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Sacred Land

Sherwood Anderson, Midwestern Modernism, and the Sacramental Vision of Nature

From the 1910s through the 1930s, Midwestern writers were conspicuously prominent in American literary life. A generation of writers from the Midwest had come of age and had shared an important and motivating cultural experience: the encompassing transformation of rural and urban Midwestern life from traditional craftsmanship, manual labor, and local community to a fragmented, machine-driven, and intensely capitalistic mode of existence. A profound sense of lost possibilities pervaded the literary mood of these authors. An organic Midwestern village culture that had only just begun to take definite shape was swept away, and a fruitful and promising region was sacrificed to crass commercialism.

In Sacred Land, author Mark Buechsel shows that Sherwood Anderson, Willa Cather, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, among others, turned to two potential sources for grounding their region’s and nation’s life authentically: nature itself—particularly the super-abundant nature to be found in Midwestern states and the model provided by the traditional sacramental culture of medieval Europe. The result was a new sacramental vision of how life in the Midwest—and, by extension, life in modern America—might be lived differently. Buechsel demonstrates that each author painted his or her spiritual and cultural vision with different shades and nuances and looked to America’s future with varying degrees of optimism.

Of crucial importance in each author’s work are the characters’ encounters with the Midwestern land, a recalcitrant objective reality that refuses to yield to the wrong kinds of dreams. Characters who are genuinely open to what their engagement with the land has to teach them generally find some personal blessing and learn how to claim a fully human place in the order of things. Characters who fail to learn the lessons nature offers become distorted and grotesque, in a way that expresses the modern condition emblematically. Sacred Land shows that in the process of critiquing American culture, Midwestern writers redefined the American pastoral myth so central to the national psyche.

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Sacred Memories

The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas

Kelly McMichael

War memorials are symbols of a community’s sense of itself, the values it holds dear, and its collective memory. They inform us more, perhaps, about the period in which the memorials were erected than the period of the war itself.

Kelly McMichael, in her book, Sacred Memories: The Civil War Monument Movement in Texas, takes the reader on a tour of Civil War monuments throughout the state and in doing so tells the story of each monument and its creation. McMichael explores Texans’ motivations for erecting Civil War memorials, which she views as attempts during a period of turmoil and uncertainty—“severe depression, social unrest, the rise of Populism, mass immigration, urbanization, industrialization, imperialism, lynching, and Jim Crow laws”—to preserve the memory of the Confederate dead, to instill in future generations the values of patriotism, duty, and courage; to create a shared memory and identity “based on a largely invented story”; and to “anchor a community against social and political doubt.”

Her focus is the human story of each monument, the characters involved in its creation, and the sacred memories held dear to them.

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The Sacred Mirror

Evangelicalism, Honor, and Identity in the Deep South, 1790-1860

Robert Elder

Most histories of the American South describe the conflict between evangelical religion and honor culture as one of the defining features of southern life before the Civil War. The story is usually told as a battle of clashing worldviews, but in this book, Robert Elder challenges this interpretation by illuminating just how deeply evangelicalism in Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches was interwoven with traditional southern culture, arguing that evangelicals owed much of their success to their ability to appeal to people steeped in southern honor culture. Previous accounts of the rise of evangelicalism in the South have told this tale as a tragedy in which evangelicals eventually adopted many of the central tenets of southern society in order to win souls and garner influence. But through an examination of evangelical language and practices, Elder shows that evangelicals always shared honor's most basic assumptions.

Making use of original sources such as diaries, correspondence, periodicals, and church records, Elder recasts the relationship between evangelicalism and secular honor in the South, proving the two concepts are connected in much deeper ways than have ever been previously understood.

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Sacred Misfits

MARK BLICKLEY

Sacred Misfits is a short fiction collection by Mark Blickley.

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Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition

Black Christian Nationalism in the Age of Jim Crow

Adele Oltman

Using Savannah, Georgia, as a case study, Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition tells the story of the rise and decline of Black Christian Nationalism. This nationalism emerged from the experiences of segregation, as an intersection between the sacred world of religion and church and the secular world of business. The premise of Black Christian Nationalism was a belief in a dual understanding of redemption, at the same time earthly and otherworldly, and the conviction that black Christians, once delivered from psychic, spiritual, and material want, would release all of America from the suffering that prevented it from achieving its noble ideals.

The study’s use of local sources in Savannah, especially behind-the-scenes church records, provides a rare glimpse into church life and ritual, depicting scenes never before described. Blending history, ethnography, and Geertzian dramaturgy, it traces the evolution of black southern society from a communitarian, nationalist system of hierarchy, patriarchy, and interclass fellowship to an individualistic one that accompanied the appearance of a new black civil society.

Although not a study of the civil rights movement, Sacred Mission, Worldly Ambition advances a bold, revisionist interpretation of black religion at the eve of the movement. It shows that the institutional primacy of the churches had to give way to a more diversified secular sphere before an overtly politicized struggle for freedom could take place. The unambiguously political movement of the 1950s and 1960s that drew on black Christianity and radiated from many black churches was possible only when the churches came to exert less control over members’ quotidian lives.

