texts in advance of the class week, and will some submit written assignments in the weeks before the class meets. The final paper will be due ten days after the class concludes. In class, we will discuss the readings in seminar format, view film clips and web sites together, and go on at least one fieldtrip.

We will meet once as a class at the end of January, in order to launch the course and get to know one another.

A syllabus for this course is available at:
Course Syllabus


Elizabeth McAlister (B.A. Vassar College; M.A., Ph.D. Yale University) is associate professor and chair of religion, and professor of African American studies and American studies. She is author of Rara! Vodou, Power, and Performance in Haiti and Its Diaspora (University of California Press, 2002). Click here for more information about Elizabeth McAlister and click here for more information about her work.


ENROLLMENT INFORMATION

Consent of Instructor Required: No

Format: Seminar

Level: GLSP Credits: 3 Enrollment Limit: 18

Texts to purchase for this course:
Catherine Albanese, AMERICA: RELIGIONS AND RELIGION (Wadsworth Publishing) Paperback

Nancy Ammerman, BIBLE BELIEVERS (Rutgers), Paperback

Tim LaHaye, LEFT BEHIND (Tyndale House Publishers), Paperback

Robert Orsi, THE MADONNA OF 115TH STREET: FAITH AND COMMUNITY IN ITALIAN HARLEM (Yale University Press), Paperback

READING MATERIALS AVAILABLE AT BROAD STREET BOOKS, 45 BROAD STREET, MIDDLETOWN, 860-685-7323

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