Sacralizing Markets and Marketing the Sacral: Religion in Antebellum America - NeMLA 2012

full name / name of organization: 
Andrew Ball, Purdue University
contact email: 
ajball@purdue.edu

43nd Annual Convention, Northeast Modern Language Association
March 15 - 18, 2012

Rochester, New York – Hyatt Rochester

Host Institution: St. John Fisher College

A nation’s religious concepts, practices, and institutions are not autonomous from its prevailing social system, therefore changes in that system will necessarily affect the religious sphere. The Market Revolution and the general advancement of capitalism initiated a paradigm shift in antebellum culture that fundamentally changed Americans’ way of life. This panel seeks to reexamine how the development of capitalism in America, the widespread adoption of free-market political economy, and the employment of new modes of production, reshaped Christian doctrine, religious practices, and forms of church polity. Additionally, we are requesting submissions devoted to examining the ways in which the literature and print culture of the period engages with the relation of economy and religion in antebellum America.

Some questions that presenters may consider include, but are not limited to:

How did the advancement of market capitalism influence prevailing religious doctrines and practices in America?

How did early class formation and / or class antagonism reshape religious doctrine and practice in America? What impact did this have on Protestant denominationalism? How is this reflected, encouraged, and / or problematized in antebellum literature and print culture?

How did American clerics promote or critique changing socioeconomic conditions and developing modes and relations of production? In what ways were ministers involved in the conflict between capital and labor, in antebellum labor or anti-union activism? How is this expressed in the literature and print culture of the period?

How was church government influenced by changing material conditions and the reorganization of American institutions? How did the professionalization and bureaucratization of the church alter theological doctrine and religious practice?

In what sense were the manifold utopian experiments prevalent in antebellum America, such as Bronson Alcott’s Fruitlands and George Ripley’s Brook Farm, religious responses to the development of capitalist society? How were these responses operative in the American Renaissance?

Many of the principal Transcendentalists were ministers. Was Transcendentalism a literary form of religious anti-capitalism, or did it promote a form of individualism that was consistent with new economic mores?

Was the Second Great Awakening a religious response to the Market Revolution? Were the ‘new measures’ of evangelism, the upsurge in revivalism, and the emergence of new forms of worship, simply epiphenomena resulting from changing economic relations in America? Or is it erroneous to claim that the Second Great Awakening was a unified social event?

How did the post-disestablishment opening of a ‘free religious market’ influence Protestant theological doctrine and the growth of new denominations? Are current applications of rational choice theory to the study of the antebellum religious marketplace adequate?

Send a 300 - 500 word abstract to Andrew Ball by September 30.

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