CFP: [American] âMethods for the Study of Religion in Early American Literatureâ (a special issue of EAL)

full name / name of organization: 
Justine S. Murison
contact email:

“Methods for the Study of Religion in Early American Literature”
Special issue of Early American Literature

Religion has recently reemerged as a crucial analytical category in
American studies scholarship. As such, secular frameworks for American
literary and cultural studies no longer seem viable. Panels at national
and regional meetings of the MLA and ASA are devoted to contemporary
political reconsiderations of the religious and the secular, and these
topics are filtering into all major journals, most visibly in the case of
the September 2007 issue of American Quarterly, devoted to “Religion and
Politics in the Contemporary United States.” Yet, while early American
studies has long been the field most centrally concerned with the
significance of religious and secular movements in American culture,
earlier periods of North American and Atlantic history have been
surprisingly marginal to major theoretical moves within the emergent
scholarship on American religious culture.
The purpose of this special issue is dual: to bring a properly historical
focus to American-studies engagements with religion, and to ask how
religion might challenge conventional methods of historicism. Recent
scholarship has significantly reemphasized the archival richness of early
American literature’s engagements with religion, but it has done so with
familiar methods drawn from social history and cultural studies. And while
this special issue is motivated in part by the archival fact that early
American literature is thematically, generically, and epistemologically
engaged with religion, our interest is equally methodological: we wish to
develop a conversation about how such an archivally rich area as early
American literature can yield more refined analytics with which to engage
critical questions about the historical and contemporary place of religion
in American life.
We hope to gather 6-8 essays that engage topics including:
* Comparison: can one speak about “religion” without implicitly talking
about “religions”? How might the study of religion depend (conceptually,
metaphorically, discursively) on migration, diversity, or new world contact?
* Culture: how, when, and why might “religion” be used to mean what we now
recognize as “race,” “ethnicity” or “culture”?
* Declension: Perry Miller’s important thesis about the loss of Puritan
authority during the course of the seventeenth century assumes a
retrospective vantage. What would count as textual and formal, rather than
broadly thematic, evidence of declension or secularization?
* Aesthetics: would we read texts differently if we engaged seriously with
early American reading practices (hermeneutics, homiletics, exegesis,
* Print: does the circulation of “religious” media challenge the
Habermasian-derived theories of the public sphere, which still grip so
tightly on print culture studies?
To submit for consideration, please send completed essays by 8/1/08 to both and Probable date of
publication is 2009.
Authors should read the submission guidelines for Early American Literature
to prepare their essays:

 From the Literary Calls for Papers Mailing List
             more information at
Received on Fri Feb 08 2008 - 10:18:50 EST

cfp categories: