Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Professor George Marsden and a new JE biography

George Marsden: Bringing Jonathan Edwards to Life

When writing the acclaimed biography Jonathan Edwards: A Life (Yale, 2003), George Marsden, Francis A. McAnaney Professor of History, sought to contextualize Edwards, a prominent Protestant theologian and author. In the work, Marsden explores how Edwards’ defense of the Puritan tradition to philosophers of the Enlightenment took shape amidst the clashing traditions of British Protestants, French Catholics, and Native Americans on the Western frontier of New England.

Marsden’s fascination with Edwards began during graduate school and has continued throughout an academic career focused on American religion and culture, especially the history of Protestantism. When Yale University Press, which is publishing the works of Edwards, presented him with the opportunity to write an accompanying biography, Marsden accepted. He has since been honored with seven awards, including the Bancroft Prize for the best book in American history, the Merle Curti Award for the best book in American intellectual history, and the Annibel Jenkins Prize for the best book-length biography of a late 17th or early 18th century subject.

“Religious history is a strength at Notre Dame, which is open to the religious dimension of study and religious perspectives on scholarship,” says Marsden, whose other published works include The Soul of the American University (Oxford, 1994) and The Outrageous Idea of Christian Scholarship (Oxford, 1997).His current scholarly efforts include the publication of an update to his 1980 work, Fundamentalism and American Culture: The Shaping of Twentieth-Century Evangelicalism (Oxford, 1980). The update will survey the rise of political fundamentalism and explore the differences between the evangelicalism of the 1920s and the present day. Marsden is also completing an abbreviated biography of Jonathan Edwards to be published as part of a biographical series. He currently instructs an upper- level history seminar for undergraduates, titled “The Religious Factor in American History,” and advises several history graduate students.


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