Self-help and popular religion in early American culture : an interpretive guide /
Roy M. Anker.
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, c1999.
viii, 246 p.
0313311366 (alk. paper)
More Details
Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, c1999.
0313311366 (alk. paper)
catalogue key
Includes bibliographical references and index.
A Look Inside
About the Author
Author Affiliation
Roy M. Anker teaches English and Film at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
Full Text Reviews
Appeared in Choice on 2000-06-01:
Readers who already know something about Robert Schuller, Norman Vincent Peale, and Mary Baker Eddy, and who are interested in learning how biographers and historians have interpreted their lives and their work, will find much of value in the second of these volumes ("modern"). Similarly, readers with previous knowledge of the "New Thought" movement or of theories relating Puritans to the "Protestant work ethic" and Benjamin Franklin, may be served by Anker's first volume ("early"), which reviews historical interpretations of those topics. A link between New Thought and Christian Science connects the two volumes. Anker (English and film, Calvin College, Michigan) provides a guide to existing interpretations of these religious leaders and their work but is less an interpreter than an extensive reviewer of interpretations made by other scholars. As he puts it, the topics are "junctures between popular religion and the self-help impulse that historians have deemed of critical importance in the development of American culture." In the introduction to each volume, Anker alerts his readers to the imprecision of the terms "popular religion" and "self-help" and attempts to clarify his use of them: popular religion refers only to some forms of Protestant Christianity, and self-help refers to applications of religious beliefs in attempts to improve life economically, in health, or in attitudinal orientations toward everyday happenings. To say the book is about the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism as worked out in America's culture of individualization is too terse theologically and may not reflect the thinking of the many "historians" reviewed by Anker, but he makes an occasional comment to that effect. Each volume could use a summarizing chapter that would return to the themes and foci mentioned in the introduction. Another weakness lies in the style of documentation; all citations direct one to the bibliography, which is awkward for the careful reader. Furthermore, some primary sources one would expect to find in the bibliography are missing. Libraries with good collections on the topics mentioned might well include Anker's works for their review of relevant secondary sources. Graduate students; faculty. R. L. Herrick Westmar University
Review Quotes
'œAnker... provide[s] an important starting point for further research into the connection between popular religion and self-help traditions....[The book] will provide a reliable resource for those who take up various facets of this project.'' The Journal of Religion
'œLibraries with good collections on the topics mentioned might well include Anker's works for their review of relevant secondary sources.'' Choice
This item was reviewed in:
Choice, June 2000
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Long Description
One of two volumes on the relationship between popular religion and the self-help tradition in American culture, this book focuses on early America, from the Protestant Ethic and Puritan New England through Revivialism and American Romanticism. The concept of self-help is a distinctive part of the American character of individualism. This volume provides an introductory interpretive guide to major self-help figures and movements with origins in popular religious movements. The opening chapter recounts the perspectives and conclusions of previous histories of American self-help and includes analyses of several important related works. The following chapters present a historical narrative that traces those junctures where American history and popular religion have reputedly and actually intersected. In surveying the historical and scholarly materials that depict the history of popular religion and self-help, this volume emphasizes the historiographical debates that shape the interpretation of the ideas and figures. This reference will serve as a valuable research tool for American religion and popular culture scholars. Arranged chronologically, this volume discusses, in three major sections, the Protestant Ethic and Puritan New England; Benjamin Franklin, Cotton Mather, and Individualism; and Revivalism, Religious Experience, and the birth of mental healing. An extensive bibliography is included.
Table of Contents
Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. 1
Academic Histories of Self-Helpp. 11
The Protestant Ethic and Puritan New Englandp. 45
The Weber Thesis and the Legacy of Puritanismp. 46
What Brought the Puritans to New Englandp. 52
New England Puritan Social Historyp. 61
Puritan Collective Culturep. 67
Boston and Economic Diversificationp. 73
Declension in New Englandp. 76
Puritan Literature and the Weber Thesisp. 87
A Brief History of the Histories of Puritan New Englandp. 91
Benjamin Franklin, Cotton Mather, and Individualismp. 105
An Imposing Lifep. 106
Ben Franklin and Poor Richardp. 109
Franklin and the Autobiographyp. 115
Franklin and the Puritan Ethosp. 118
The Case of Cotton Mather: Puritanism, Self-Help, and Historical Influencep. 124
Historiographical Discussion of Franklin and His Legacyp. 132
Revivalism, Religious Experience, and the Birth of Mental Healingp. 145
Religious Innovation: The Second Great Awakeningp. 150
Interpreting Revivalism: Historians Seek Understandingp. 160
American Romanticism: Nature, Harmony, and Healing the Selfp. 168
The Coming of Mesmerism and Mind-Curep. 176
Phineas Parkhurst Quimbyp. 181
Figures in the Emergence of New Thoughtp. 193
Twentieth-Century Heirs to New Thoughtp. 221
Bibliographyp. 227
Indexp. 243
Table of Contents provided by Syndetics. All Rights Reserved.

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