Brauer Seminar

Established by friends of the Divinity School to encourage interdisciplinary teaching and research, the Jerald Brauer Seminar is co-taught periodically by two or three Divinity School faculty members. 

The topic changes according to the interest of the instructors. Up to ten students may participate with the consent of the instructors, and each student receives a stipend to support participation. A seminar budget supports the honorarium and travel expenses for the Brauer Fellow, a visiting scholar who represents a disciplinary perspective on the seminar topic that complements those of the instructors.  

Jerald Brauer was Dean of the Divinity School from 1955 to 1970. An authority on Puritanism and the history of Christianity in America, he served on the school's faculty for 49 years, from 1950 until his death, and wrote and edited numerous books. Although he officially retired in 1991, he continued to teach a seminar on Christian history each semester.

The Winter 2025 Brauer Seminar, "The Divinity School, the Study of Religion, and Society in the long American 20th Century," will be co-taught by Professors Christian Wedemeyer and Richard Rosengarten. 

The goal of this seminar will be to explore the historical development of the study of religion in the United States, with particular attention to the establishment and growth of university divinity schools and departments of religion. Students will engage historical perspectives on religion in America (e.g., Ahlstrom, Marsden, Albanese), the history of the American university (e.g., Thelin, Veblen, Hutchins), and specifically the growth of university divinity schools and departments of religion in North America (e.g., Cherry, Hughes, Welch) Attention will be directed to economic and demographic factors, state management of religion and its study, social movements (including anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, and anti-immigrant forces, as well as ecumenical and religious rights movements), juridical and legislative developments, and processes of professionalization/credentialing in the American workplace. Students will also be encouraged to engage in (and present) their own granular-level inquiries of curriculum, degree requirements, faculty and student demographics, and similar aspects of the internal ecosystems of centers of the non-sectarian, academic study of religion(s). It is anticipated that the seminar might host a visit from an expert on the historical development of universities and their divinity schools, such as John Boyer, Conrad Cherry, or Aaron Hughes. Students will develop their own research projects centered on primary source material to present in the closing weeks of the term.

The Spring 2025 Brauer Seminar, "Sacred Geographies: Religion in Chicago," will be co-taught by Marty Center Executive Director Emily D. Crews, Professor Curtis J. Evans, and Professor Matthew M. Harris. 

Focusing primarily though not exclusively on African American religion, the seminar will take up the history of Chicago through an examination of the relationship between the city’s religious history and its natural and built environments. We will consider theories of religion, space, and place alongside readings that explore the overlapping and conflicting ways Chicago’s pastoral and urban landscapes have shaped religious identities and traditions—and how Chicago itself has been transformed by religious practices and imaginations. The seminar will also examine privately and publicly funded attempts to preserve, publicize, and capitalize on Chicago’s distinct religious history and the ways that has shaped historical memory. To this end, we will also inquire into the relationship between tourism, museums, public art, and creation of archives in the making of Chicago’s sacred geographies. The seminar will be enhanced by research visits to select sites across the city.

Themes and questions to be considered in the seminar include:

  • How does/can a landscape become “sacralized”?
  • What is/has been/will be the relationship between space, memory, and historical record?
  • How are archives of religion created, preserved, and resisted through attention to space and place?
  • What is typical or unique about Chicago and its “sacred” landscapes?