C u r r e n t s in
S E R I E S
Religious Histor y
I B L I O G R A P H I C A L
S S A Y
Catherine L. Albanese
C ALIFORNIA , S ANTA B ARBARA
“...American religious history—
and of American religion, which it seeks to narrate and interpret—is surely lively and growing, nourished by the works of colleagues in related disciplines and challenged by new discoveries about the past and by the ever-changing religious situation in the pluralistic twentyfirst-century United States.
Cover image STAINED GLASS WINDOW THANKSGIVING SQUARE CHAPEL, DALLAS, TEXAS, USA by John Elk Designed by Cynthia Malecki
American Religious History: A Bibliographical Essay
he Currents in American Scholarship series
offers Americanists abroad updates on the status of theory and practice in disciplines relevant to the study of the society, culture and
institutions of the United States of America. Prominent scholars from across the U.S. graciously accepted the invitation of the Study of the U.S. Branch to author annotated bibliographies. We hope the series proves to be valuable in introducing or refreshing courses on the United States, or expanding library collections.
Th e A u t h o r
Catherine L. Albanese, Ph.D., has been a professor of religious studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara since 1987. Prior to joining the Department of Religious Studies at UCSB, she was professor of religion at Wright State University. She has also taught at Pennsylvania State University. Dr. Albanese is the author of eight books, including the widely used textbook America: Religions and Religion (Wadsworth Publishing, 1998), now in its third edition, and most recently, American Spiritualities: A Reader (Indiana University Press, 2001) and Reconsidering Nature Religion (Trinity Press International, 2002). A recipient of numerous awards from grantors, including the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Antiquarian Society, Dr. Albanese lectures widely at universities around the United States. In addition to serving as President of the American Academy of Religion in 1994, she has served on the editorial board of the Journal of the American Academy of Religion and on the board of consultants to the Journal of Religion. She has been long-time co-editor for the “Religion in North America” series at Indiana University Press. Dr. Albanese is currently writing a cultural history of metaphysical religion in the United States.
A B I B L I O G R A P H I C A L E S S AY
The study of American religion has been dominated over the years by the historical approach. Especially in the last several decades, however, American religious historians have been joined by sociologists of religion and also occasionally by anthropologists and literary scholars. They have also at times been informed, as in the past, by the work of philosophers and theologians. Hence, this review will cite contributions from these areas, as appropriate. IN
If the historical approach has dominated the scholarship, we may well ask more specifically about the nature of that approach. To do so is to discover that there have been, in fact, several historical models that have been used to organize data and tell a story or stories about American religion. The longest-reigning model—indeed, the one that dominated the field from the mid-nineteenth century when, in 1843, Robert Baird first wrote Religion in America—has been called the consensus model. In the last quarter century or so, the consensus model has been challenged by two others. The older of these has been called the conflict model, and the more recent the contact model. All three models are currently employed,...
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