Forms of Religious Experience in the 17th-Century British Atlantic World (colloquium)

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This was a year-long monthly colloquium held from 2008–2009 and led by David D. Hall and Laura Lunger Knoppers.

The seventeenth century is marked by fervent (and sometimes tumultuous) experiences of religion in the British Isles and in America that intersect with transatlantic exchanges of several kinds–official and private correspondence, books willed to American colleges across the Atlantic, or manuscripts making the reverse journey to be printed in London. This colloquium focused on the rich and diverse forms of religious experience in Britain and in America, as well as on such exchanges within the British Atlantic world. What forms of religious experience can be discerned? How do different forms shape religious experience? What is the role of the literary or imaginative in constructing forms of religious experience? How can focusing on materiality help us link clergy and laity, elite and popular, orthodox and proscribed forms of religious experience? What can be learned from the transatlantic comparison? While the directors framed discussion with relevant readings, monthly colloquia focused on participants’ pre-circulated works-in-progress. Possible topics included: forms of reading (the Bible, catechisms, printed sermons, books of devotion, and popular narratives); material forms of exchange (print and manuscript, booksellers and printers in England and in America, print and book trade practices, scribal publication); literary genres (spiritual autobiography, conversion narrative, lyric poetry, prophecy, jeremiad); and practices or prescribed procedures of worship or devotion.

Directors: David D. Hall is Professor of American Religious History at Harvard Divinity School. General editor of the multi-volume series A History of the Book in America and editor (with Hugh Amory) of The Colonial Book in the Atlantic World (2000), he has also written Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Belief in Early New England (1989) and edited The Antinomian Controversy, 1636-1638: A Documentary History (1968; 1990).

Laura Lunger Knoppers is Professor of English at Pennsylvania State University. She is author of Historicizing Milton: Spectacle, Power, and Poetry in Restoration England (1994) and of Constructing Cromwell: Ceremony, Portrait, and Print, 1645–1660 (2000), and her edited volumes include Puritanism and its Discontents (2003).