Above the American Renaissance: David S. Reynolds and the Spiritual Imagination in American Literary Studies

Above the American Renaissance: David S. Reynolds and the Spiritual Imagination in American Literary Studies. Edited by Harold K. Bush and Brian Yothers. Amherst, MA: University of Massachusetts Press, 2018.

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Above the American Renaissance takes David S. Reynolds’s classic study Beneath the American Renaissance as a model and a provocation to consider how language and concepts broadly defined as spiritual are essential to understanding nineteenth-century American literary culture. In the 1980s, Reynolds’s scholarship and methodology enlivened investigations of religious culture, and since then, for reasons that include a rising respect for interdisciplinarity and the aftershocks of the 9/11 attacks, religion in literature has become a major area of inquiry for Americanists. In essays that reconsider and contextualize Emily Dickinson, Walt Whitman, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Abraham Lincoln, and others, this volume captures the vibrancy of spiritual considerations in American literary studies and points a way forward within literary and spiritual investigations.

In addition to the editors and David S. Reynolds, contributors include Jeffrey Bilbro, Dawn Coleman, Jonathan A. Cook, Tracy Fessenden, Zachary Hutchins, Richard Kopley, Mason I. Lowance Jr., John Matteson, Christopher N. Phillips, Vivian Pollak, Michael Robertson, Gail K. Smith, Claudia Stokes, and Timothy Sweet.


“The broad scope of essays from this very readable and insightful collection pays tribute to David Reynolds’s landmark Beneath the American Renaissance on the eve of its thirtieth anniversary.” –New England Quarterly

“This collection is the first to assess nineteenth-century American literature in this way, and it will be of tremendous use to both scholars interested in U.S. religious traditions, Christianity specifically, and those who study the writers examined here. Above the American Renaissance is also a timely and important reengagement with David Reynolds’s work, a text that has laid the groundwork for nearly three decades of scholarship.”—Elizabeth Fenton, author of Religious Liberties: Anti-Catholicism and Liberal Democracy in Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature and Culture

“This strong group of essays will make a significant contribution to both literary and religious studies by demonstrating the extent to which greater attention to popular culture, especially religious texts and practices, can dramatically expand our understanding of nineteenth-century America.”—W. Clark Gilpin, author of Religion Around Emily Dickinson

Harold K. Bush is professor of English at Saint Louis University and author of Continuing Bonds with the Dead: Parental Grief and Nineteenth-Century American Authors.

Brian Yothers is Frances Spatz Leighton Endowed Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Texas at El Paso and author of Sacred Uncertainty: Religious Difference and the Shape of Melville’s Career.

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