Writing Religion: Representation, Difference, and Authority in American Culture

A Conference to honor W. Clark Gilpin

Margaret E. Burton Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Christianity and Theology in the Divinity School

May 19-20, 2011

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How have Americans used the written word to define the boundaries of religious communities and to create personal religious identities? What role has print culture played in either establishing or undermining religious authority in America?

Influenced by the invention of the printing press, the reformations of the sixteenth century, and the expansion of literacy and public education, Americans have always depended on print culture to represent the meaning of religion. While some have written spiritual journals, poems, autobiographies, or grand narratives of providential history, others have examined religion with a more critical eye. This conference, honoring W. Clark Gilpin, Margaret E. Burton Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Christianity and Theology, at his retirement from the Divinity School faculty, asks how the project of "writing religion" has shaped questions about representation, difference, and authority in American culture.

 

Thursday, May 19

3:00-4:00pm Welcome Margaret M. Mitchell, Dean and Professor of New Testament and Early Christian Literature

Curtis J. Evans, Assistant Professor of the History of Christianity, "Filling One's Head with a Thousand Questions: White Northern Antislavery Activists Wrestle with Doubt and Authenticity"

4:15-5:15pm: W. Clark Gilpin, Margaret E. Burton Distinguished Service Professor of the History of Christianity and Theology, "Writing Transcendence: When Words Exceed Themselves in Nineteenth-Century America."

5:30 pm: Reception, Swift Hall Common Room

Friday, May 20

9:30-11am Panel discussion

Commen and Introduction: Kathryn Lofton, Assistant Professor of Religious Studies and American Studies, Yale University

Jonathan Ebel, Assistant Professor of Religion, University of Illinois: "Re-Forming Faith: John Steinbeck, the New Deal, and the Religion of the Wandering Oklahoman."

Kathleen Flake, Associate Professor of American Religious History, Vanderbilt University: "Mourning Pages and Scriptural Authority: The Canonization of Joseph Smith's Letter from Liberty Jail."

Sarah Imhoff, Visiting Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies, Indiana University: "My Sons Have Defeated Me: Walter Lippmann, Felix Adler, and Secular Moral Authority."

Panel Q & A

11-12am: Catherine A. Brekus, Associate Professor of the History of Christianity: "Gender, Writing, and Authority in Eighteenth-Century America"

12-1:30pm: "Wednesday" lunch, Swift Hall Common Room.