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New book March: Edgar Allan Poe, political rhetoric, and religious freedom

March 2nd, 2012 by admin

We're officially announcing three new books to be published this month, and without further adieu, here they are.

Evermore: Edgar Allan Poe and the Mystery of the Universe, by Harry Lee Poe (March 15)

"Poe's elegant and lucid book discredits many popular myths about life and work of his famous cousin. Edgar A. Poe, like his fictional "double" David Copperfield, was no tragic hero but a man with his ups and downs who highly valued love and friendship and had an acute sense of justice. Written at the crossroads of literary history and theology, Evermore is dazzling and absorbing."

—Alexandra Urakova, author of The Poetics of Body in the Short Stories of Edgar Allan Poe

The popular Poe—The Raven, Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat—has inspired a generation of readers long disenchanted with the normative tradition of American literature. But is the popular Poe—incessantly drinking, drug-addicted, and entranced by the terror of death—the real Poe? Harry Lee Poe contends that, for more than two centuries, the great myth of Edgar Allan Poe has damaged both the popular reader's understanding of Poe's corpus and the historian's depiction of Poe's life. Through reviewing his poems and short stories, literary criticism and science fiction, Evermore reveals a Poe who is deeply confounded by the existence of evil, the truth of justice, and even the problems of love, beauty, and God. Here Poe aficionados and casual appreciators of literature alike are invited into a greater understanding of Poe’s most persistent questions and offered a novel approach to reading the American literary icon.

The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric: Absolutist Appeals and Political Persuasion, by Morgan Marietta (March 1)

"An extraordinary book. Marietta streams together careful empirical analysis with the paradoxes of democratic theory. To those worried about polarization and the future of civil political discourse, this book is essential reading."

—Bert A. Rockman, Professor of Political Science and Department Head, Department of Political Science, Purdue University

"Marietta investigates a strangely under-explored facet of public opinion—the power of sacred values to trump reasoning in shaping the course of political debates and elections. This book is deeply innovative."

—Philip Tetlock, Leonore Annenberg University Professor, Psychology Department, University of Pennsylvania

Revealing what lies behind much contemporary political rhetoric, Morgan Marietta shows that the language of America's most prominent leaders often relies on deep, even sacred, ideals. Comprehensively and in great detail surveying the rhetorical inventions employed in influential social movements and into the highest levels of government, The Politics of Sacred Rhetoric systematically analyzes the use of absolutist claims—and appeals to what a speaker deems to be universal truths—as essential elements of persuasion in the American political landscape. In exploring the sometimes subtle ways in which politicians employ this "sacred rhetoric," Marietta engagingly demonstrates its impact on citizens' reasoning, public discourse, and the very nature of American democracy.

The Constitution of Religious Freedom: God, Politics, and the First Amendment, by Dennis Goldford (March 1)

"A tightly reasoned but accessible volume. The Constitution of Religious Freedom should be required reading for the policymakers and policy activists who shape the role of religion in American political life."

—Richard A. Brisbin, Jr., Professor of Political Science, West Virginia University

"This is an important book. In a time where political figures from Barack Obama to Mitt Romney to Nikki Haley have been openly attacked for their supposedly non-Christian religious beliefs, Goldford's timing is excellent."

—Evan Gerstmann, Professor of Political Science and Law, Loyola Marymount University

"Goldford fearlessly and thoughtfully examines one of the most controversial—often blithely assumed and curiously dismissed—propositions in American politics today—that the United States is a Christian nation. Indeed, Goldford's refutation of this idea is devastating, yet always respectful and erudite."

—Jessie Hill, Professor of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law

"The Constitution of Religious Freedom takes a unique approach to interpreting the appropriate place and role of religious freedom in the United States. Goldford argues, in a clear and accessible manner, that the First Amendment's religion clauses protect religious freedom rather than religion writ large. Scholars and students alike will learn from the argument presented in this important new book."

—Laura R. Olson, Professor of Political Science, Clemson University

In a time when the question of American religious identity underlies much political conversation that fills the public square, Dennis Goldford directs his readers to consider the First Amendment. The founding fathers' words, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," are the constitutional means of ensuring, however imperfectly, the American freedom to stand for something sacred. In his analysis, Goldford ably demonstrates that the very nature of these religion clauses establishes protection not for religion but for religious freedom. The Constitution of Religious Freedom argues that religious identity inheres not in the nation, but in the individual citizen.

Essential weekend reading: LDS in the USA

January 27th, 2012 by admin

With Mitt Romney doing well in the Republican race, many have begun asking, "Is America ready for a Mormon President?" The fact that this question is being asked is one of the many reasons Lee Trepanier and Lynita Newswander wrote their new book LDS in the USA: Mormonism and the Making of American Culture (February 1).

In anticipation of the book's release next week, here is a short excerpt from the introduction, titled "For Another Thousand Years."

The role of Mormonism in America has been simultaneously both exaggerated and undervalued. On the one hand, Mormons are seen with suspicion as part of a secret organization that seeks domination over the United States; on the other hand, they are marginalized and often excluded from national conversations about religion, culture, and politics in America. The fact is that neither account is accurate: Mormons have played a substantial role in the shaping of the social, cultural, political, and religious makeup of the United States, a role that is neither conspiratorial nor marginal and that has not been properly acknowledged in the academy or by the general public. This book is intended to remedy this deficiency. In it, we will explore the contributions Mormonism has made to American civilization and to the values that civilization claims to espouse.

When we speak of American civilization, we are attesting to those qualities that make the United States unique as a social, cultural, religious, and political entity. For example, the sociologist Claude Fischer argues that community (family, church, job, and nation), abundance (material wealth, improved health, social opportunities, political freedoms, and self-mastery), and volunteerism (civic engagement) are at the core of the American character. The historian Arthur Schlesinger Sr. contends that the right to revolution, federalism, the consent of the governed, equality of women, the melting pot, freedom of worship, public education, voluntary giving, technology, and evolutionary progress are the characteristics of American civilization; while Harvard President Charles Eliot points to peacekeeping, religious tolerance, universal suffrage, the practice of political freedom, the welcoming of newcomers, and the diffusion of material abundance as the cornerstones of the American experience.1

The role of Mormonism in American civilization has been shaped by, as well as exposed the limits of, some of the values that Americans continue to espouse: religious tolerance, social pluralism, federalism, separation of church and state, the definition and importance of marriage, and Christianity. Mormons have been instrumental in representing and challenging these values in the realms of popular culture, the family, politics, and religion in the United States. As we will see, Mormons have not been completely accepted in mainstream American society. To a certain extent, the pattern of suspicion, accommodation, and eventual acceptance they have experienced is familiar to immigrant groups arriving in the United States, but what makes the Mormon experience unique is that they began within the United States and became outsiders within their own country. That is, the Mormons were forced to flee the United States—to become emigrants—before they became accommodated and accepted.


1 Charles William Eliot, "Five American Contributions to Civilization," in The Oxford Book of American Essays, ed. Brander Matthews (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1914), 208–307; Arthur M. Schlesinger Sr., "Our Ten Contributions to Civilization," Atlantic, March 1959, 65–69; Claude Fischer, Made in America: A Social History of American Culture and Character (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010). Other works to consult about American civilization are Roderick Nash, Wilderness and the American Mind (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1982); Leo Marx, The Machine in the Garden (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000); Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); David Hollinger, The American Intellectual Tradition, 4th ed., 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001–5).

For a PDF version of the full introduction, click here to download.

If you would like to request a copy of LDS in the USA for review or inquire about an interview with the authors, please contact Billy Collins at Billy_Collins@baylor.edu.

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