Readings in 20th Century American Religion (Spring 2016)

Approach and Goals

During the semester we will investigate the ways that historians have attempted to account for experience with and influence of religion in 20th century America. Needless to say, this will lead us to consider socio-economic status, gender, culture, belief, and politics. Given these goals, I suggest that we concentrate on answering a set of questions about the history and a set of questions about the methodology and historiography.


  • How do the historical actors in these texts go about the work of representing their religion and its significance to themselves and others? How do they see their world and their place in it?
  • How are power and authority negotiated in this context? What difference does religion make?
  • Do the historical actors more or less align themselves with a version of social roles that is based on claims of equality or difference? How does this impact their experience?

Method and Historiography

  • What is the methodological approach of the author? What are his/her assumptions about religion?
  • What is the scope of the research? What materials/elements have been excluded?
  • What is the significance of the work in the larger field of American religious history?
  • How does this work change our understanding of both religious history and the larger field of 20th century American history?
  • How does is this work in conversation with other texts in the field?

Written Work
Please write a substantive blog post for each meeting that addresses the questions listed above.


Week 1 (January 25, 2016)

  • Butler, Jon. “Jack-in-the-Box Faith: The Religion Problem in Modern American History.” The Journal of American History 90, no. 4 (March 1, 2004): 1357–78. doi:10.2307/3660356.
  • Hollinger, David A. “The ‘Secularization’ Question and the United States in the Twentieth Century.” Church History 70, no. 1 (March 2001): 132–43.
  • Tweed, Thomas A. Crossing and Dwelling a Theory of Religion. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006.

Week 2 (February 1, 2016)

  • Goldman, Karla. Beyond the Synagogue Gallery: Finding a Place for Women in American Judaism. Harvard University Press, 2001.

Week 3 (February 8, 2016)

  • Higginbotham, Evelyn Brooks. Righteous Discontent: The Women’s Movement in the Black Baptist Church, 1880-1920. Harvard University Press, 1994.
  • Weisenfeld, Judith. African American Women and Christian Activism: New York’s Black YWCA, 1905-1945. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1997.

Week 4 (flex week) (February 15, 2016)

Week 5 (February 22, 2016)

  • Sutton, Matthew Avery. American Apocalypse: A History of Modern Evangelicalism. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press, 2014.

Week 6 (February 29, 2016)

  • McMullen, Josh. Under the Big Top: Big Tent Revivalism and American Culture, 1885-1925. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

Week 7  (Spring Break) (March 7, 2016)

Week 8 (March 14, 2016)

  • Wacker, Grant. Heaven Below: Early Pentecostals and American Culture. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2003.
  • Theusen, Peter. In Discordance with the Scriptures: American Protestant Battles over Translating the Bible. Oxford UP, 2002.

Week 9 (March 21, 2016)

  • Mcgreevy, John T. Parish Boundaries: The Catholic Encounter with Race in the Twentieth- Century Urban North. [S.l.]: Univ Of Chicago, 1998.
  • Orsi, Robert A. The Madonna of 115th Street: Faith and Community in Italian Harlem, 1880-1950, Third Edition. 3 edition. New Haven, Conn. ; London: Yale University Press, 2010.
  • Orsi, Robert. “The Religious Boundaries of an Inbetween People: Street Feste and the Problem of the Dark-Skinned Other in Italian Harlem, 1920-1990.” American Quarterly 44, no. 3 (September 1, 1992): 313–47. doi:10.2307/2712980.

Week 10 (flex week) (March 28, 2016)

Week 11 (April 4, 2016)

  • Prell, Riv-Ellen. Fighting to Become Americans: Assimilation and the Trouble between Jewish Women and Jewish Men. 1 edition. Boston, MA: Beacon Press, 2000.
  • Moore, Deborah Dash. GI Jews: How World War II Changed a Generation. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard U. Pr., 2004.
  • Prell, Riv-Ellen. “America, Mordecai Kaplan, and the Postwar Jewish Youth Revolt.” Jewish Social Studies 12, no. 2 (January 1, 2006): 158–71. doi:10.2307/4467741.

Week 12 (April 11, 2016)

  • Chappell, David L. A Stone of Hope: Prophetic Religion and the Death of Jim Crow. Chapel Hill: U. of North Carolina Pr., 2004.
  • Fones-Wolf, Ken, and Elizabeth A. Fones-Wolf. Struggle for the Soul of the Postwar South: White Evangelical Protestants and Operation Dixie. 1st Edition edition. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2015.

Week 13 (April 18, 2016)

  • Hinojosa, Felipe. Latino Mennonites: Civil Rights, Faith, and Evangelical Culture, 2014.

Week 14 (April 25, 2016)

  • Kruse, Kevin M. One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America. New York: Basic Books, 2015.
  • Bowler, Kate. Blessed: A History of the American Prosperity Gospel. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.