A Sarah Mills Hodge Fund Publication

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Sacred Modern

Faith, Activism, and Aesthetics in the Menil Collection

By Pamela G. Smart

Renowned as one of the most significant museums built by private collectors, the Menil Collection in Houston, Texas, seeks to engage viewers in an acutely aesthetic, rather than pedagogical, experience of works of art. The Menil’s emphasis on being moved by art, rather than being taught art history, comes from its founders’ conviction that art offers a way to reintegrate the sacred and the secular worlds. Inspired by the French Catholic revivalism of the interwar years that recast Catholic tradition as the avant-garde, Dominique and John de Menil shared with other Catholic intellectuals a desire to reorder a world in crisis by imbuing modern cultural forms with religious faith, binding the sacred with the modern. Sacred Modern explores how the Menil Collection gives expression to the religious and political convictions of its founders and how “the Menil way” is being both perpetuated and contested as the Museum makes the transition from operating under the personal direction of Dominique de Menil to the stewardship of career professionals. Taking an ethnographic approach, Pamela G. Smart analyzes the character of the Menil aesthetic, the processes by which it is produced, and the sensibilities that it is meant to generate in those who engage with the collection. She also offers insight into the extraordinary impact Dominique and John de Menil had on the emergence of Houston as a major cultural center.

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Sacred Mountains

A Christian Ethical Approach to Mountaintop Removal

Andrew R. H. Thompson

On a misty morning in eastern Kentucky, cross-bearing Christians gather for a service on a surface-mined mountain. They pray for the health and renewal of the land and for their communities, lamenting the corporate greed of the mining companies. On another day, in southern West Virginia, Andrew Jordon hosts Bible study in a small cabin overlooking a disused 1,400-acre surface mine. He believes his efforts to reclaim sites like these represent responsible environmental stewardship.

In Sacred Mountains, Andrew R. H. Thompson highlights scenes such as these in order to propose a Christian ethical analysis of the controversial mining practice that has increasingly divided the nation and has often led to fierce and even violent confrontations. Thompson draws from the arguments of H. Richard Niebuhr, whose work establishes an ideal foundation for understanding Appalachia. Thompson provides a thorough introduction to the issues surrounding surface mining, including the environmental consequences and the resultant religious debates, and highlights the discussions being carried out in the media and by scholarly works. He also considers five popular perspectives (ecofeminism, liberation theology, environmental justice, environmental pragmatism, and political ecology) and offers his own framework and guidelines for moral engagement with the subject.

Thompson's arguments add to the work of other ethicists and theologians by examining the implications of culture in a variety of social, historical, and religious contexts. A groundbreaking and nuanced study that looks past the traditionally conflicting stereotypes about religion and environmental consciousness in Appalachia, Sacred Mountains offers a new approach that unifies all communities, regardless of their beliefs.

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The Sacred Oral Tradition of the Havasupai

As Retold By Elders and Headmen Manakaja and Sinyella 1918-1921

Edited by Frank D. Tikalsky, Catherine A. Euler, and John Nagel

Early in the twentieth century, Leslie Spier and Erna Gunther, graduate students trained by anthropologist Franz Boas, hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon to learn about Havasupai culture. In the process, they asked two Havasupai leaders and elders for every story they could remember. These were translated by native speakers and transcribed by Spier and, later, Gunther. Yet for unknown reasons Spier never published the whole collection of forty-eight stories, one of the earliest, most complete translations of an entire Native American oral tradition. Passed from Spier to anthropologist and Havasupai scholar Dr. Robert C. Euler, the stories, published here for the first time in book form with the permission of the Havasupai Tribal Council, are a cultural library and a cultural treasure that reflect an ancient Yuman-language mythological tradition. Publication restores them to the People (Pai/Pa/Pah) from whom they arose.

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Sacred Players

The Politics of Response in the Middle English Religious Drama

Heather Hill-Vásquez

Offering a unique historical perspective to the study of medieval English drama, Heather Hill-Vásquez in Sacred Players argues that different treatments of audience and performance in the early drama indicate that the performance life of the drama may have continued well beyond its traditional placement in medieval history and into the Reformation and Renaissance eras.

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Sacred Revolutions

Durkheim And The College De Sociologie

Michele H. Richman

How is it that the most radical cultural iconoclasts of the interwar years—Georges Bataille, Roger Caillois, and Michel Leiris—could have responded to the rise of fascism by taking refuge in a "sacred sociology"? This is the question that Michèle H. Richman poses in a work that examines this seemingly paradoxical development. Her book traces the overall implications for French social thought of the "ethnographic detour" that began with Durkheim’s interest in Australian aboriginal religion—implications that reach back to the Revolution of 1789 and forward to the student protests of May 1968. Richman argues that by revising a phenomenon at once as familiar and as exotic as the sacred, these intellectuals forged a point of view relevant to politics, art, and eroticism in the modern period. Assimilating sociology to this revised notion of the sacred, they revitalized a critical discourse based on anthropological thinking dating back to Montaigne and culminating in Rousseau. Her work thus supplies an important chapter in the history of the human sciences while demonstrating the formation of an innovative critical discourse that straddles literary theory, social thought, and religious and cultural studies.

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